Thursday, 10 September 2015

7 of the best business books to read this year

From Warren Buffet to Barsh, Shackleton to Sheryl Sandberg, why not refresh your reading list with our 7 best business books to read this year?
Looking for light reading for summer? Well, we can’t promise you light, but here are seven business classics that we thoroughly recommend you give a read!
1. Jack Welch, Jack: Straight from the Gut (2001)
Who better to open our list of best business books than Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, whose legendary leadership skills saw the company’s market value skyrocket from US$26.8 billion to US$130 billion? By undercutting the bureaucracy of more traditional business models, Welch was able to streamline GE’s operations and shape the company into the global powerhouse we know today. He was named Fortune’s ‘Manager of the Century’ in 1999.
Primarily an autobiography rather than a how-to manual, Jack: Straight from the Gut offers an invaluable insider’s perspective on life at the helm of a global corporation, and demonstrates how staying grounded is often the key to big success.
Want to know more about working for GE? Read our MBA recruiter interview with GE’s Jeffrey Mowris.
2. Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (1959)
In 1914, with a crew of only 27 men, Sir Ernest Shackleton set out on a daring expedition to reach and cross the Antarctic. Despite the loss of the ship and some of its crew to the harsh conditions, Shackleton and the remaining men were able to survive for over a year, adrift on pack ice, until their eventual escape and rescue.
Drawing directly on the detailed accounts of Shackleton’s crew, Lansing recounts the captain’s leadership skills and his remarkable ability to hold his team together in the face of adversity. His story is a modern parable of leadership that all future leaders could learn from.
3. Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life (2009)
Both Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston were consultants at McKinsey & Company. After launching an epic research project to try and establish which skills and traits allowed female leaders to excel in the largely male-dominated world of business, the results were pulled together to produce the balanced, personal, and insightful How Remarkable Women Lead.
By assessing ‘feminine leadership skills,’ and referencing these with actual case studies of female leaders (such as Christine Lagarde, Julie Coates, and Alondra de la Parra), Barsh and Cranston were able to detail a new model of centered leadership, which is informative for both women and men who are looking to improve their leadership skillset.
4. Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
Our next entry was described by Bill Clinton as a “handbook for every man striving for success”. Widely hailed as a must read for anyone seeking to transform themselves, Stephen Covey’s book offers a step-by-step guide to personal and professional betterment.
To contemporary readers, the seven habits are often taken for granted and in part overlooked, but they continue to offer a solid framework for aspiring leaders across the many spheres of business. Over his career, Covey was awarded 10 honorary doctorates. His secret? To embody his seven principles, starting simply with an aspiration to be proactive.
5. Warren Buffett and Lawrence A. Cunningham,The Essays of Warren Buffett (2001)
Warren Buffett’s legendary and consistent leadership skills have earned him the title ‘the Oracle of Omaha’. Hailed as one of the greatest investors of all time, any list of best business books that didn’t feature this marketing mystic would be incomplete.
Cunningham’s collection of Buffett’s essays is now in its third edition. In addition to the various other ups and downs of Buffett’s lengthy career, it deals with the financial crisis and its root causes, the factors that fuelled it, and how we can learn from the crisis in the future. This edition also features Buffett’s personal principles as a prologue; a handy collection of tips and mantras for anyone who has felt inspired by his hugely successful story.
6. Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2014)
After a stint at Google, Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook as COO in 2008, and quickly began working on a plan to monetize the social network. Within three years, she had implemented a new advertising strategy and turned around the company’s fortunes, with its employee base growing from 130 to 2,500.
In Lean In, Sandberg addresses the role of leadership skills in business development, while highlighting the shocking gender imbalance in both leadership and governmental positions. By targeting both women in business who are looking to advance their careers, and men who are willing to address and redress the business gender gap, Sandberg aims to present the reader with a balanced manual that targets sexism at its root; the result is a well-rounded guide that is relevant to all readers.
7. Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose(2010)
After growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Tony Hsieh graduated from Harvard University with a computer science degree in 1995. While selling pizza to his fellow students, he met Alfred Lin, who went on to become the CFO and COO of Zappos, which Hsieh joined as CEO in 2000. In just nine years, company revenue had reached US$1 billion.
The last in our list of best business books is something of a wild card. Hsieh is known for his somewhat unconventional approach to management, and his writing schedule was similarly unorthodox, with Hsieh often writing for up to 24 hours at a time. Completed in less than two and a half weeks, Delivering Happiness is actually very insightful. The book uses a narrative structure to offer the opinions and accounts of Hsieh’s friends and employees. The final work offers a refreshing shakeup of the corporate structure, with customer focus at its center. This model is most elegantly summarized by the mission statement of Zappos itself: ‘To provide the best customer service possible’.
By Joseph Birdsey

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