Great by Choice Summary

Great by Choice Summary

MicroSummary: “Great by Choice” is another master-product of Jim Collins’ in-depth decade-long market researches, this time written in collaboration with another influential management analyst, Morten T. Hansen. The question this time around: why do some companies take a nosedive, while others thrive in a state of crisis and chaos? The answer: they are disciplined and prepared.

Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

Have you ever wondered how is it that while some big companies are left to scrape the bottom of the barrel after a financial crisis, others emerge practically unscathed of disasters of apocalyptic proportions?

Well, so did James C. Collins and Morten T. Hansen. And they conducted a decade-long research, the conclusions of which they shared in “Great by Choice.”

And after reading the book, we share our conclusions with you.

Who Should Read “Great by Choice”? And Why?

As is the case with most of Jim Collins’ books, “Great by Choice” is a recipe for long-term business success.

Something chief executives, company owners, and business researchers are certainly much more interested than in the pervading get-rich-quick schemes self-help authors like to maniacally write about.

In its final chapter, the book includes possibly the first in-depth quantifying analysis of the role of luck in business success. And many will find that part especially interesting.

About Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen

Jim CollinsJames C. “Jim” Collins III is one of America’s most famous business consultants and leadership teachers. His 25-year long research into topics such as company growth and sustainability, have resulted in six widely read classics. We have already summarized two of them at “Built to Last” and “Good to Great.”

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Morten T. HansenMorten T. Hansen is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, with a Ph.D. from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He was ranked by Thinkers50 among the 50 most influential management analysts in the world. He has authored two more books: “Great at Work” and “Collaboration.”

Learn more at

“Great by Choice Summary”

In “Good to Great” – deservedly featured in our top 15 leadership books in history list – business consultant guru Jim Collins tried to answer one of the most difficult questions in the business world.

Namely, why some companies make the leap from being good to being great, while others, no matter how similar to them, fall in the pit of mediocrity.

A decade later, Collins teams up with his colleague Morten T. Hansen in “Great by Choice,” to answer a new, as important, related question: why some companies thrive in chaos, while others completely lose it?

And, once again, he reaches some interesting, almost counter-intuitive, conclusions, via an exemplary decade-long fieldwork.

What the book ultimately boils down to?

That great companies are no luckier than good companies; and, that they succeed because, even in the case of chaos and uncertainty, they go on working as if everything is as orderly as ever. In other words, antifragility is a trait you acquire through a process which combines discipline and preparedness; not something you have in your DNA from the start, or something you get by luck and sheer courage.

And Hansen and Collins have just the right story to illustrate their point.

In 1911, two expeditions moved on a dangerous trip to Antarctica, in an attempt to become the first people to ever reach the South Pole. One of them was led by a Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, and the other by a British Royal Navy officer, Robert Falcon Scott.

Now, you would expect that the latter one was the one which historians remember, but – guess again: it was Amundsen’s expedition which won the race to immortality.


One word: preparation.

You see, Roald Amundsen knew where he was going and spend as much time as he could researching Eskimo habits and trying all potential food sources. Scott wanted to reach the Pole faster, so he carried a lot less weight and used the untested-for-that-terrain motor sledges. Both would prove fatal: not one member of Scott’s team ever made it home.

Well, write Collins and Hansen, the business world of today, with all its tumultuousness and unpredictability, it’s not much different than this polar race. Neither Amundsen nor Scott knew what they will face on Antarctica, but the former one did better in guessing and preparing for it.

All of the “10X companies” – companies which beat their industry indexes y at least 10 times in as many years – Collins and Hansen analyzed did just that to overcome difficult situations.

They prepared.


First of all, they were disciplined. They didn’t rush anywhere. They preferred consistency over rapid rise. By setting themselves targets and hitting them precisely year by year, they became immune to external influences.

Secondly, they were bold, only when boldness mattered. In other words, their leaders weren’t interested in taking risks, and, thus, weren’t required to be any more visionary than those of merely good companies. (Hey, remember Collins’ other classic, “Built to Last”? Let us refresh your memory.)

Finally, just like Amundsen, they were “productively paranoid.” The polar explorer tried dolphin’s meat so as to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The 10X companies constantly do this, so, when something bad happens, they already have a good strategy.

True, if nothing of the sort ever happens, it may be money down the drain. But, then again, 10X leaders don’t think that way: they don’t strive to outdo their objectives. They are perfectly content with meeting them.

Talking about discipline!

Key Lessons from “Great by Choice”

1.      10xers Walk the 20 Mile March
2.      “Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs”
3.      Be SMaC and Productively Paranoid

10xers Walk the 20 Mile March

Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen base their findings on their in-depth decade-long research of companies which thrive in uncertain environments. And the conclusion?

The 10xers (the companies which beat their industries tenfold) simply walk the 20-mile march. Or, in other words, they are there for the long haul.

Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs

Contrary to popular belief and intuition, the 10xers are neither more innovative, nor bolder than competitive companies. But, they are way more attentive. Or, to use Collins and Hansen’s terms: they use bullets, until they are completely sure of their target.

And, then, they fire the cannonballs.

Be SMaC and Productively Paranoid

SMaC stands for “specific, methodological and consistent” and it’s how discipline is implemented within a company. But, it’s only one aspect of what will get you through the hard times. The other one is being productively paranoid.

It means exactly what you think it means: prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

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“Great by Choice” Quotes

Innovation without discipline leads to disaster. Click To Tweet When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity. Click To Tweet Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline. Click To Tweet The idea that leading in a ‘fast world’ always requires ‘fast decisions’ and ‘fast action’ is a good way to get killed. 10X leaders figure out when to go fast, and when not to. Click To Tweet As the influential management thinker Peter Drucker taught, the best – perhaps even the only – way to predict the future is to create it. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As we’ve already grown accustomed with Jim Collins’ books, “Great by Choice” is the lovechild of an exhaustive, thorough business research he, Morten T. Hansen, and a team of twenty researches did over a period of nine years.

That alone is a good recommendation in itself. It isn’t the only one: the findings of this research should be helpful to anyone with a dream of building a great company. And they are so original and related in such a straightforward and readable manner, that few would ever want to skip a page.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Top Management Books

The discipline of management is “one of the greatest social innovations of modern times”. In fact, the idea of managing processes is so ubiquitous and pervasive, that Peter Drucker, “the founder of modern management,” considers managers nothing short of the present and future torchbearers of ethics and morality.

You can read why he thinks that in our review of one of the two books we included in our top management books list. We believe that the other thirteen are as important and famous, as influential and eye-opening.

And we don’t want to lose you another second of your time before we introduce our picks for the 15 best management books in history.

#1. “The Principles of Scientific Management” by Frederick Winslow Taylor

The Principles of Scientific Management SummaryIn 1913, V. I. Lenin, the man who would go on to start a bloody revolution four years later, wrote in “Pravda” that “the most widely discussed topic today in Europe, and to some extent in Russia, is the ‘system’ of the American engineer, Frederick Taylor.”

