11 Must-Read Books for Ambitious Leaders

11 Must-Read Books for Ambitious Leaders

March 28, 2016
5 min read

Reading is more than fundamental. It’s essential to becoming a great leader.

What you read has a profound effect on your decisions and lifestyle choices. We learn how to operate in this world by gaining valuable knowledge from people who came before us.

Leadership involves taking insights from internal and external experiences. And one way to indulge yourself in the teachings of others, especially those who lived thousands of years ago, is to read books about their struggles and triumphs.

If you’re ready to be bold and achieve ambitious goals, it’s time to pick up a book and start reading today.

Increase Your Knowledge

Research tells us that global literacy rates are declining. People around the world are reading less. This also holds true in the business industry.

Consequently, leaders are missing out on the benefits of reading. Studies show that reading can improve your vocabulary and reasoning skills. Some people even claim that it can spark creativity.

According to Harvard Business Review contributor John Coleman, “[B]road reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.”

Reading has its benefits. So, add it to your daily routine. Here are 11 books that deserve your time:

1. Hooked


Ready to be Hooked? In this book, Nir Eyal highlights companies that create addictive products customers love. He explains a four-step process called the Hook Model. It uncovers how businesses bring users back to their products without costly advertising.

Based on research and practical experience, use this how-to guide to build better products. Read examples from iPhone, Twitter, Pinterest, and the Bible App. This is a good read for product managers, marketers, and people interested in consumer behavior.

2. Wake Up Happy


Wake Up Happy is a showcase of stories and motivational advice from Michael Strahan, football player turned morning talk show host. It will inspire you to take action and pursue your ambitions at any costs.

The book covers his combination of positive thinking and mental discipline as “Strahan’s Rules.” He encourages readers to listen to other people’s opinions, while drawing their own conclusions. Moreover, he advises not to change people and to be open to everything around you.

3. Year of Yes


The Year of Yes explores the groundbreaking journey of television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes. This memoir talks about her book-loving childhood and chronicles her journey onto the stage. Readers will be empowered by Rhimes’ ability to challenge herself to say yes to health, play, and love. said:

“Rhimes guides the reader through her transformative yearlong experiment, each chapter dealing with a different personal challenge for herself, and she lets us deep inside her brain, carefully laying out all of her fears and self-doubt…candid and friendly, almost as if the two of you were catching up over drinks.”

4. 100 Days of Growth

Searching for opportunities to grow your business? Instead of sifting through hundreds of unsubstantiated blog posts, try these proven growth tactics by authors Sujan Patel and Rob Wormley. They have helped hundreds of clients grow their companies.

100 Days of Growth is a compilation of 100 strategies and techniques to growth hack your way to the top of your industry. So, stop wasting time and move forward with this actionable advice.

5. Hug Your Haters


Let author Jay Baer take you down a path about customer experience with Hug Your Haters. He reveals results from a landmark study of more than 2,000 consumers. You’ll learn that not all haters are created equal.

Sally Hogshead, author of How the World Sees You, raves about the book:

“When customers complain, they aren’t just being negative – they’re giving you fascinating insights and inspiration about your brand. Hug Your Haters reveals why detractors can become your most valuable customers.”

6. #AskGaryVee


The one and only Gary Vaynerchuck brings life to #AskGaryVee with his honest answers about everything an entrepreneur wants to know. The author tells it like it is while motivating you to get things done.

Inspired by his popular show, this book addresses the most challenging and evergreen topics in marketing. Take a peek behind the curtains to learn how to use Twitter effectively, create a personal brand, and launch your next product.

7. Everybody Writes


In this digital age, great content can make or break your business. Ann Handley offers a go-to guide to creating and publishing content for business success. Everybody Writes lives up to its title and focuses on how we can make our words convey meaning.

“The alternate click-bait title of Ann’s great new book could have been 73 Ways to Improve Your Writing and Conquer the World! …and it would have been an understatement. We’re all publishers now, and the better writers connect, persuade, and win. Be one of them with this book,” states Brian Clark, Founder and CEO, Copyblogger Media.

8. The Power of Broke


FUBU founder and star of ABC’s Shark Tank Daymond John shows readers how having no money can be your greatest competitive advantage. You will be forced to think differently about how you approach your next venture.

The Power of Broke features John’s experiences along with other entrepreneurs who leverage their lack of resources to become wealthy. For example, learn how Gigi Butler, a cleaning lady, built a cupcake empire with a family recipe, despite having to max out credit cards. It’s all about the hustle.

9. Stand Out


Author Dorie Clark trains you to become a recognized expert. No more waiting for someone to give you credit and keeping your head down. Standout prepares you to make a name for yourself. Recognize your value and how to cultivate your expertise.

“This is the book for you if you are starting any kind of personal, professional, or societal movement. Clark has penned a breakthrough process for taking your big idea from infancy to maturity. Read this book and your revolution will be officially in motion. Highly recommended,” says Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid.

10. Eleven Rings


Eleven Rings uncovers the notable career of Phil Jackson, head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. It dives in about how Jackson sought lessons from humanistic psychology, Native American philosophy, and Zen meditation.

In this book, you’ll learn his secrets of mindfulness, how he managed Michael Jordan, and how he got his players to trust one another. It’s full of revelations that will keep you turning the page.

11. Quiet


Quiet champions introverted leaders. Susan Cain gives a heartfelt argument for introverts and shows the rise of overvalued extroverts. Read about notable introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, and Steve Wozniak. It will change how you view others and yourself. writes:

“Cain offers a wealth of useful advice for teachers and parents of introverts…Quiet should interest anyone who cares about how people think, work, and get along, or wonders why the guy in the next cubicle acts that way. It should be required reading for introverts (or their parents) who could use a boost to their self-esteem.”

Read to Lead

Reading plays an integral role in leadership. It can catapult your life and career to the next level.

Learn lessons from accomplished people. Mimic their strategics to reproduce your own success. And encourage others around you to partake in regular reading habits.

Be ambitious. Read more.


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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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