One of the most frequent questions I get asked is "What are your favorite business books of all-time?" That's a tough question to answer. It's sort of like "What's your favorite color?" The fact I like purple doesn't mean I'm going to buy a purple business suit, nor does it mean that you'll like purple either. So, for the sake of categorization, I've listed my favorite business books by theme with a little info on my favorite in the category and then a list of great also-rans. Given the time of year, you're welcome to forward this list on to your friends and family as part of your wish list so that you can continue to be a business gladiator in 2011.
LEADERSHIP: James MacGregor Burns' landmark Leadership outlines the difference between transactional and transformational leadership better than any book I've ever read.
Others: Leadership is an Art by Max Dupree; Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright; On Leadership by John W. Gardner; Authentic Leadership by Bill George; Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel.
PERSONAL MASTERY: Peter Drucker is the most prolific and persuasive business writer of all time and his classic The Effective Executive is a perfect gift for the young person entering the workplace or those of us who are a little older and want to brush up on our habits.
Others: Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman; How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie; Are You Ready to Succeed? by Srikumar S. Rao.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP/SMALL BUSINESS: I started my company in 1987 and Paul Hawken's Growing a Business was my bible for understanding the similarities of planting a garden and growing a small business.
Others: The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack & Bo Burlingham; Small Giants by Bo Burlingham; Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki; The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar.
PURPOSE/MEANING: Simon Sinek's Start With Why has become a recent hit helping to remind us that life and business isn't as much about the how or what, but it's essentially about the "why."
Others: Meaning Inc. by Gurnek Bains; The Hungry Spirit by Charles Handy; Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl; Business as a Calling by Michael Novak.
CORPORATE CULTURE: Southwest Airlines has proven over 40 years to have the most resilient and evolved culture of any organization so it's not surprising that The Southwest Airlines Way by Jody Gittell Hoffer would be my favorite in this category.
Others: Nuts by Kevin Freiberg & Jackie Freiberg; First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman; The Service Profit Chain by James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser & Leonard A. Schlesinger.
CUSTOMERS/MARKETING: Here's an offbeat psychological choice -- Paco Underhill's Why We Buy helps get inside the head of your customer to understand what makes people tick and how do we make decisions.
Others: The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine & James H. Gilmore; Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath; A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury & Stephen Fenichell; Loyalty Rules by Frederick F. Reichheld; Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith; The Purple Cow by Seth Godin.
CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM: Firms of Endearment by Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe & Jagdish N. Sheth makes the most compelling argument I've read about why thinking systemically about your business and the broader stakeholders is both smart for business and good for the world.
Others: Good Business by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Mid-Course Correction by Ray Anderson; The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken; A Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business by Ari Weinzweig.
HAPPINESS: A few years ago, this wouldn't have been a business category but it's now the most popular genre of book and employee and customer happiness is on the lips of every CEO. Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness is about as good as they come -- relevant to our personal lives as well as how we make people happy in business.
Others: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh; Maslow on Management by Abraham H. Maslow; The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky; Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson.
Happy Holidays to all of you!
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