What are the keys to successful business management? How can you be the best leader possible, be it of a start-up or a Fortune 500? Finding the best, most insightful, and most practical business management books can be difficult, so we’ve done the hard work for you, narrowing down the extensive list to the 15 best business management books.
Here’s our carefully researched list of the 15 best business management books of all time. To compose this list, we used quantitative criteria such as:
- High-quality recommendations from successful leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Tim Ferriss.
- Number of weeks on bestseller lists like the New York Times
- Common perception and ratings by common readers, from networks like Amazon and Goodreads
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1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber[su_book__the_e-myth_revisited]
Many people dream of quitting a job and becoming their own boss by starting a business. A million new businesses are started each year, but 40 percent fail within the first year and 80 percent fail within five years. Underlying the high failure rate are persistent romantic notions about how businesses are born and what it takes to succeed.
In The E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber explains how focusing solely on the product undermines new businesses and just trying to work harder undermines new businesses. The right approach is to view your business like a franchise—to systematize operations so that it no longer relies on you. This thirty-year-old classic is a part-practical and part-philosophical guide to conceptualizing and starting a business.
Tim Ferriss says, “I recommend his bestseller, The E-Myth Revisited, as the must-read classic on automation.” After reading the book, he says, “I decided that extreme questions were the forcing function I needed,” making this a valuable best business management book.
2. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins
TITLE: Good to Great
AUTHOR: Jim Collins
In Good to Great, former Stanford business professor Jim Collins offers a primer on turning the average into the exceptional. Through detailed case studies of 11 companies that went from tracking the market to exceeding it by at least 3x, Collins presents the key factors that separate merely good organizations from great ones—from rare leadership to disciplined thinking to the dogged pursuit of a core mission.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a manager, or just an individual looking to improve, the concepts in Good to Great provide food for thought—and spurs to action. You’ll learn what it takes to be a “Level 5” leader, why assembling the right team first is more important than having the right idea, why you should be more like a hedgehog than a fox, and why “stop doing” lists are as important as “to do” lists.
According to Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos recommends Good to Great to Amazon employees. Apparently, Collins spoke to Amazon executives about the book’s theories before it was published, asserting that “companies must confront the brutal facts of their business, find out what they are uniquely good at, and master their fly wheel, in which each part of the business reinforces and accelerates the other parts.”
3. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman
TITLE: Emotional Intelligence
AUTHOR: Daniel Goleman
Do you constantly get swept away by your emotions? Would you like to learn how to control your emotional reactions at home or at work? Or maybe you’re uncomfortable with emotions, and don’t understand why you or anyone else feels them? Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is a comprehensive look at what emotions are and why we have them, how we can get better at managing them, and why the well-being of humanity might depend on us doing so.
In the New York Times Book Review, Warren Bennis writes, “Anyone interested in leadership . . . should get a copy of this book.” Although a book on emotional intelligence may not seem like it belongs on a list of the best business management books, leaders agree that it’s a critical read for CEOs.
4. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
TITLE: How to Win Friends and Influence People
AUTHOR: Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best-selling books of all time. It contains universal principles of interacting with other people to get them to like you and have them see your way of thinking. This isn’t about manipulation – it’s about sincerely approaching people, believing they’re important, and treating them likewise. Learn how to become a great conversationalist without saying anything, how to make other people feel important, and how to change other people’s minds without offending them.
5. The One Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson[su_book__the_one-minute_manager]
The One Minute Manager is a guide for managers looking to empower their employees and teach them to succeed in their jobs, with minimal direct guidance. As the title suggests, most of what we consider “management” takes one minute or less. One-minute managers build their employees up by defining success through short one-minute goals and performance standards; providing immediate and direct positive feedback through one-minute praisings; and offering constructive criticism aimed at correcting behavior through one-minute redirects. This management style motivates employees and gives them the confidence and skills to become stewards and champions of their own success.
The One Minute Manager has been used by millions of leaders to succeed in their professions, making it one of the most-used and best business management books of all time.
6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
TITLE: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
AUTHOR: Stephen R. Covey
Do you want to make your life better? Are you struggling in your personal or professional life, your interactions with other people, your life balance, or your life’s purpose?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides an inside-out approach to improving yourself and your life. This method entails examining and adjusting your character, your motives, and how you see the world in order to change how you behave and how you interact with others. Learn how to best focus your time, define your personal mission, and build productive relationships with other people.
Good to Great author Jim Collins writes of The 7 Habits, “The ideas embedded in the framework are timeless. They are principles. This is why they work, and why they speak to people in all age groups around the globe. In a world of change, disruption, chaos, and relentless uncertainty, people crave an anchor point, a set of constructs to give them guidance in the face of turbulence….As I reflect upon some of the exceptional leaders I’ve studied in my research, I’m struck by how Covey’s principles manifest in many of their stories.”
7. Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, by Spencer Johnson
TITLE: Who Moved My Cheese?
AUTHOR: Spencer Johnson
We all experience change in our lives. It can be distressing or rewarding, depending on our approach. “Who Moved My Cheese” is a parable that demonstrates in practical terms how to handle change better and avoid pitfalls, by practicing a few key principles: anticipate and prepare for change, overcome fears, envision success, and enjoy change. By depicting simple, memorable characters and scenarios, the parable gives you a framework for responding to change successfully.
Southwest Airlines reportedly ordered copies of Who Moved My Cheese? for all 27,000 of its employees, and it’s been recommended by executives at General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and Proctor & Gamble. Clearly, many companies put this at the top of their list of best business management books.
8. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant
AUTHOR: Adam Grant
Many people want to be more innovative. But how do you generate good ideas? And do you execute to make them real? Originals studies the habits and practices of innovators so you too can innovate. You’ll learn the most important factor in generating more good ideas, how procrastination can actually help you generate better ideas, and how to rally an organization to your new idea.
