Reading good books helps visionary leaders sharpen their foresight and imagination. Below are my top picks:
1. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
How is all this constant Web browsing affecting our brains? Technology and culture writer Nicholas Carr argues that the internet, by instantly serving massive volumes of information, is making us expert skimmers and scanners, flitting and darting from one distraction to the next. The result is shallow thinking and the loss of our ability to concentrate, focus, and reflect. The Shallows will motivate you to read more books, which, unlike the internet, train our brains to pay attention and engage in deep thought.
2. Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model, by John Mullins and Randy Komisar
Every new business comes with a business plan, and authors John Mullins and Randy Komisar assert that the original business plan is rarely the right one. Getting to Plan B teaches a systematic way to test your Plan A and iterate it--so you can find your winning business model before you run out of cash. This book will show you how to use analogs, antilogs, and leaps of faith to discover the most profitable business model.
3. Get a Grip: How to Get Everything You Want From Your Entrepreneurial Business, by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton
In a previous book, Gino Wickman shared his Entrepreneurial Operating System method for business success. It involves strengthening the six key components of a business: vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction. In Get a Grip, Wickman and Mike Paton use the story of a fictitious business, Swan Services, to illustrate how to implement EOS in practical terms. With the EOS approach, you can transform your team and your business.
4. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It ... and Why the Rest Don't, by Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish, founder of Entrepreneurs' Organization and 15-year chair of MIT's Birthing of Giants CEO program, shows how to grow by focusing on the four major decision areas of your business: people, strategy, execution, and cash. Thousands of businesses around the world have used this approach successfully, and you can do the same. Buy a copy for everyone on your team so you will all be on the same page and work together to dominate your industry.
5. Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, by Bo Burlingham
Sometimes getting bigger is not your idea of business success. Sometimes it's excellence or simply being the best at what you do in the market you serve. Bo Burlingham profiles 14 companies that have resisted the pressure to keep growing for growth's sake. Companies like Clif Bar & Company, Anchor Brewing, CitiStorage, and Union Square Hospitality Group eschew the traditional belief that "businesses must grow or die" and instead pursue their own brands of greatness.
6. Flourish, by Martin Seligman
One of the proponents of positive psychology, Martin Seligman expounds on his earlier works on happiness, saying it's not enough to pursue happiness to have a fulfilling life. Instead, we must strive for well-being. The five pillars of well-being are positive emotion (a.k.a. happiness), engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment, or Perma. Seligman provides exercises and real-life examples of this approach applied in everything from education to medicine to the military. Use this book to flourish and to create a work environment that supports every team member's search for meaning and joy.
7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield
Why should visionary leaders and entrepreneurs read a book about how to survive in outer space? Because Chris Hadfield, former commander of the International Space Station, not only narrates what it's really like to be an astronaut, but more important, how astronauts think. And sometimes, it's contrary to everything you've been taught. For example, Hadfield tells us to expect and prepare for the worst, and always sweat the small stuff. You'll be surprised how this contrarian thinking can also serve us well on Earth.
Expand your understanding of business and life by reading these books. You may not agree with everything these authors say, but they will certainly make you think and give you approaches to try.