What Lenin was referring to was a 1911 monograph titled “The Principles of Scientific Management,” a highly influential work during the period of the Progressive Era (1890-1920), written by a man whose life mission was improving industrial efficiency, Frederic Winslow Taylor.

Even though the essay expounds theories which would grow obsolete in the meantime, generally the book’s influence is highly regarded even in the 21st century. In fact, in 2001, the 137 Fellows of the Academy of Management voted it the most influential management book ever written.

And some of its main ideas are still hotly and commonly debated. Such as the suggestion that shorter workdays may still increase productivity. What do you think?

#2. “The Functions of the Executive” by Chester Barnard

The Functions of the Executive SummaryDuring the same Academy of Management survey which voted “The Principles of Scientific Management” the most influential management work in history, Chester Irving Barnard’s 1938 classic “The Functions of the Executive” came in second.

Considered “the first paradigmatic statement of the management discipline,” “The Functions of the Executive” presents “a theory of organization and cooperation,” much in the same manner as Taylor. However, the big difference between them is that Barnard didn’t want to merely prescribe principles; he wanted to study those already practiced and compare them to each other to discover the best practice.

Divided into four parts and eighteen chapters, Barnard’s book is a somewhat difficult read. Just looking at the titles of the parts is enough. The first one, for example, is called “Preliminary Considerations Concerning Cooperative Systems”; the last one: “The Functions of Organizations in Cooperative Systems.”

However, have no doubts whatsoever that, in this case, looking past the “atrocious” style is more than worth it.

#3. “The Essential Drucker” by Peter Drucker

The Essential Drucker SummaryBorn in the Austro-Hungarian Empire few years before it dissolved, Peter Drucker, “the most influential and widely read authority on modern organizations,” had the invaluable privilege to be raised in a household where intellectuals, scientists, and leaders regularly met to discuss their views and ideas.

If you’re wondering about their names and reputations, just have a look at our top economics booklist: any Austrian you’ll find there (and there are few), Peter Drucker personally knew even as a child.

In the final Academy of Management list of most influential books, Drucker’s 1954 “The Practice of Management” was listed third and called a “seminal contribution” to the field. However, for our list, we opted for two different books, even though, really, Drucker is so omnipresent that we’ll always stand by our recent estimation that he is “as important to companies, as oxygen is crucial for our survival.”

The Essential Drucker” is a carefully compiled collection of the 26 most important writings by Drucker, and, as such, is an essential read for every manager.

#4. “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” by Peter Drucker

Management SummaryIf you’ve studied management at almost any university, the chances are this was one of the first – if not the first – book you were assigned as a compulsory read.

Originally published in 1973, “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices” is still the best management manual almost half a century later. And it’s so all-encompassing and diligently organized that it’s difficult to see how any other book can take its place.

Developed and written during a period of over three decades, “Management” draws heavily on Peter Drucker’s experience as a management professor and consultant to government agencies, and large and small businesses. In fact, you can consider this book a distillate of his life. There’s everything here! From basic management tasks to best management practices.

But, don’t ignore Drucker’s pleas for business ethics either. “In modern society,” he writes, “there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.”

#5. “What Management Is: How It Works and Why It Is Everyone’s Business” By Joan Magretta

What Management Is SummaryThe blurb to “What Management Is” may sound a bit pretentious, but, trust us, it exaggerates nothing. “Not since Peter Drucker’s great work of the 1950s and 1960s,” it says at one point, “has there been a comparable effort to present the work of management as a coherent whole, to take stock of the current state of play, and to write about it thoughtfully for readers of all backgrounds.”

And when it says “all backgrounds” – trust us yet again – it really means so! At no more than 256 pages, Joan Magretta has managed to achieve a rare feat. Namely, to write a book which may attract the interest of both novices and experienced managers; teaching the former the basics and providing the latter with encyclopedically organized body of knowledge.

The beginners will additionally love the simplicity with which Magretta explains complex management ideas; and, even more, the clear, concise, and straight-to-the-point style. As “The Econimist” review put it best: “a rare animal: a management book that is lucid, interesting and honest.”

#6. “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

First, Break All the Rules SummaryIn 2011, “Time Magazine” made a list of “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books.” We bet few would have been surprised to see there Marcus Buckingham’s and Curt Coffman’s brilliant “First, Break All the Rules.”

Published by Gallup, the book is based on the largest management survey ever undertaken, encompassing 80,000 interviewed managers from over 400 successful companies. Buckingham and Coffman asked each of the managers 12 simple questions; then they thoroughly studied the answers. The results are staggering: almost none of the old management techniques actually work in practice.

What does work?

Well, first of all, treating employees like individuals capable of doing seriously difficult work; and focusing on their strengths rather than their weakness; however, all the while not believing that with training everyone can do what he or she sets his or her mind to.

It seems that setting specific outcomes works; but – believe it or not – refraining from setting specific processes does as well. Disregarding the golden rule – is the golden rule.

And much, much more.

#7. “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

Now, Discover Your Strengths SummarySo much more, in fact, that Marcus Buckingham went on to write another work, a companion-piece to “First, Break All the Rules”. This time with a new co-author – American psychologist Donald O. Clifton, – but using the very same methodology. And, based on the titles, we have a feeling that this one’s was in preparation even before the first one was published.

We already featured “Now, Discover Your Strengths” in our top motivational books, but we think it belongs here as well. Based on a gargantuan survey by The Gallup Organization, the book quantifies the answers 1.7 million interviewees gave to several questions, and deduces the 34 distinct “talent themes” (or traits), the combinations of which can best describe an individual’s uniqueness.

And after helping each reader to find his specific strengths – via Gallup’s online resource – “Now, Discover Your Strengths” offers many practical advices on how to advance and employ them.

Updated as “Strengths Finder 2.0” in the meantime, this book can teach managers to get the best out of their employees, and employees get the best out of themselves.

#8. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” by James C. Collins

Good to Great SummaryIn our microsummary, we described “Good to Great” as “one of the best management books to ever see the light of day. So, obviously enough, we include it in our list of top management books in history.

Published in 2001, “Good to Great” tries to answer the question why some good companies succeed in becoming great, while others simply fail making the leap mentioned in the title. And, just like our two previous books on this list, “Good to Great” is not merely a theoretical exposé, but is based on an expansive 5-year study.

But, then again, if you know anything about its author, Jim Collins, you would have known that from the start.

Ultra-successful book and selling more the 4 million copies, “Good to Great” compares eleven great companies to their merely good counterparts (e.g. Philip Morris             vs. R. J. Reynolds) and discovers seven characteristics which the former had and the latter didn’t.

And let’s face it: who wouldn’t want to know them?

#9. “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Built to Last Summary“Good to Great” was published in 2011 and, as we wrote above, received enormous amounts of attention. However, it wasn’t without a precedent: by that time, in fact, Jim Collins would have already made his name as one of the leaders in the field with “Built to Last.”

Originally published in 1994, “Built to Last” is, once again, based on a wide-ranging six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Its two main goals – in its authors’ words – were ““to identify underlying characteristics are common to highly visionary companies” and “to effectively communicate findings so they can influence management.”

