October 2nd, 2013
Another top business book list? Wait, this one is different. Really, it is. Why? I was asked by a colleague whom I admire to make a list with only five books, *my* top five business books, the ones I read, re-read, and share. It had to be the books that stood the test of time, said something so important or altered my perspective that they had to be on my list.
To call this a challenge is an understatement. As a voracious reader it’s usually a challenge to create any list of books, but a short list was a daunting task. Five. Just five business books. Not a list of the 10 best business books I read last year, or this year, or the best on a particular topic, or the most popular books, or from authors I admire or always read. It was a simple challenge: name your top five (and only five) business books.
After over-thinking it to nearly no end, I’ve committed these five and shared why:
The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management by Jerry Harvey – the book that fascinated me enough to get my master’s in organizational behavior and group dynamics. It had me asking questions, looking for theory and wondering just how many times I had taken an unintentional trip to Abilene.
Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney – hands-down the single best leadership book I’ve read. It dissects leadership through the lens of a nearly 500-year-old “company” and reiterates the need for the three basics: talent, trust, and purpose to achieve a mission.
The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Peter Lencioni – skipping the normal theoretical language, the book allows the reader to identify team and leadership dysfunctions and offers simple solutions through a role-play style of writing. While it doesn’t go deep, it brings to the forefront the need to manage talent and build the right team and trust needed to lead. I nearly always have the learnings of this book in mind when working with new teams.
The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda – when he was with MIT (he’s now president at Rhode Island School of Design), Maeda wrote this outstanding book on designing for simplicity. In an ever-increasing world of complexity, simplicity still resonates and lasts. I’ve taken his “laws” and applied them to work outside of design and even into organizational structures.
Resonate by Nancy Duarte – as I work to improve the visual images to align with what I teach and present, this book keeps me focused on how and why visuals matter to you and your audience. While designed for presentations, the points made are ones I use in my daily to transform ideas. It’s a book I wish every presenter, speaker and team leader would read – for the sake of their audience alone.
(Now the truth, even now, I want to keep adding to the list. And that’s the challenge – to whittle away to what really matters most, to what resonated the strongest and share it with simple explanations.)
What do you think? Are there books you’ve kept over time, re-read and shared with so many others that they’d form your top five? Or if you’ve read any of the books above, would they make *your* top five list? Feel free to share in the comments below.