By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius
You’ve heard the adage that one of the best forms of flattery is imitation.
I believe imitation is more than flattery; I think it’s a smart business strategy. During my career, I’ve heard strategy described as the most efficient use of available resources. So how does this apply to imitation? It’s what successful people do to give themselves a competitive advantage in their business. Why make the same mistakes when you can learn from others who can help you avoid them? By imitating the success of others, you can progress forward exponentially by starting with what works and avoiding the pitfalls of what hasn’t. This is what makes imitation a smart strategy.
There are several ways to gain this type of knowledge but perhaps one of the easiest ways is through reading. With so many great books available where business leaders and industry experts share their advice, the mistakes they made, and a roadmap for success for others to follow, you have a wealth of experience at your fingertips.
Here’s my top 10 must read books for business leaders:
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini (2006)
After 35 years of behavioral research, Dr. Robert Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say “yes” and how to apply these understandings to become a more skilled persuader and successful businessperson.
2. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (2013)
Sandberg provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career. She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment, and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women both in the workplace and at home.
Written with humor and wisdom, Lean In is a revelatory, inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth that will empower women around the world to achieve their full potential.
- Winning By Jack Welch with Suzy Welch (2005)
Jack Welch knows how to win. During his forty-year career at General Electric, he led the company to year-after-year success around the globe, in multiple markets, against brutal competition. His honest, be-the-best style of management became the gold standard in business, with his relentless focus on people, teamwork, and profits.
Inspired by his audiences and their hunger for straightforward guidance, Welch has written both a philosophical and pragmatic book, which is destined to become the bible of business for generations to come. It clearly lays out the answers to the most difficult questions people face both on and off the job.
- Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright (2011)
Within each corporation are anywhere from a few to hundreds of separate tribes. In Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright demonstrate how these tribes develop—and show you how to assess them and lead them to maximize productivity and growth. A business management book like no other, Tribal Leadership is an essential tool to help managers and business leaders take better control of their organizations by utilizing the unique characteristics of the tribes that exist within.
- Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols by Nancy Durante and Patti Sanchez (2016)
In Illuminate, acclaimed author Nancy Duarte and communications expert Patti Sanchez equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. Duarte and Sanchez lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.
- Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
In this now classic book, Goleman, a psychologist, suggests that IQ isn’t all that matters for success. In fact, it might not matter nearly as much as your ability to manage your own and other people’s emotions. Fortunately, this trait can be learned, and Goleman outlines the five core components of emotional intelligence so that readers can start developing it.
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance (2015)
Veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink (2011)
In this provocative and persuasive new book, Pink asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose -and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins (2001)
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world’s greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell (2007)
What would happen if a top expert with more than thirty years of leadership experience were willing to distill everything he had learned about leadership into a handful of life-changing principles just for you? It would change your life.
John C. Maxwell has done exactly that in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He has combined insights learned from his thirty-plus years of leadership successes and mistakes with observations from the worlds of business, politics, sports, religion, and military conflict. The result is a revealing study of leadership delivered as only a communicator like Maxwell can.
What other books are you reading that should be added to the list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Here’s to your continued success and happiness!