And “Built to Last” lives up to both of these high expectations.

By carefully studying the ideas and the practice of 18 widely admired companies founded before 1950, “Built to Last” provides valuable insights into the management habits of these great companies and deduces what made them so exceptional by comparing them to their top competitors.

Defining and seminal, “Built to Last” lives up to its title.

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#10. “In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies” by Thomas Peters and Robert H. Waterman

In Search of Excellence SummaryPublished in 1982, “In Search of Excellence,” brought Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. so much attention that even though it was their debut book they quickly got nation-wide coverage and some flattering epithets of the “business guru” kind.

Three decades later, it’s obvious that the initial evaluations were correct. “In Search of Excellence” is still considered a management manual.

Started as a study of 62 businesses, it ended up as a thorough analysis of the management practices in the 43 best-run companies in the United States. By carefully examining the available data, Peters and Waterman discovered that the companies which succeed share eight common characteristics.

And “In Search of Excellence,” they dedicate a chapter to each. Unsurprisingly, in the meantime, these eight traits have become basic principles of management.

Dubbed the “Greatest Business Book of All Time” by “Bloomsbury UK,” “In Search of Excellence” is the fourth best-selling management book in history, trailing only Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and the books at #4 and #8 on this list.

#11. “Competing for the Future” by Gary Hamel, C. K. Prahalad

Competing for the Future SummarySoon after its publication, in a review for “Washington Post,” Steven Pearlstein wrote that “if there is room for only one management book on your reading shelf each year”, “Competing for the Future” is his 1996 choice. “Business Week” backed Pearlstein’s decision, claiming that it’s “one of the year’s best management books.”

Exciting and profoundly valuable, “Competing for the Future” is written by two renowned thinkers on strategy, Gary Hamel and Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad. And it strives to give “would-be revolutionaries” the tools to challenge “the protectors of the past.

As any book written for rebels, it challenges many of the notions about management prevalent at the day; if you think that most of them are commonsensical now – well, you owe it to Hamel’s and Prahalad’s expertise.

And you certainly do think that strategic planning is a continuous process and that it is something that has to encompass the whole organization, and not just some sectors, right?

#12. “Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management” by Edward De Bono

Six Thinking Hats SummaryYou can really argue that Edward de Bono is one of the most famous exports from the tiny island nation of Malta. Psychologist, philosopher, physician, and inventor, he is the man who invented the concept of lateral thinking, i.e. solving problems creatively.

And “Six Thinking Hats” is the book where he first proposed the idea.

Published in 1985, “Six Thinking Hats” devised a thinking system which strives to eradicate the most serious problem of thinking: confusion. De Bono demonstrates that confusion stems from the fact that we’re never thinking clearly, or, rather, that we’re always using many aspects of our being to think.

So, he suggests a role-playing method which clarifies how thinking works, by splitting the process into its six comprising elements.

The red hat is the emotional one, while the white one shows interest in facts only; the black one is the devil’s advocate, while the yellow is the optimistic hat; finally, the green hat is the hat of creativity, and the blue one – the hat of the manager.

Employed by many companies even today, de Bono’s three-decades-old tool has proved a lasting success!

#13. “The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company” by Jack Stack

The Great Game of Business SummaryThis is a book about an inspirational story.

Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation was founded in 1983 by 13 employees of International Harvester. In an attempt to save 119 jobs, they decided to buy the part of the company which rebuilt truck engines. How? With $100,000 of their own money. And about $8.9 million in loans!

Led by Jack Stack, the employees turned the things around, and the initial stock price of $0.10 in 1983 had increased by almost 2,000 times and was worth over $199 per share in 2015.

And we still haven’t gotten to the most interesting part of the story! You see, Jack Stack had neither experience nor an idea how to manage a company!

So, how did he do it?

The Great Game of Business” explains what he did in detail, introducing to the world the fairly new concept of “open-book management.” Its main premise, especially in view of capitalistic doctrines, is staggeringly innovative.

Namely, Springfield Remanufacturing is not managed by one person, but by everybody. In other words, everyone has his or her say on each financial decision and all company matters.

And – well – somehow it works brilliantly!

#14. “Out of the Crisis” by W. Edwards Deming

Out of the Crisis SummaryOriginally published by MIT Center for Advanced Engineering in 1982 as “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position,” this W. Edwards Deming’s classic was republished in 1986 under its much more friendly current title, “Out of Crisis.”

The book, included in both “Time Magazine’s” “and Academy of Management’s” lists of top 25 most influential management books in history, is widely credited with introducing the concept of Total quality management, even though Deming never actually uses the term in the book.

However, he does offer 14 key principles to managers which articulate TQM in both simple and still operational manner.

Ranging from ideas about the necessity of improving constantly and forever to suggestions that breaking down barriers between departments is a must, from calls to put an end to inspections to requests to drive out fear from the workplace, “Out of the Crisis” has transformed many companies in the past four decades.

And will certainly transform you once you find the time to read it.

#15. “The One Minute Manager: The Quickest Way to Increase Your Own Prosperity” by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

The One Minute Manager SummaryThe subtitle of this book – “the quickest way to increase your own prosperity” – seems like an understatement when compared to the title – “The One Minute Manager.”

Of course, those who expect to become good managers in one minute expect a bit much. But, even they might be absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson need no more than a hundred pages to expound upon a simple management concept which ended up influencing thousands of companies.

And especially by the main premise of the book: one minute to a manager may be an exaggeration, but three minutes is just about right!

A sleeper hit in the 1980s, “The One Minute Manager” is, in fact, a fable explicating a management-by-objectives type of managing which is based around the idea an effective manager sets one-minute goals, and sets aside one minute for praising and one minute for reprimanding his employees.

A business bestseller ever since its publication, “The One Minute Manager” is, both literally and metaphorically, a small wonder.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Top Business Books

Wikipedia defines business as “an organization that provides goods and services for human needs.” It’s a simple definition for a complex set of processes, which encompass everything from an original idea, through an effective management structure to a maximizing-profits strategy.

And we have them all: the basics and the classics, the biographies and the big company histories, the why and wherefores of being an entrepreneur, a leader, and an investor, and the because of-s and the how-to-s of dealing with a crisis.

Consequently, it’s only natural that this list is a compilation of few other of our top books lists. But, we couldn’t resist to include few titles which – since we decided for a maximum of 15 of the best business books per list – we had no choice but to omit from our other booklists.

No need to buckle up: it’s going to be a lean ride!

#1. “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About it” by Michael E. Gerber

The E-Myth Revisited SummaryIf you want to start your own company, this book is all but a prerequisite. It’s basically a step-by-step guide, including not only essential tips and tricks, but also, much more importantly, numerous don’ts and why the hell would you-s.

In the cult classic “The E-Myth Revisited,” Michael E. Gerber takes you on a virtual journey from the nugget of an idea to your first successful small business. The book is dived in three parts: “The E-Myth and American Small Business,” “The Turn-Key Revolution: A New View of Business,” and “Building a Small Business That Works!”

