Throughout my 20s, the ideas of personal improvement and leadership development were not blips on my radar screen. I was not fully ripe for making life-altering decisions like choosing to run a business, lead a team, or get married.

Reinventing myself in my 30s, I discovered the need for reading books--lots and lots of books. Looking back at my wasted 20s, I would have begged for a library with some of the entries like the ones below.

While far from exhaustive, this short list covers what I would consider to be some of the most influential business and leadership books over the years.

Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership

In Applied Empathy, Michael Ventura, entrepreneur and CEO of award-winning design firm Sub Rosa, lays the foundation to establish a diverse, inventive, and driven team by helping leaders to see things through their perspectives. If you want to connect to and truly understand the people you work with and for, this book is for you.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi authored this now perennial classic to demonstrate the ways that a positive state of mind can be controlled, not just left to chance. In Flow, you'll learn where you can really find enjoyment in life, and how you can truly become happy by creating your own meaning of life.

The Language of Emotional Intelligence: The Five Essential Tools for Building Powerful and Effective Relationships

This book is an excellent resource on using EQ to build better relationships with just about everyone in your life, from employees to your family. Jeanne Segal shows you how to use five basic tools of EQ to enhance communication, read non-verbal cues, and diffuse conflicts before they get out of hand.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

In Presence, social psychologist and bestselling author Amy Cuddy advocates for the ideas on presence and power posing set forth in her wildly popular 2012 TED Talk, "Your Body Shapes Who You Are." Her findings will help you to call on your self-confidence at the times you need it most--a first date, a job interview, and even those prickly conversations you hesitate to have with loved ones. 

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Edgar Schein posits that Humble Inquiry requires more than simply asking questions. It demands to ask the right type of questions. At its core, leaders can learn to ask for information in the least threatening or biased ways possible. By leveraging these skills, leaders can promote accountability, inspire satisfaction and happiness in employees, encourage teamwork, and reduce potential feelings of conflict.

Faster Together

Productivity expert Laura Stack's book Faster Together shows how to maximize the efficiency of your team. With countless emails, constant communication, cascading deadlines, and seemingly endless meetings, what really makes the difference is "teaming well." The book includes an interactive assessment to help you evaluate your team's current speed and rate of acceleration.

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

Authored by innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma has been named one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors, and is considered an innovation classic. Highly recommended by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the book offers both successes and failures from leading companies as a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

In Mindset, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck shows how success in almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. If you mistakenly believe that your capabilities come from DNA or even destiny, rather than persevering through habit and hard work, you're operating with what Dweck calls a 'fixed mindset' rather than a 'growth mindset.' 

Permission to Screw Up

In Permission to Screw Up, Kristen Hadeed, founder and CEO of Student Maid, authors her journey of leadership while starting a cleaning company during college. After repeated failures, the company is now widely recognized for its industry-leading retention rate and its culture of trust and accountability. Hadeed shares through a brutally honest account how she went from totally inept leader to making Student Maid a place her people couldn't imagine leaving.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of online retailer Zappos, shares the business lessons he has learned throughout his life, from a lemonade stand and pizza business all the way to Zappos. Ultimately, he shows how using servant leadership principles as a framework can produce profits, passion, and purpose both in business and in life.

Published on: Jul 24, 2019
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