I love running our sales acceleration startup Consensus. Having to constantly sprint up the learning curve is one of the things that I like best about being a founder. And reading books to learn from others is one of the fastest ways to improve ourselves and make progress faster.
So here are the five books that I believe will have a greater impact on your success as a startup leader than any others I've read.
The One Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
This book has completely changed my work life (and much of my personal life). It has had a more immediate and profound impact on my ability to accelerate our progress than any other. Here are just a few reasons why:
- It helped me see, then break through, my own self-limiting mental boundaries and expand my vision by more than 10x
- It gave me a framework for how to accelerate through the principle of primary focus and "the domino effect"
- It shone a bright light on dozens of bad counter-productive work habits that I immediately began to work at eliminating (still working at many of them)
- It debunked the ridiculous notion that multi-tasking is productive (did you know you could save 11 hours a week if you just stop multi-tasking?)
If I were going to recommend just one book, this would be the one. Does this quote resonate? "Harried and hurried , a nagging sense that we attempt too much and accomplish too little haunts our days." You must read this book.
Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time
My VP of Sales called this the "best book on productivity I've ever read," and he reads a LOT of books. While I think The One Thing is my top pick on productivity, this book ranks a close second. There are lots of good nuggets, but the most valuable thing you'll take from this book are his permissions (such as the permission to "ignore") and the framework for "becoming a multiplier". Vaden calls his framework the "focus funnel": Eliminate, Automate, Delegate, Procrastinate. By routinely working through this framework you'll create a virtuous cycle where you are freeing up more and more time for yourself and your company.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
Leadership is like physics or economics. There are laws that govern it and you can either understand and follow those laws and reap the benefits, or you can ignore the laws and, in spite of your good intentions, create a disaster.
This book could also be called The Leadership Pocketbook Bible. It is a short read, but is a great way to do a self evaluation of your own leadership skills. In fact, I recommend also picking up the workbook that will guide you through some self analysis.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
The Advantage is a book I wish I would have read sooner than I did. This book, more than anything else, helps you and all of your team get on the same page.
This book unlocks the mystery behind how to create a sustainable predictable culture of success. If I had read this book sooner, I would have avoided hiring probably a dozen people in the last 36 months that ended up bringing down our organization, causing friction, sucking energy from others around them, and slowing our progress.
While it's not going to give you many "quick fix" tips to your poor organizational health problems (there are no quick ways to solve organizational illness), it provides you with a step by step framework through which you can align your leadership team and your entire company around a common purpose, values, and objectives.
The Advantage makes me think of a quote I read by Joseph Smith, an American theologian, who said, "If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get right." It turns out I agree with Lencioni. There is nothing more important than organizational health and while I got many things right, there are several things I got wrong starting my last two companies.
Today, our organizational health is better than it has ever been. So read this and start right, then it's easy to go right.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers
Reading this book, by the storied Ben Horowitz, is like having someone slap you hard in the face to snap you out of your daydreaming. Sometimes we all need to be told the truth even though we don't want to hear it. Like the Bible, don't read this book if you want to just carry on being comfortable and blind to your own weaknesses.
You'll find advice here you won't find anywhere else because few people want to talk about the situations he addresses. Supremely easy to read and difficult to implement (because life is just hard sometimes), this book will help you get through the tough times. It includes advice on things like:
- The Right Way to Lay People Off
- Preparing to Fire an Executive
- Demoting a Loyal Friend
- Is it Okay to Hire People From Your Friend's Company?
- How to Lead Even When You Don't Know Where You're Going
What's On Your List?
So these are my recommendations. I'd love to hear yours. If you had to make a similar list of the top 5 books you would recommend, what would they be?