And each of these parts includes few chapters which will carefully lead you through all the phases of a successful small business. Specifically, you’ll progress from entrepreneurial infancy (the technician’s phase) through adolescent help-getting pleas and comfort-zone-wrecking acts to developing mature in-depth manuals for each of the necessary business strategies.

“The E-Myth Revisited” aims to transform the unpredictability of the business world into a surefire method for success. Absolutely essential.

#2. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things SummaryAnother business 101 classic.

Ben Horowitz is an American investor and businessman, a regular blogger, a co-founder of the venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz, and an all-around Silicon Valley legend.

In “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” he shares his experiences and real-world-proof expertise on how to establish and run a startup. And he focuses on what others leave out. “A lot of people talk about how great it is to start a business,” says the blurb on the back cover, “but only Ben Horowitz is brutally honest about how hard it is to run one.”

And that brutal honesty comes in the form of a highly readable experience-based volume, adorned with – well, this is a first one – rap lyrics!

After all, if one of our investment gurus, Mark Spitznagel, can consider Bob Dylan an economic prophet, why shouldn’t Horowitz epigraph his first chapter with DMX’s “Who We Be”?

You’ll find many of those scattered throughout “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” Now, who would have known that you could teach business with rap and hip-hop?

(Mental note: read “The 50th Law”; just in case.)

#3. “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.” by Ron Chernow

Titan SummaryMoving on from the fundamentals classics to the classic business biographies. And is there a better place to start other than with the ultimate biography of a person whose surname has become a synonym for “wealth”?

When he died in 1937, John D. Rockefeller Sr. fell just two years short of becoming a centenarian. But, what he left behind was a business empire of mythic proportions. In fact, at his peak, Rockefeller controlled almost nine tenths of the oil in the United States, and was worth about one fiftieth of the U.S. GDP.

In other words, he amassed a fortune four times bigger than Bill Gates!

Safe to say, Ron Chernow couldn’t have chosen a better subject for a biography. And, in writing “Titan,” he got an unprecedented access to Rockefeller’s private papers! Since you’ll definitely want to pick up this book now, let us prepare you appropriately, by taking you back to Rockefeller’s times:

“Rockefeller stripped to the bone as never before! Read all about it! Read all about it!”

#4. “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance

Elon MuskElon Musk Summary has the magnetism of a Hollywood superstar. And he’s at the frontline of the mastermind minority which is currently designing your future.

Just think about it: can you imagine being privileged enough to follow Nikola Tesla’s Twitter account?

Unique and brilliant, Elon Musk has built an image which guarantees that any book dedicated on his life and endeavors will be an instant bestseller. Even better when it’s authored by Ashlee Vance, a celebrated business author and columnist.

His “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” doesn’t disappoint in the least. It is thoroughly researched and full of exclusive content. Elon Musk has warned that It’s not independently fact-checked, but has endorsed it as a great book, nevertheless.

And when the man himself says that it’s good – who are we to judge otherwise?

#5. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog Summary“Shoe Dog” is the safest bridge we could think of between the essential business biographies/memoirs of the day and the best histories of the top companies in the world.

Because, this one’s a book written by Phil Knight, the co-founder and chairman emeritus of “Nike,” your beloved footwear maker. And it’s not about the “Nike” you know, but about how the “Nike” you know came to be.

So, don’t expect to find here your Jordans and Jameses, your Woodses and Federers!

But, do expect to find how an ordinary Portland accountant tricked the Japanese conglomerate Onitsuka Co. to establish a small Tiger shoes reseller called Blue Ribbon Sports. And, of course, how that became “Nike” – together with the wonderful stories about the naming and the choosing of the swoosh logo!

It’s engagingly written, wonderfully structured and brimming with between-the-lines practical advice. The best kind, really.

#6. “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone

The Everything Store SummaryPhil Knight is the 28th richest person in the world. Jeff Bezos, the founder of the company this book is dedicated on, is the richest. And Wikipedia has compiled a list of few references which claim that he’s on a track to become the wealthiest person in history.

Yes, maybe even beating the guy at #3!

Born into a middle-class family in Albuquerque, Jeff Bezos had the idea of starting a business company which will deliver books via mail. That was back in 1994. Few years into the venture, Bezos was visionary enough to see that this Internet bookstore can become “The Everything Store.”

And, soon enough, it did.

In 2013, that’s the phrase Brad Stone, a lauded technology journalist, chose for the title of his book chronicling Amazon’s rise. And his account was so terrific that “Financial Times” bestowed “The Everything Store” with the 2013 best business book award.

And what’s more, presented it with the ultimate honor: a place on its top 15 business booklist.

#7. “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” by Nick Bilton

Hatching Twitter SummaryThe rise and rise of Amazon was largely a one-man show. The story of Twitter, on the other hand – as the subtitle of our choice states – was a multi-person drama of money, power, friendship and betrayal.

Really: they should make a TV series out of it! If it’s based on Nick Bilton’s account, we can guarantee you hours and hours of cliffhangers and shocks, excitement and twists.

Praised for its novel-like qualities and the breadth of the research, “Hatching Twitter” has it all!

From a project gone wrong to a casual idea gone right; from a fellowship of four hackers – Ev Williams, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass – to a startup with serious backup problems; and, finally, from constant inside power struggles to a multibillion-dollar business which has twice fired its founders.

Yes, we’ve read “Things a Little Bird Told Me,” Biz Stone’s take of the Twitter affairs. But, this one’s better.

#8. “Principles: Life and Work” by Ray Dalio

Principles SummaryWe really wanted to include this book in our top finance and investing books, but we didn’t really know which of those 15 books to drop. (Leave a comment if you do.)

So, we opted for a compromise, which meant that Ray Dalio’s “Principles” was one of the first books we wrote down under the “Top Business Books” title.

And here’s why.

In 1975, when Ray Dalio was merely 26, he founded an investment firm in his two-bedroom New York apartment. Today, at the age of 68, he is one of the 100 wealthiest people on this planet. And the firm, Bridgewater Associates, is probably the world’s largest hedge fund.

“Principles” is Dalio’s personal view on the matters. It includes hundreds of practical business lessons, all revolving around his three fundamental beliefs: “radical transparency,” “radical truth,” and “organizational dissent”.

Just like Dalio, “Principles” is unconventional and entertaining as hell. Where else, after all, would you find a suggestion to create trading “baseball cards” of your employees?

#9. “The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing” by Benjamin Graham

The Intelligent Investor SummaryWarren Buffet, the Oracle himself, says that “The Intelligent Investor” is “by far the best investing book ever written.” And that this book – and man, since he was his mentor – utterly “changed his life.”

Benjamin Graham is considered the father of “value investing.” And “The Intelligent Investor” is where he expounds his “value investing” philosophy most thoroughly and in a most readable manner. In fact, you can understand the gist of it by way of Graham’s favorite allegory, the one about Mr. Market.

There’s no need to describe it or delve in it further, because you have probably already heard it. Just like there’s probably no need to endorse “The Intelligent Investor” anymore than it already is by the first sentence of this review.

