If you’re a startup leader, these are ten book recommendations for you that I found helpful in 2018. Not all were written in the past year; it’s just when I read them. Hope you enjoy my recommendations by category.
Any you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Leadership and Self-Improvement
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
A must-read for any leader with a high opinion of themselves!
“The art of taking feedback is such a crucial skill in life, particularly harsh and critical feedback. We not only need to take this harsh feedback, but actively solicit it, labor to seek out the negative precisely when our friends and family and brain are telling us that we’re doing great. The ego avoids such feedback at all costs, however. It thinks it already knows how and who we are — that is, it thinks we are spectacular, perfect, genius, truly innovative. It dislikes reality and prefers its own assessment.”
Thank you to the hundreds of people who recommended this to me! (mostly joking)
Great at Work by Morten Hansen
This book gives targeted advice for intelligently improving your career performance, based on a 5-year study of 5,000 managers and employees.
“Do less, work hard on fewer things, learn diligently, and debate properly to generate better work and achieve more.”
I loved how the advice is actionable and actually scientifically-backed, and not just someone’s random opinion.
Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think
by Tasha Eurich
How well do you know yourself? Do you know how others see you?
Are you sure?
This book was eye-opening. Its lessons on improving your individual self-awareness and your team’s were practical and dense. I’ll have to return to this veritable humble pie buffet again and again.
On leading a self-aware team: “First, if the team doesn’t have a leader who models the way, the process will be seen as insincere or even dangerous. Second, if there isn’t the psychological safety to tell the truth, the chance of candid feedback is almost zero.”
The Five Dysfunctions of Team by Patrick Lencioni
Half a decade ago, I read this management classic and realized I was an ineffective leader.
After 5 years of experience, reading, schooling, leadership coaching, and personal growth, a couple hours in this book and I realize how much of a lifetime journey leadership can be.
If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor. Check it out.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
The story of a startup called Nike, told from its founder’s point of view.
I loved hearing about Nike’s many near-death experiences and realizing that Phil and his team were a bunch of amateurs making things up as they went along!
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
Reading about the genius and insane work ethic of the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity shocked me.
This book is entertaining and could redefine what a high achiever’s life looks like to you.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Most gripping read of 2018.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion.
There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.
A wake-up call to encourage startup folks like me to think critically about incredible Silicon Valley promises.
Handbooks for Specific Skillsets
Recruit Rockstars by Jeff Hyman
The best manual on how to hire top talent step-by-step. Great reminders and data even for experienced hiring managers.
Also a phenomenal value for $1 on Amazon.
Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy by Cindy Alvarez
If you’re looking for the playbook for customer development, look no further. As popularized by Steve Blank, customer development is the process for eliciting user needs to direct building a product or business.
A must-read for product managers and startup founders.
Designing for Growth (+Field Book) by Jeanne Liedtka, Tim Ogilvie, Rachel Brozenske
From some of the thought leaders of the Design Thinking movement comes an incredibly practical, step-by-step manual for individual creatives or team leaders.
This book outlines a highly useful and impactful Design Thinking philosophy. Consider me a believer now.
Superforecasting: the Art and Science of Prediction by Philip Tetlock
Long-winded but eye-opening. Superforecasting is an entertaining book detailing the improvements made in forecasting events as a science. It changed the way I think about and communicate about planning.
Reminds me of Khaneman or Malcolm Gladwell. Check it out!
How about you? Did you enjoy any of these books? Got any recommendations of your own?