13 Books Every Founder (or Executive) Should Read

Thousands of business books are published each year, spanning topics from entrepreneurship to management, finance, marketing, and leadership, and more. Approximately 81 million business and economics category print books were sold in 2021 alone. With so many options out there, from classics like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill to relative newcomers like James Clear’s Atomic Habits, it can be hard to sort out which book you should read next.

While this list is certainly not the end-all-be-all of must-read books for founders and leaders, these are 11 of my favorite books that have helped me scale my businesses to a $1 billion dollar organization, plus two I have written on the subject myself after decades of experience as a founder, entrepreneur, and leader.

Pro tip: Have your Force Multiplier (Executive Assistant, Chief of Staff, etc.) read these books with you in order to maximize their impact on your organization.

13 Books All Founders, Executives, and Leaders Should Read

The Founder & The Force Multiplier Book Cover

1. The Founder & The Force Multiplier: How Entrepreneurs & Executive Assistants Achieve More Together by Adam Hergenrother & Hallie Warner (Second Edition)

WHY: The essential read (yes, I may be a bit biased!) for entrepreneurs, founders, and business leaders who want a competitive advantage in accomplishing goals and scaling growth. You’ll learn the basics of forming a successful strategic partnership with your Executive Assistant, solutions to common communication challenges, and how to form a united vision that moves the business forward. This is a groundbreaking resource that will help you achieve more as individuals and be better together.

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

WHY: While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. Bonus: if you’re a fan of rap, you’ll love Horowitz’ style of amplifying business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs.

3. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

WHY: Visionary entrepreneurs have a talent for thinking up new ideas at an astounding rate, and business executives often have a lot on their plate. The problem is, focusing on too much actually leads to LESS productivity, not more. The ONE Thing shows you how to focus on less so you can have more: more income, more time, and more satisfaction.

4. Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself by Mike Michalowicz

WHY: If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you started your company so you could be your own boss, make the money you deserve, and live life on your own terms. In reality, you’re bogged down in the daily grind, constantly putting out fires, answering an endless stream of questions, and continually hunting for cash. In Clockwork, Mike Michalowicz details his step-by-step method for getting more done by doing less – making it easier than ever to have your business run itself.

5. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

WHY: In Principles, Dalio shares what he’s learned over the course of his remarkable career. He argues that life, management, economics, and investing can all be systemized into rules and understood like machines. The book’s hundreds of practical lessons, which are built around his cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency,” include Dalio laying out the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams. 

6. Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz

WHY: Another great book from Mike Michalowicz. Conventional accounting uses the logical (albeit, flawed) formula: Sales – Expenses = Profit. The problem is, businesses are run by humans, and humans aren’t always logical. Using Michalowicz’s “Profit First” system, he teaches readers how to transform their businesses from cash-eating monsters to into profitable cash cows.

7. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish

WHY: This book is written so everyone — from frontline employees to senior executives — can get aligned in contributing to the growth of a firm. Scaling Up focuses on the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. 

8. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential by Greg Crabtree and Beverly Blair Harzog

WHY: Jargon free, and presented in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step format, with plenty of real-world examples, Crabtree’s down-to-earth discussion highlights the most common financial errors committed by small businesses, and how to avoid them.

9. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by McChesney, Covey, Huling, Walker and Thele

WHY: The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the whirlwind. By following the 4 Disciplines, leaders can produce breakthrough results, even when executing the strategy requires a significant change in behavior from their teams.

10. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

WHY: Multipliers is a must-read for everyone—from first-time managers to world leaders. In it, Wiseman explores why some leaders (“Diminishers”) drain capability and intelligence from their teams, while others (“Multipliers”) amplify it to produce better results.

11. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

WHY: All entrepreneurs and business leaders face similar frustrations—personnel conflict, profit woes, and inadequate growth. In Traction, you’ll learn the secrets of strengthening the six key components of your business and discover simple yet powerful ways to run your company that will give you and your leadership team more focus, more growth, and more enjoyment.

12. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

WHY: Business is an infinite game—there is no finish line, only ahead and behind, with players who come and go. Leaders who embrace an infinite mindset build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations, and Simon Sinek offers the framework for leading with an infinite mindset.

13. The 200% Life by Adam Hergenrother and Hallie Warner

WHY: (Another shameless plug!) As high achievers and visionary leaders, we often get caught in the endless pursuit of doing and achieving more, putting off our inner peace for that elusive “someday” when we’ve obtained the income, the house, or the fame we’re working so hard for. This book shows that there is another way—a path to massive professional success and self-realization that is much simpler than you think. It’s for anyone who needs a new perspective on what it means to be happy, fulfilled, and successful.

Which of these books has been the most impactful for you? Are there any books you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for some more tips on how to lead better and achieve more, especially with your strategic partner? Check out our free resources!

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