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks

#10. “Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street” by John Brooks

Business Adventures SummaryJohn Brooks died over quarter of a century ago, but his legacy as one of the best “New Yorker” contributors in history remains safe and sound to this day. Moreover, “Business Adventures,” his most popular book, is still considered one of the ultimate business classics.

As its subtitle implies, “Business Adventures” is an anthology of Brooks’ articles, a collection of twelve Wall Street stories. In principle, these cover much more monkey business, than actual business – but that’s exactly what makes them even more interesting.

In fact, we think that there’s no other book where you can read, side by side, a personal account of the rise of Xerox, and a behind-the-scenes narrative of the 1960s multi-million scandals at Ford and General Electric.

The reviews have our back: “Forbes” says it’s “vividly written,” and “Slate” calls it “superb.” But they all fade out in view of Bill Gates’ endorsement: “’Business Adventures’ remains the best business book I’ve ever read.”

#11. “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel

Zero to One SummaryWhat Bill Gates says about “Business Adventures,” Derek Thompson, writing for “The Atlantic” says almost verbatim about Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One.” And he furnishes the accolade with a sentence which neatly describes the best aspect of the book: a “lucid and profound articulation of capitalism and success in the 21st century economy.”

Peter Thiel – if you happen to be living on some other planet –  is the co-founder of PayPal, the first outside investor in Facebook, and one of the richest people in the world.

And in “Zero to One” he shares some of his insights about how the greatest entrepreneurs (yes, we have featured this book on that list as well) make large leaps – not from 1 to 1.1, but from 0 to 1.

From time to time, the discussion is a bit more abstract and enigmatic than you’d expect. But, then again, one of Thiel’s main ideas is that the startups which succeed are founded on secrets.

#12. “Capital in the 21st Century” by Thomas Piketty

Capital in the 21st Century Summary“Financial Times” best business book for 2014 and a top 15 economics book ever, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” is one of the most sobering business books you’ll ever read. A little publishing miracle, its English translation is the most sought-after and purchased book ever published by the Harvard University Press.

Thomas Piketty examines data from twenty different countries, going back to the 18th century, in an attempt to understand better the relationship between wealth and inequality. His conclusions may revolutionize how you – or anyone else, for that matter – think about business.

First of all, even though Marx wasn’t completely right, he was much more spot-on concerning how capitalism works than most. And secondly, not fixing inequality is bad for everybody’s business – in the long run.

The solution, in Piketty’s opinion, is progressive taxation. For better or for worse, our best tool to eliminate inequality.

#13. “Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System – and Themselves” by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Too Big to Fail SummaryPiketty was as good an introduction to our crises section of this list as any. And “Too Big to Fail” is undoubtedly the book we’d like to start this section with.

When it was published in 2010, it won the 2010 Gerald Loeb award for best business book. Additionally, it was named “the best book of the year” by respectable publications such as “The Economist” and “The Business Week.” And, finally, it was either shortlisted or longlisted by almost all other periodicals and newspaper of note.

A thriller of blockbuster proportions, “Too Big to Fail” is the book you’d want to read if you want to find out what was happening during the 2007-8 financial crisis. You can also watch the award-winning HBO film if you’d like, but, if you ask us, you shouldn’t skip Andrew Ross Sorkin’s bestseller under any circumstances.

Greed, ego, fear, self-preservation instincts – the business world has never looked more similar to a jungle than here!

#14. “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” by Bryan Burrough and John Heylar

Barbarians at the Gate SummaryAnd one more book-turned-successful-movie about corporate greed you’ll swallow in a single bite, savoring its bitter-sweet taste for a fairly long period.

In “Barbarians at the Gate”, Bryan Burrough and John Heylar take you on a journey deep inside the belly of the whale. In their case, the whale is RJR Nabisco, a former American tobacco and food conglomerate, and the belly is its leveraged buyout, at the time the highest in history.

Out-of-date only at first glance, this is an amazingly honest and profound account of a world of power struggles and aggressive business strategies. One that probably happens all around us today, because – even though companies and owners change, people hardly ever do.

“The Chicago Tribune” in its review wrote that “it’s hard to imagine a better story…” And, even more importantly, it went on “…and it’s hard to imagine a better account.”

#15. “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck –Why Some Thrive Despite Them All” by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

Great by Choice SummaryWe guess that you probably expected to find Jim Collins’ other famous book on this list, but since you can find it among the top 15 leadership books we’ve carefully selected, we thought that it wouldn’t harm to opt for “Great by Choice” here.

As you might already know, “Good to Great” ploughed deep to find the reasons which made some good companies turn great, as opposed to others who remained mediocre. Well, “Great by Choice” is another deep-research-based study of similar kind, this time focusing on an even more interesting question. Namely, why do some companies thrive in crisis, while others descend into mayhem?

In “Great by Choice,” Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen reveal many reasons, while introducing one or two paradigm-shifters. And they prove that if you want a good business, you need to obsessively prepare for disaster, and never really care about exceeding your goals.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Built to Last PDF Summary

MicroSummary: “Built to Last” is one more fascinating research-laden study by Jim Collins; co-written with Jerry Porras, it strives to understand why some companies – which they call visionary – survive through hard times, while others fail.

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote “Built to Last” for one purpose, to find out what makes a company really exceptional and different from the rest.

To understand the characteristics of the most successful companies in the United States and what they have in common, they observed 18 visionary companies and analyzed them in dozens of criteria defined by the authors.

With an emphasis on management principles that are timeless, they spent 6 years trying to understand how big companies become big and stay on top.

From this research came the book that breaks down several myths of the business world and reveals the characteristics of a secular company. The main myths broken in this book are:

  • You need a good idea to set up a large company;
  • You need a charismatic leader;
  • Maximizing profits is the primary goal of visionary companies;
  • A company made to last is necessary to destroy the competition;
  • Bringing CEOs from other companies helps to evolve the organization;

The book goes through these myths and also brings many other fantastic perspectives for you who want to create or transform your company into a great legacy.

Built to Last SummaryBuilt To Last

To study the biggest and best companies in the United States, Jim Collins interviewed hundreds of market executives. From this research, he selected the 18 most cited and called them visionary companies.

These companies were surveyed over 6 years, always compared to companies that, even without fantastic performances, competed in the same market.

These were not bad companies, but they were called visionaries much less often by the executives interviewed.

The companies were evaluated according to their age. In both groups, the average founding date of the companies dates back to the end of the 19th century.

The survey data were obtained through a demonstration of results, interviews with executives, news and covered all aspects of the company.

The research took into account dozens of factors such as corporate culture, corporate structure, employee satisfaction and market penetration.

To exemplify just how extraordinary visionary companies are, Jim Collins proposes a simulation. If you had invested a dollar in visionary companies in 1920, in the 1990s, you would have accumulated more than $ 6,000.

For comparison purposes, if you had invested the same dollar on the American stock market, you would have accrued only $ 400 in the same period. That’s right. The companies evaluated as visionary had a performance 15 times better than the performance of the stock market.

