The quest for continual self-improvement is certainly high on the list of the many things which set successful people apart from everybody else. That's why high achievers tend to be readers who get ahead by learning from the wisdom of others. If that's you, here are several titles to consider, according to top executives.
1. Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle
"Being a CEO is a lonely job and many of the top leaders in Silicon Valley got coaching from Bill Campbell including Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Tim Cook, Sheryl Sandberg and just about everyone else. In this book they break down Bill's approach to humanizing leadership, how to keep positive tension amongst leaders to generate breakthrough outcomes. Bill uses his background from playing and coaching football to rewrite the playbook for how leaders should be coaches for their people to driving outstanding performance. In an age of data and KPIs, this book is a must-read to incorporate the human element in very real, tangible methods."
--Patrick O'Leary, founder and CEO of Boostr, a media-specific CRM and order management platform which grew more than 250 percent last year
2. Grit by Angela Duckworth
"This book is so compelling, I finished it in less than a weekend and then proceeded to read it out loud to my children, because I think it has lessons that we can all apply. Grit talks about what goes through a person's head when they fail, and how it is not talent or luck, but grit that makes all the difference in creating and sustaining successful people. It's a quick business read that I highly recommend that could be applied to every aspect of our lives."
--Maureen Polo, general manager at Fullscreen, a social-first entertainment experience company serving over 400 brands and over 2,500 creators and celebrities who generate more than 7 billion monthly video views across a global network of social channels
3. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
"This book, at its core, can be applied to so many facets of life. It reaffirmed and inspired in me the need to do things differently, act on my ideas, and invest the time to execute them right. It highlights the importance of forging your own path while ensuring you are approaching your work effectively. In business, it can be easy to go with the grain, but you should strive to be authentic. To be truly successful in this, you have to be passionate, try different strategies, understand your successes and your failures along the way, and always be willing to learn and adapt. Grant's book is a great reminder that while being the first is great, you have to also be the leader and inform all your decisions and ideas so you can change the world."
--Parker Morse, founder and CEO of H Code, a digital advertising entity for the U.S. Hispanic market which is on track to post more than $20 million in revenue this year, a growth of more than 65 percent in the first half of 2019, working with brands including BBVA, Chevrolet, Delta, Ford, HBO and Honda
4. Women's Work: A Reckoning With Work And Home by Megan Stack
"As a professional trying to juggle three little kids and a startup, this one really hit me. It's about the fraught negotiations and unsolvable dilemmas that women have to face when hiring other women to take care of their kids and homes so they can pursue professional goals. Stack is living as an expat in China and India employing local women so it's not entirely parallel since I'm in Southern California, but it articulates so much of the emotional conflict I feel as a mother having other women care for my children knowing those women have their own lives and families. It makes you appreciate the nature of your own commitment to work, the emotional burden of so-called 'invisible' work at home and the value of our employee's time and the impact of what we ask them to do on their own families."
--Sonya Merrill, cofounder of financial technology company ZestFinance which is on-track to double its revenue in 2019, as well as former head of communications at Google
5. Truman by David McCullough
"The most compelling aspect of this deep dive into Truman's life was not the lead up to his presidency or his time in office, but rather how clearly his character was revealed in the 'after' years. A controversial, often vilified leader, Truman chose to exit the spotlight and return to his hometown in Missouri, building an understated presidential library and teaching principles of democracy and citizenship to children. This insight into what he chose to do when the world wasn't watching was, for me, far more revealing of his integrity and values than any political move."
--Rob Waldron, CEO of Curriculum Associates, a K-12 education technology company serving more than 8 million students and educators nationwide
6. Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte
"You can't risk losing your audience to boring slides with too much text or data. Nancy offers practical advice on how to connect with specific audiences by turning complex data into a memorable story. I applied her presentation philosophies to my pitch deck when I was raising my Series A."
--Mitch Grasso, serial entrepreneur and current founder and CEO of Beautiful.ai, presentation software used by more than 500,000 users in 180 countries
7. Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
"Hiring is arguably the most important thing you do as an entrepreneur but it's also one of the hardest. [This book] gave me a prescriptive process that keeps me focused on what matters. I learned to get crystal clear on three things before even opening a job search: What is the mission of this role? What outcomes do I need them drive? And what competencies are required to achieve them? Frankly it's transformed the way I approach hiring. Not only has it led to better hires, it's also boosted morale and tenure across the company. The people we hire are doing the work they were born to do."
--Oren Zaslansky, founder and CEO of AuptiX, a company that has used technology to pool more than 500,000 less-than-truckload shipments and move them as full truckloads, saving companies with smaller shipments time and money
8. The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins
"This book continues to be my go-to recommendation to anyone who has taken a new role in their professional career. Given today's tight and dynamic labor market coupled with a strong workforce interest in career growth and development, I find myself recommending the book often. The book provides a strong, practical framework for creating a good trajectory in your new role. The recommended strategies apply to any type of role or organization and the content is so powerful that I find it useful to reread each time I find myself taking on new roles and responsibilities."