Sheryl Sandberg writes, “Originals is one of the most important and captivating books I have ever read, full of surprising and powerful ideas. It will not only change the way you see the world; it might just change the way you live your life. And it could very well inspire you to change your world.”
9. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
TITLE: Blue Ocean Strategy
AUTHOR: W. Chan Kim and Renee A. Mauborgne
Tired of competing head-to-head with other companies? Do you feel like your strategy differs little from the competition surrounding you?
You may need to redefine the rules of competition by creating a “blue ocean strategy.” In short, you create a blue ocean by focusing on the factors that customers really care about, while discarding factors they don’t. This creates a new product offering that doesn’t currently exist, in a space without direct competitors. This book teaches how to create a blue ocean strategy and how to execute it.
Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn writes, “After reading Blue Ocean Strategy, you will never again see your competition in quite the same light. Kim and Mauborgne present a compelling case for pursuing strategy with a creative, not combative, approach. Their emphasis on value innovation and stakeholder engagement alone make this book a must-read for both executives and students of business.” Although more recent than other books on the list, it’s earned its place as one of the best business books.
10. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni
TITLE: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
AUTHOR: Patrick M. Lencioni
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable explores how teams fail to work cohesively together through a dynamic, five-part model of dysfunction. The five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment, 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results. Through identifying these root causes of poor teamwork, teams can develop specific strategies for overcoming each of them. By doing this, they will become comfortable with one another, be willing to engage in constructive debate, achieve clarity and buy-in around team priorities, hold one another to high standards, and focus on team results instead of individual ambition.
President and CEO of Mail Boxes Etc., James H. Amos Jr., calls The Five Dysfunctions of a Team a “gripping analysis of what makes teams work effectively. This fine work is a must-read for any leader that has come to grips with the fact that no one makes progress―much less succeeds―alone.”
11. First Things First, by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill
TITLE: First Things First
AUTHOR: Stephen R. Covey
Do you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? That you’re constantly checking things off your to-do list but still don’t have enough time for the important things? Your problem might be that you’re working efficiently, but not effectively.
In First Things First, Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, presents a time-management approach that focuses on priorities, or “first things.” This approach teaches you to use your time effectively, meaning you focus more on what you’re spending your time on than how much time you’re spending. Learn how to identify your priorities; schedule your time at the daily and weekly levels; and find win-win opportunities among people.
USA Today called Covey “the hottest self-improvement consultant to hit US business since Dale Carnegie,” and Larry King said, “Covey has reached the apex with First Things First. This is an important work. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be helped by reading it.”
12. The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, by William N. Thorndike
TITLE: The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs
AUTHOR: William N. Thorndike
If you’re asked who the greatest CEO of the last century was, one name might naturally come to mind: Jack Welch. Sure, he achieved great financial return and is trumpeted by the press. But is Jack Welch really the greatest CEO of the century? According to the author of The Outsiders, no—not even close. There are CEOs who performed better during worse economic periods.
Studying companies broadly, the author ended with eight CEOs and companies with standout performance during the 20th century. Looking deeper into their management practices, he found virtually identical patterns to their management style and capital allocation decisions. These strategies were unorthodox but directly caused their outsized results. These CEOs and their management practices are the subjects of The Outsiders.
Warren Buffett recommended The Outsiders in his annual report in 2012, calling it “an outstanding book about CEOs who excelled at capital allocation,” and hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman called The Outsiders “one of the most important investment books I have ever read.” Any book recommended by Buffett automatically earns a spot on a list of the best business management books.
13. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek
TITLE: Start With Why
AUTHOR: Simon Sinek
Although there are thousands of successful companies and leaders, only a few ever really change the world. What makes these different from the rest?
They start with WHY – the vision and mission behind their efforts. Starting with WHY yields benefits like a more inspired team, more loyal customers, and enduring long-term success. In Start With Why, learn how to discover your WHY and communicate it through your organization and to the outside world.
Tony Robbins says of Start with Why, “The basis of this book is so important to anyone looking to increase their influence, profits or impact. People won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it. When you start with the why, everything else falls into place. This book is so impactful, I consider it required reading.”
14. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries
TITLE: The Lean Startup
AUTHOR: Eric Ries
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is considered a bible in the tech entrepreneurship community. It’s a methodology for creating businesses that focuses you on finding out what customers actually want. It uses concepts of scientific experimentation to prove that you’re making progress. It encourages you to launch as early and cheaply as possible so you don’t waste time and money.
Learn the critical concepts of the Minimum Viable Product, cohort metrics, A/B testing, virality, and startup pivots.
Sheryl Sandberg recommends The Lean Startup to all entrepreneurs. She says it “provides a great inside look at how the tech industry approaches building products and businesses.” This is a critical best business management book for new companies.
15. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
TITLE: Extreme Ownership
AUTHOR: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
What’s the secret to being a great leader? Whether you’re in a warzone or on the front lines of a corporate battle, Extreme Ownership argues that the best leaders take full responsibility for their actions and decisions, their teams, and their failures.
Authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are former U.S. Navy SEALs who served in Iraq. They honed the principles of Extreme Ownership on the battlefield, then applied the same tenets to the corporate world as business consultants. Willink and Babin illustrate how effective leaders exercise Extreme Ownership — by admitting failures, believing in their missions, checking their egos, delegating, and being accountable — through compelling war stories and useful business anecdotes.
Tim Ferriss has said he loves Extreme Ownership, and Amy Brandt-Schumacher, the COO of Docutech Corp, says, “Finally, a leadership book that actually demonstrates how to truly lead. Riveting, engaging, and free from the usual cliché platitudes, this book is strikingly impactful and will dramatically improve leaders of all types.”