The comparison companies of the study also had positive reviews, with a performance 2 times better than the stock market in this period.

One of the most exciting points of the research is that it destroys many myths associated with success in the corporate world, outlining the winning companies.

Let’s study them.

You Don’t Need A Great Idea To Build A Great Company

Few of the visionary companies started with a great idea. In fact, many started without a specific idea, and several of them started with bad ideas that ended up being abandoned halfway.

Built to Last
The authors cite the example of Sony, which began with no thought in mind. The company considered venturing into the sale of food to the final consumer and even sporting goods.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) also had no specific idea in mind when it was founded.

Its founders tried to sell automatic discharges to bathrooms and bowling equipment. Obviously, these were not the ideas that turned these companies into the powers that they are today.

Visionary Companies Do Not Need Visionary And Charismatic Leaders

They are focused on architecting an institution built to last. Successful companies have focused much more on architecting a lasting organization than on having a charismatic individual leader.

As much as visionary companies had notable individuals at the top, they were generally simple and modest people. Also, many of the comparison companies also had visionary leaders, and this was not enough for success. Instead of focusing on its leader, the visionary companies studied built organizations that constantly generated great ideas and new leaders.

The true creation of the founders was not a product, but the company itself, which was constantly advancing independently of a person or idea.

Visionary companies are not personality cults, centered around a charismatic CEO or founder, but rather around their core values.

Although charismatic personalities can also stimulate passionate work, such “cults” inevitably collapse when the person leaves, and this is not characteristic of a company built to last.

Visionary Companies Do Not Exist To Maximize Profits

They care first about their core values. They have a set of goals and profitability is just one of them and, in many cases, it is not the main one. They are guided by a fundamental ideology, a set of core values.

They have a greater purpose for their existence and have relevant principles that control all their decisions – this purpose forms their ideology: solid principles that guide the company through generations. Johnson & Johnson, for example, wrote its core values in the 1930s in a document called “Our Beliefs.”

The company’s responsibilities were already set there. First, what J & J sought was to serve its customers well. Then its employees. Once these priorities had been met, then the shareholders should receive a return on their investments.

Visionary companies do not share a set of predefined values.

Each company has its values. There is no fundamental set of values to become a visionary enterprise. The most important point is not what the content of the company’s ideology is but how much the organization believes in those values.

Core values are important not only when visionary companies succeed, but also when they face crises that can threaten their existence. When Ford faced an extreme crisis in the 1980s, its executives stopped to discuss and clarify what the company represented and how they could remain faithful to the values of its founder, Henry Ford.

The Only Constant Is Not Just Change

The established system also matters a great deal. A visionary company religiously preserves its core values. They are focused on the progress that allows them to change and adopt innovations, but they never compromise their core values.

This preservation is constant even as they seek relentlessly to stimulate progress and improvements.

For example, Wal-Mart’s motto of “exceeding customer expectations” is a stable element of core values, but greeting customers entering their stores is a practice that may change.

Visionary Companies Do Not Opt For Safe Strategies

They experiment, get it right, fail and learn from their mistakes. Although people believe that visionary companies are conservative and bureaucratic, they are not afraid of taking risks and are always committed to big, audacious goals.

To achieve progress, visionary companies often define incredibly bold goals with which they fully commit themselves. They can often seem unrealistic, yet they are also clear and tangible enough to energize and increase the focus of the organization.

A well-known example of a goal like this is that set by John F. Kennedy in 1961 when he proclaimed that the US would take a man to the moon and return safely until the end of the decade.

At the time, this was an almost ridiculously courageous commitment, but it did move the US vigorously forward. Boeing has set many goals of its kind throughout its history, including its commitment to the development of the enormous 747 jet.

Boeing pursued this goal with full force without even considering the possibility of failure. The CEO said he would complete the model even if it consumed the entire company.

That almost happened, at one point he had to shut down 60% of the company’s workforce because airplane sales did not live up to expectations. J & J, for example, took risks and failed with a line of focused gypsum products to immobilize children with fractures.

The kids loved the product, but the hospitals had a huge rejection, after all, they did not want to have to deal with that kind of dirt on their stretchers and the parts that went to the laundromats and got colored with plaster.

Visionary companies understand that failed experiments are the price they need to pay for evolution and take these risks to reinvent themselves.

Visionary Companies Are Not Necessarily The Best Places To Work For Everyone

They are great places for people who share their values to work together. Only those who fit the core values will find the company a great place to work. They reinforce their ideologies with such determination that their corporate cultures are almost like sects.

Employees often become completely immersed in the core values of the company. Consider IBM, for example, where future training managers sang group marches with their employees.

At the Walt Disney Company, the employees have to live and breathe their ideology of healthy fun for the family.

For example, bearded men were not accepted as staff at the theme parks, and if someone cursed in the presence of Walt Disney himself, he was fired immediately, no matter his place in the hierarchy.

New employees in these companies often realize that they either fit in perfectly and succeed or not and become unhappy and leave the company.

There is no middle ground in visionary companies, but because employees are confident and adhere to the core values, they also have the freedom to experiment. There is no space in visionary companies for people who do not meet their expectations and rigid standards.

Visionary Companies Do Not Move By Bright And Extremely Well Planned Strategies

They are betting on experimentation. In general, the best results from featured companies comes from their ability to experiment, trial and error approaches and in some cases even accidentally. They stimulate evolutionary progress, always encouraging experimentation.

Visionary companies understand the need to foster a progressive evolution within their business. They encouraged their employees and managers to try out new ideas, products, and practices, some of which became great successes.

J & J’s famous Band-Aids were born when an employee gathered some bandages and gauze to quickly bandage his wife’s fingers after she accidentally cut herself with a kitchen knife.

He mentioned the idea to executives at J & J, who embraced the idea and launched the product on the market.

Quickly, the Band-Aid product line became the best-selling category in the company. In the case of 3M, the company encourages employees to spend 15% of their time on projects of their choice.

Some of the company’s extremely successful items such as Post-its came from this management model that embraces experimentation, while its direct competitors never ventured into the creation of products of greater commercial risk.

Visionary Companies Do Not Hire Market CEO’s To Manage Change; They Create a Constant Flow Of New Leaders Formed In House

House rules and practices are adopted much more often in visionary firms than in comparison group companies. While the visionary companies studied had notable CEOs at various times, what was most impressive was their ability to continue to produce quality leaders at all times.

These organizations focused massively on the cultivation of managerial talent within the company itself so that new leaders could always be retained to continue to perform by their fundamental values.

Visionary companies have always invested in clear succession plans to ensure continuity of leadership even if something unexpected happens. General Electric (GE) has as its most famous CEO the legendary Jack Welch.

But in fact, thanks to the company’s fervent emphasis on internal leadership training, GE has always had leaders of the caliber of Welch.

More leading professionals trained at GE have gone on to become executives of large US companies than any other company.

ack Welch, for example, designed his succession plan seven years before retiring. Bob Galvin, the former CEO of Motorola, planned his next generation of leadership a quarter of a century before leaving.

