The Up-And-Coming CEO’s Reading List

CEO reading list

So you have made it to the top. You have reached the pinnacle and are now THE BOSS. Or, perhaps you are heralded as the “next best thing”: You’re the up-and-coming executive everyone is talking about. Congratulations for getting there, but you’re not done yet.

It may be many people’s dream to someday call themselves CEO, but it doesn’t come without a price tag. Getting to the top will take blood, sweat, tears – and tons of education. So although your days may be full to the brim with meetings, strategic planning, marketing, and more, you still need to find time to develop yourself and your knowledge. One of the most effective methods is via the simple task of reading.

We’ve picked our top ten books, as recommended by different successful CEO’s. Start building your library with these selections.

Investor's dilemma

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change), by Clayton M Christensen.

Recommended by: Steve Jobs, Apple

This book shows how even the most outstanding companies can do everything right, yet still lose market leadership. Christensen explains the importance of embracing new technologies, and not getting left behind by refusing to let go of traditional business practices when necessary.

Competing Against Time

Competing against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Markets, by George Stalk.

Recommended by: Tim Cook, Apple

According to Stalk, time is one of our most precious commodities, up there with money, productivity, quality and innovation. In this book, the author shows how reducing elapsed time can make the difference between success and failure. He goes on to show how businesses can become time-based competitors to achieve an advantage over the competition.

From worst to first

From Worst to First: Behind the Scenes of Continental’s Remarkable Comeback, by Gordon Bethune.

Recommended by: Bill Gates, Microsoft

The story of how Continental turned around its entire business to become a success story makes fascinating reading for anyone, not just up-and-coming CEOs. Not only is it an engaging story of rags to riches, it also offers insights and guidance to business professionals. He include a four-fold plan with techniques that any company can adopt to improve their own business strategy.


Peak: How Great Companies Get their MOJO from Maslow, by Chip Conley.

Recommended by: Tony Hsieh, Zappos

This book demonstrates how Conley applied the psychology of Maslow’s theory to transform his business. Finding his once successful business teetering on the edge of difficulty following 9/11, he used sound principles to undergo a transformation. This book gives usable examples of how to apply the same teachings into any business, using an organised and disciplined strategy.

Good to great

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins.

Recommended by: Meg Whitman, Hewlett Packard

This book takes a look at whether “a good company can become a great company, and if so, how?”  Collins looked at nearly 1,500 companies trying to find the answer, and discovered 11 companies who fit the profile. He then looked at their common traits, such as a corporate culture that encouraged people to think and act in a disciplined manner. This book helps demonstrate the differences between companies that have long-term success and those that fail, and gives guidance based on these findings.

The checklist manifesto

The Checklist: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande.

Recommended by: Jack Dorsey, Twitter

If you already are a big fan of checklists, this book will consolidate your ideas. If you are new to using this method of organisation, Gawande demonstrates how using checklists can transform how you can operate in any field, by breaking down highly complex tasks into small and achievable steps.

Predictably irrational

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions, by Dan Ariely.

Recommended by: Moritz Plassnig, Codeship

Smart people make irrational decisions every day. This book takes a look at the psychology of strange behaviours, and how irrationality can take over form normality in certain circumstances. Dan Ariely then goes on to show you how by being aware of these patterns can help you make better business decisions, as well as choices in everyday life.

Built to last

Built to last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins.

Recommended by: Jeff Bezos, Amazon

This book compares different companies in an attempt to discover what makes a visionary company, and the common characteristics these share. Some of these surprised even the authors, and refuted commonly held beliefs. For example, visionary companies are not necessarily led by visionary leaders. This is a fascinating read that explores the myths of successful companies.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni.

Recommended by: Mike Harden, Clarity Group

This book outlines why even the best teams struggle. He then gives sound advice and guidance on how to overcome these issues in order to build a strong and effective team that works as one.

The Power of Positive Thinking

The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

Recommended by: Donald Trump, Trump Organisation

This bestseller has helped millions of people achieve fulfilment through faith and inspiration. It is full of practical examples of how to energise and transform your life, while having the motivation to follow through on your goals. It aims to help you build determination, belief in yourself, stop worrying and relax, improve relationships, get in control of your life and be kind to yourself.

To succeed, you need to understand those already successful, and what better way than to read the books they have used to get them to the top? Stock your own bookcase, and learn from the best; then you too can succeed at the top.