--Troy Thibodeau, CMO at Ascentis, a provider of cloud-based human capital management solutions which has more than 400 employees and nearly 5,000 clients
9. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
"I've always been someone who isn't afraid to stand in front of a crowd, but recently I decided to take some time to really develop how I deliver messages, make a pitch and sell my ideas. I'm learning that in order for me to be able to sell my ideas, I've got to tighten my elevator pitch, and if I want my message to be memorable, I've got to make it simple. This book does a great job of breaking out six characteristics that make an idea 'sticky.' I'm really looking forward to putting these learnings in place in my professional and personal life."
--Dania Shaheen, VP of strategy and people operations at Kazoo, an award-winning people management solution with more than 500 global customers
10. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
"In my finance role, I know metrics are critical to business success. This book makes a powerful case for the use of OKRs -- Objectives and Key Results -- to promote focus and coordinate efforts across the entire organization. John Doerr introduced OKRs at a startup he invested in, then called Google Search, and we all know what happened there. Doerr had learned about OKRs in the 1970s at Intel, where the legendary Andy Grove used them to drive focus, coordination, and transparency. For operational excellence, you really should get to know Grove and Doerr."
--Keith Fujinaga, CFO at Nintex, a provider of process management and automation with more than 8,000 customers in more than 90 countries
11. Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
"As humans, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to understand our existence and purpose. In [these books] Yuval Noah Harari teaches us important lessons on who we are, how we came to be, and what to expect in the future. His discoveries and insights are captivating, and have helped reframe much of my approach to, well, life in general."
--Abinash Tripathy, founder and CSO of Helpshift, a customer service platform with more than 450 business customers worldwide including Xfinity Home, Microsoft, Tencent and Supercell
12. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
"This book really delves into the science of taste preferences and human behavioral elements. It gave me a great understanding of how present-day food -- something we take for granted -- came to be. It also offered me an even more comprehensive understanding of what affects our behavior and gave me a deeper perspective on the importance of understanding the science of why we act the way we do."
--Ya-Bing Chu, VP of product at Formation, a software company that works with Fortune 500 brands to optimize the customer journey through personalized marketing experiences and has raised $30 million in funding
13. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
"Even though it is a leadership fable, the book holds some great lessons for where teams can fall down and how to improve team performance. One of the dysfunctions, 'fear of conflict' discusses the issues with maintaining a false harmony among everyone on your team rather than encouraging debate and contrasting ideas. Highlighting this fear of constructive conflict underscored for me the importance of healthy disagreements and taking a revolutionary mindset rather than maintaining the status quo."
--Harry Chemko, cofounder and CEO of Elastic Path, creator of an API-first commerce solution for enterprises that helps brands deploy sites in hundreds of countries and generate billions in global revenue
14. Drive by Daniel Pink
"For any organizational leader looking to inspire and lead their teams to success, this book is a must. [It] explores how employers can effectively motivate their employees in the workplace, and what those key qualities are that incite passion and drive within the modern workforce. The book explores the concepts of autonomy, mastery and purpose, which are foundational pillars that we employ at our organization and ones that every company in the modern age should consider as they look to drive growth in today's tightening labor market."
--Martín Migoya, cofounder and CEO of Globant, a digitally-native technology services company which works with Fortune 500 companies including EA, Southwest and LinkedIn
15. Endurance by Scott Kelly
"[This book] is not your typical inspirational business book. The story of astronaut, Scott Kelly, tells a fun, interesting, and inspiring story. After growing up poor, Kelly never thought he would make it as an astronaut. But, Kelly's role as commander of the International Space Station during several missions was pivotal to the success of the program. Sometimes it's easy for successful business leaders to think that when they have time to read, they have to read something specifically about how to be a better business leader. I think the opposite can be equally true. I often find that books from outside the realm of business can be more insightful than the typical business self-help book. In [this] case, Kelly's story teaches readers to set their sights high and do what you have to do to achieve your goals. Applying these lessons of perseverance and overcoming obstacles to a business strategy can lead to more genuine success than some of the tips offered in business-only books."
--Grant Kirkwood, cofounder and CTO of Unitas Global, a managed cloud services provider ranked one of the world's most elite 501 service providers by Channel Futures in 2019
16. Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
"I am obsessed with increasing productivity in all facets of life, and in this book it makes you rethink your current ways of thinking and retrain your brain. It challenges the status quo and even your personal beliefs, offering a revolutionized blueprint to problem solving. It's an engaging yet practical read in which you learn about the way in which the world really works."
--Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, which recently announced a $15 million Series B funding round and produces the 360-degree smart conferencing camera Meeting Owl
17. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
"I join a chorus of people when I say that can't recommend this book highly enough. At the most basic level, Tara Westover's norm-defying Mormon survivalist upbringing and journey are fascinating, and her writing is an example of what engaging, courageous, powerful, storytelling looks like. What I found particularly compelling however, were the insights into the common divides in our country, and how different perspectives impact our life experiences. It emphasizes how areas and ways of living that are seemingly unimaginable to many of us are a very real and integral part of the thread of this country. As a founder, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of thinking beyond the data and to genuinely consider diversity of perspective."
--Nicholas Emerson Mazzone, founder and CEO of Supportful.com, a free online marketplace for people going through hardships which has seen over 600 percent growth in users since launching last fall