In contrast, comparison group companies often hire outside CEOs who were unfamiliar with the company and who in many cases ended up pointing in the wrong direction.

In the comparison group, company CEOs were very little involved in succession planning, leaving holes in the lead when they left. In some comparison firms, CEOs actively prevented any succession planning and sabotaged potential candidates.

Visionary Companies Do Not Focus On Beating The Competition

They focus on continuous improvement of themselves. The most successful companies never have their focus on competition and to gain more market share than their competitors.

They strive to compare themselves and be better than they were in the past, implementing processes that encourage continuous improvement.

Wal-Mart, for example, spurred steady growth with its “Beat Yesterday” campaign, which was based on monitoring and helping its employees always to increase sales over the previous day and year.

Hewlett-Packard has also created a continuous improvement mechanism based on employee rankings.

These rankings helped people develop and barred employees who were looking for promotions without really striving.

Visionary Companies Do Not Have a Limiting Vision of What Is Possible

They do many things at once and pursue seemingly antagonistic goals. Visionary companies do not believe in the view that you have to choose rationally between a restrictive option A or B. They think in the paradoxical view that they can pursue multiple goals at the same time and seek A and B at the same time.

The central value of Boeing is to be a pioneer in the field of commercial aviation, but the construction of jumbo jets is a manifestation that the company can choose more than one way without losing its essence.

This flexibility shows how visionary businesses refuse to adhere to the so-called “tyranny,” in which a company must choose to remain faithful to its core values or to stimulate progress.

Instead, visionary companies use the “e” path, relying on experimenting and reconciling diverse models.

Visionary Companies Do Not Just Have a Clear And Well Defined Vision

They put their vision and values into practice, every day. Creating a statement defining the vision and purposes of the company can help, but it is only one of the thousands of steps in an endless continuous improvement process.

When Merck wanted to become a benchmark in medical research, it deliberately modeled its labs from the models of academic research centers and allowed its researchers to publish their findings in academic journals.

That was unusual for private companies, and they were against the tide. The company also decided that the product development process should be driven by the research team and not by marketing, as it was in many other companies.

That attracted the best scientists to Merck’s laboratories and made the company stay true to its values.

Becoming A Company Built To Last

To turn a business into an organization built to last, you need to have a well-designed vision that has 2 key components. The set of core values of the company and a visualization of the future.

A well-designed vision should explain why the company exists, but also the aspirations of what the company seeks and what progress should be achieved over time. Core values are the glue that joins the pieces of an organization as it grows, becomes decentralized, diversifies, and yet remains coherent.

They should be divided between the essential practices and beliefs of the day to day business of the company and the central purpose of the company, the reason the company exists. It is not possible to install new core values in people, so it is essential that they already have them.

The future visualized also consists of two parts. A daring long-term plan with a remarkably challenging and clear objective and a vivid description of how the company will be when it achieves this goal.

Defining a long-term goal asks you to understand precisely the current capabilities of the organization, but also take into account market forces and future conditions. An audacious goal should be so clear that it needs no explanation, but should also be out of your comfort zone.

Objectives should be focused on 20, 30 years and can be qualitative or quantitative.

They may involve a common enemy when it is based on winning something that is established, as in the fight between David and Goliath.

Or they can also be based on a major internal transformation or even become the primary reference in a given sector.

It is essential to keep in mind that this constant dynamics of revising core values and not necessarily focusing on mission phrases and values is the main machine to create companies made to last.

If done correctly, you will not need to revise it for at least a decade and will have created a great alignment in the organization.

Final Notes:

Visionary companies must create a core set of values and remain faithful to them in all aspects of the business.

These core values of the company make clear to everyone what the reason the company exists.

Profits are not the most important thing, and before them, one should always focus on the customers and employees of the company.

If your core ideology is solid enough, to the point that people live daily on these principles and focused on continuous improvement, it may be that you have built a company built to last.    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Top Leadership Books

There are two kinds of people: those who are led and those who lead them. We’re guessing you’re here because you want to be one of the latter.

News flash:

It’s both a thorny path and a hell of a responsibility once you get to the end! So, just like Frodo, you better find a good fellowship before you embark on your journey.

And we’ve rounded up the usual suspects. The top leadership books are here! – just for you.

#1. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

The Art of War SummaryIf you haven’t heard about “The Art of War” before, we’re probably not living on the same planet!

Speaking of which: the author of this book, a Chinese military general named Sun Tzu, might have been from another planet as well! It’s kind of fascinating to think that he lived over two and a half millennia ago, and wrote something which is still widely read by CEOs worldwide.

In fact, it has influenced leaders as diverse as General MacArthur, Marc Benioff, and Bill Belichick!

In thirteen sections, each analyzing different aspects of warfare strategies, “The Art of War” serves as a perennial reminder that the business world is a modern battlefield. And that you need to be prepared for everything to gain the advantage and win.

#2. “Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times” by Donald T. Phillips

Lincoln on Leadership SummaryAbraham Lincoln is nowadays almost routinely ranked by both scholars and the public as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – US presidents. And this even though he had the unfortunate trouble of leading the country through its bloodiest war, and its greatest political crisis. In four years’ time!

Donald T. Phillips’ book was the first to go through the skills and talents which made Lincoln such a capable leader. And it doesn’t only examine what Lincoln did to overcome the insurmountable obstacles he faced. It also explains how his actions are relevant today, as well.

Read it! Especially, if you are ever in need of a strategy for some tough times. Because, let’s face it, you’ll never have more problems than Lincoln did.

#3. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search For Meaning SummaryThe inclusion of Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” in a list of top books about leadership may seem a bit odd. After all, the book chronicles the experiences of the famous Austrian psychiatrist in Nazi prison camps during the Second World War!

But, that’s once again the point! Just as Lincoln can teach you something about leadership because he had to lead the US through the Civil War, Frankl can teach you even more because he survived through Auschwitz.

His main observation: the people who survived the Holocaust were the ones who didn’t give up. And they never gave up, because they had some purpose in life. A goal, which gave them the right mindset to understand that even suffering may be a teacher.

Possibly, the best one.

#4. “On Becoming a Leader” by Warren Bennis

On Becoming Leader SummaryOne of the ultimate leadership classics; maybe even the book to read if you want to learn what is a good leader. In fact, that’s the exact question Warren Bennis – once described by “Forbes” magazine as the “the dean of leadership gurus” – posits to hundreds of different people, from a wide array of professions.

In “On Becoming a Leader” you’ll find the question answered by a host of executives and entrepreneurs, but also by numerous philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and entertainers. Well-researched, broad, and thorough, “On Becoming a Leader” should be your Leadership 101.

#5. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins

Good to Great SummaryIt’s hard turning a mediocre into good company after years of averageness; and it seems impossible to turn it into a great one.

Based on a 5-year study which included an in-depth analyses and contrast/compare study of the strategies and practice of 28 different companies, “Good to Great” is Jim Collins’ attempt to get to the bottom of the causes which separate the great companies from the good ones. And his findings are both surprising and enlightening!

