Each year, more and more books flood the shelves, wrapped in persuasive wording promising to change your life, career, and business. With the sheer volume of choice, it can be tricky to know which ones to choose from. For example, are you looking for guidance on strategy, on financing a big idea, or just looking to be inspired by the successes of others? Reading gives us exposure to new ideas and perspectives, aside from merely the knowledge we gain. These takeaways are crucial for any aspiring leader or young entrepreneur who is carving out her own path in business. That’s why we asked several successful entrepreneurs to dip into their library and share the books that helped make them who they are today. Read on to discover five inspirational books every aspiring leader should read.
1. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Tony Hsieh
As recommended by Kathryn Moos, co-Founder of OWYN (Only What You Need), a plant-based nutrition platform. As a former professional athlete, Moos identified a need for clean, natural, functional plant-based foods.
“One of the first books I read after diving into the entrepreneurial world many years ago still stands at the top of my list. It sounds so simple, but if you can create an environment (whether you’re a one-person team or have a team of 100) that is fun to be in and you enjoy going, your work output will be much more efficient. A positive work environment will help you endure the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
2. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs – Grace Bonney
As recommended by Liz Gulliver, founder of a real estate investment platform and recently launched Kunik, a community, and an online toolkit to support working parents. Its goal is to open the conversation around work and parenting, help companies retain top talent, and help working parents make it to the top of their fields.
A beautiful hardback book filled with interviews from over 100 successful women accompanied by beautiful portraits of them in their homes and workspaces. Admittedly, this book won’t give you a deep dive into the ins and outs of their success, but it’s a fantastic book to leave out for guests passing through your home to leaf through. According to Gulliver, “In the Company of Women is a great one to keep on your coffee table and flip through when you need a little motivation!”
3. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts – Brené Brown
As recommended by Sarah Kuhn, CEO of newly launched Juna, a fitness and nutrition app specifically for pre and postnatal women. Kuhn has nine years of expertise in the digital fitness space helping to build and launch fitness platforms such as MyYogaWorks and Beachbody on Demand.
What does a daring leader look like in this day and age? Brown addresses this question and provides a unique playbook for developing brave leaders who embrace courage and curiosity to getting it right rather than settling for being right at what they already know.
According to Brown, a leader is “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”
Her best-seller pulls in research and interviews conducted over 20 years with 150 global c-suite executives.
According to Brown, daring leadership is a collection of four skills which luckily for us, are easily observable, teachable, measurable. You’ll have the read the book to discover what they are.
4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
As recommended by Anthea King, co-Founder of Homepaired, a company that simplifies finding live-in childcare, making it more affordable, accessible and ethical. The company connects families with motivated and talented American students, reinventing the traditional au pair model for the 21st century.
A no holds barred look at the highs and lows of running a business. Horowitz touches upon the tough challenges he’s had to manage as a leader and some honest lessons he’s learned during his journey.
Read this if you’re looking to understand the challenges and sometimes frustrations felt by founders and leadership when a company is in its early stages. These include decision making in the absence of data, being able to tell it like it is and setting the right priorities. A poignant takeaway from Horowitz is that being a good CEO ultimately means you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
5. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown
As recommended by Annie Jensen Chapur, co-founder of TAJA Collection, a line of customizable home accessories. Jensen Chapur left a successful career in law along with her now business partner when they both identified a gap in the market for thoughtful keepsakes they could gift to colleagues, friends and family.
Do you find yourself scheduling your time to the second with personal and professional interests and commitments? Often, we try to cram as much as we can into our already packed lives, leaving us overwhelmed and exhausted. Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach to help you determine your true priorities, empower you to say no to non-essential requests and invest in the right activities in life. McKeown advises, “[It’s] not about getting more done, but rather the right things done.”