Neeley School of Business Faculty Picks: Must-Read Books for Aspiring Business Leaders


Ready to start learning more about business trends and best practices?  We asked Neeley School of Business faculty for their top picks for must-read books for aspiring  business leaders. Now is a great time to sample from these titles, before your MBA is in full swing, along with required reading for classes. Here are their recommendations:

Peter Locke
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

In Rand’s 1957 novel (her last), she depicts “a dystopian United States wherein many of society's most prominent and successful industrialists abandon their fortunes and the nation itself, in response to aggressive new regulations, whereupon most vital industries collapse.”

“For proper business ethics, nothing beats Ayn Rand's premier anti-crony capitalism book,” says Locke.

Tracey Rockett
The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman; and Give and Take by Adam Grant

In The Confidence Code, the authors “provide an informative and practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence—and learning how to achieve it—for women of all ages and at all stages of their career.”

Give and Take “highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.”

“Both of these are filled with research insights but are more engaging than many academic books,” says Rockett. 

Larry Peters
Leading Change by John Kotter; Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within by Robert Quinn; and Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change by Joseph Grenny

Leading Changeis Kotter’s eight-step process for managing change with positive results and “has become the foundation for leaders and organizations across the globe. By outlining the process every organization must go through to achieve its goals and by identifying where and how even top performers derail during the change process, Kotter provides a practical resource for leaders and managers charged with making change initiatives work.” 

Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within“is a survival manual for finding our own internal leadership power. By helping us learn new ways of thinking and behaving, it shows how we can transform ourselves from victims to powerful agents of change. And for anyone who yearns to be an internally driven leader, to motivate the people around them and return to a satisfying work life, Deep Change holds the key.”

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change “takes readers on a fascinating journey from San Francisco to Thailand to South Africa, where they'll see how seemingly ‘insignificant’ people are making incredibly significant improvements in solving problems others would think impossible. Readers will learn how savvy folks make change not only achievable and sustainable, but inevitable. They'll discover breakthrough ways of changing the key behaviors that lead to greater safety, productivity, quality and customer service.”

William Cron
To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

To Sell Is Human“offers a fresh look at the art and science of selling. As he did in Drive and A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink draws on a rich trove of social science for his counterintuitive insights. He reveals the new ABCs of moving others (it’s no longer ‘Always Be Closing’), explains why extroverts don’t make the best salespeople and shows how giving people an ‘off-ramp’ for their actions can matter more than actually changing their minds.”

Greg Stephens
Crucial Confrontations by Joseph Grenny; The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni; Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance” by Dyer, Dyer and Dyer; Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs; The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by B. Franklin; and John Adams by David McCullough

Crucial Confrontationshelps readers “develop the skills it takes to resolve the most pressing problems, including quality violations, safety infractions, cost-cutting mistakes and medical errors.”

The Five Dysfunctions of a Teamis a compelling leadership fable, in which Lencioni “reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams—even the best ones—often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team.” 

Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance“provides the next generation of team leaders, team members and team consultants with the knowledge and skills they need to create effective and high-functioning teams.” 

Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together “provides practical guidelines for one of the essential elements of true partnership—learning how to talk together in honest and effective ways; and reveals how problems between managers and employees, and between companies or divisions within a larger corporation, stem from an inability to conduct a successful dialogue.”

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin “has become one of the most famous and influential examples of an autobiography ever written.”

John Adams is “a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.”

Larry Lockwood
The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N. Thorndike

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Successis No. 1 on Warren Buffett’s recommended reading list (as stated in the Berkshire Hathaway 2012 annual shareholder letter). In this book, “Thorndike tells eye-opening stories, extracting lessons and revealing a compelling alternative model for anyone interested in leading a company or investing in one—and reaping extraordinary returns.”

Tyson Browning 
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by E.M. Goldratt and J. Cox; and The Process-Centered Enterprise: The Power of Commitments by G.A. Pall

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement“contains a serious message for all managers in industry and explains the ideas, which underline the Theory of Constraints, developed by Eli Goldratt.”

The Process-Centered Enterprise: The Power of Commitmentsteaches readers “how to manage the initiation, design and implementation of business process change to respond to change and achieve success in the business context and avoid predictable failures.”

Abbie Shipp 
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain; and Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking “introduces readers to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most “provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success.”
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