Want to become a Level 5 leader, that is, the humble guru who always does what’s best for his company? Read this book and find out how.

(Spoiler alert: Level 5 leadership is merely one of the seven characteristics of great companies.)

#6. “Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman

Primal Leadership SummaryObviously, vulnerability is not something you’ll look for in a good leader instinctively.

Let us rock your world:

Primal Leadershipfurther reinforces “Good to Great’s” conclusion that the most successful companies are led by humble leaders! Moreover, Daniel Goleman, the author who popularized the concept “emotional intelligence,” claims that great leaders possess something even more special: a quality called “resonance.”

It basically means that they are in touch with their emotions; and that they are able to channel even their negative responses in a positive direction.

Both revolutionary and long-lasting, as far as leadership development books go, “Primal Leadership” is a no-brainer on any top list!

#7. “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek

Start With Why SummaryAs Sun Tzu enlighteningly taught us in “The Art of War,” all the preparation works only if it’s put into practice. Or, in other words, we have strategies so that we know how to act promptly when some situations inevitably occur.

In “Start with Why,” our favorite humanity-lover optimist Simon Sinek, shows how it’s not only about the actions of the great leaders themselves, but it’s also about the actions they inspire in the people around.

And where does inspiration come from?

Well, it’s not in the “how” – it’s in the “why.” Because only when you know why you want to be the CEO of a certain company, you’ll know how to run that company.

And what to tell those around you to inspire them to act the right way.

#8. “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last SummaryWhen we started making this list, we wanted each author represented with one book only. And just a few seconds later, we couldn’t decide which Simon Sinek book on leadership is the better one. So, we’ve decided on both.

After all, they are a perfect pair! Because, if “Start with Why” is about the “why,” then “Leaders Eat Last” is definitely about the “how.”

And, just like many of the books on this list, it’s once again about the “hows” of being a good leader; not a Machiavellian one. The latter one is obsolete nowadays, says Sinek here. The good one eats last, and, thus, creates a Circle of Safety, i.e. a group of loyal coworkers and employees who love him and follow him blindly – because they believe his vision.

You know: a fellowship.

#9. “Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” by L. David Marquet

L. David MarquetTurn the Ship Around Summary takes Simon Sinek’s advice and raises it by one!

Why not, he says, instead of creating a nice little camaraderie of colleagues/friends who follow you for the right reasons, try to turn your subordinates into leaders just like you!

Bearing in mind the fact that Marquet is a former U.S. Navy captain, this may not seem like such a wise idea. However, as he explicates in “Turn the Ship Around,” it more than works! In fact, it’s what transformed the crew of the USS Santa Fe submarine from “worst to best”.

Think operating your company is harder than captaining a submarine?

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

#10. “How to Win Friends and Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success” by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People SummaryWhen it was first published in 1936, the subtitle of Dale Carnegie’s bestseller might have seemed a bit pretentious. Fast forward a century, and 30 million people would certainly beg to differ! No wonder the book made it in the Top 20 of “Time Magazine’s” list of most influential books. Ever.

But, what can today’s leaders learn from “How to Win Friends and Influence People”?

Well, mostly the same they would from reading Socrates – a little between the lines. And that is, that people are egotistical and think they know everything, when they actually know little.

Carnegie’s advice: use it your benefit. A combination of charm and the right number of compliments can turn self-dubbed lions into hand-eating sparrows.

And the best part: they’ll think they lead you whilst you’re pulling the strings!

#11. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey

7 Habits of Highly Effective People SummaryThe first non-fiction book to sell more than one million copies of its audio version, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” proved to have been both a paradigm shifter, and a timeless leadership manual.

Engagingly and with a lot of bravado, Stephen R. Covey claims that good leaders are good people as well, and that they all share seven characteristics.

The first three define their independence. Namely, they are proactive, with a mission statement, and a personal vision. The second three habits talk about their interdependence. In other words, they value people, respect and understand their opinions, and are capable of combining their strengths. Finally, they continually improve.

Covey would later go on and add one more habit – but, that’s a different book.

#12. “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You” by John C. Maxwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership SummaryEven across two books, Covey ends up with 8 habits which define leaders. In “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” John C. Maxwell lists three times more. Obviously. Even more obviously – he thinks they are indisputable.

Now, a short summary may do enough for seven rules – but 21? No, we’re not even going to try to list them.

But, we’ll tell you that, for example, Maxwell’s law of influence explains why Abraham Lincoln was demoted from a captain to a private. Or, that if McNamara knew his law of solid ground the Vietnam War might have been a different affair. Or, that the law of buy-in is the inspiration behind the passive resistance movement.

Now – did we tickle your fancy?

#13. “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant

Originals SummaryIf you want to be the leader of the pack, you have to be someone who doesn’t belong in the pack. And in “Originals,” Adam Grant teaches you how – and why – you must be different. For the sake of humanity.

Because, as he shows through a lot of interesting studies and real-life-examples, if it was left to the conformists, humanity may have never moved an inch!

For example, did you know that the pilot episode of “Seinfeld,” possibly the greatest sitcom ever, was deemed to be “weak” and “unwatchable”? And that it was saved by a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy?

The conformists believe in the holiness of the status quo. The originals try to disrupt it. In which group do you think the good leaders belong?

#14. “Wooden on Leadership” by John Wooden

 Wooden on Leadership SummaryIf you’re not a sportsperson, you may have never heard of John Wooden. Which is a pity, because he was so successful and revered as a coach, that they nicknamed him “Wizard”!

In “Wooden on Leadership” – one of the seven books on leadership he authored – you can easily see why. Everything is so magical. Neatly structured and organized, and, yet – inspirational as hell! (After all, he was a basketball coach, so no lack of inspirational messages here, folks!)

So, what are you waiting for? Acquire this book and start leafing through the reasons behind Wooden’s achievements. You’ll be hooked by Chapter 1 already, dedicated to his triangular 25-behavior high “Pyramid of Success”!

Oh, you know that pyramid? Well, it’s his!

#15. “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In SummaryWe can tell you so much about the significance of this book by merely going through Sheryl Sandberg’s portfolio.

First, chief of staff for United States Department of the Treasury Lawrence Summer. Then, a vice president for online sales at Google. And then, the first woman to serve in Facebook’s board of directors. Finally, Facebook’s COO.

Also, a billionaire and a Time 100 laureate in 2012.

If she can’t tell you a thing or two about gender equality – who can? Here’s a quick preview for all the members of the gentler sex: seize the day! Lean into your careers. And take back what you’ve been unjustly deprived of for millennia!    Take this summary with you and read anywhere! Download PDF:   

Good to Great Summary | FREE PDF |

Good to Great SummaryMicroSummary: One of the best management books to ever see the light of day, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins tries to answer the question why some companies make the leap mentioned in the title, while others fail. Based on an expansive 5-year study, the ultra-successful book unearths the seven characteristics which make a good company great.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Good to Great is a management book that reveals the formula responsible for companies’ success and their transition from average to unwavering financial performance.

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