15 leadership books that inspired and changed CEOs and more

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  • This special compilation episode of Meet the Leader brings together recommendations from leadership books that have shaped the way the best minds at Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America, Unilever, IBM and others think, work and lead.
  • Don’t miss the new World Economic Forum Book Club podcast.

It’s December, the time to shop for holiday gifts and prepare for the New Year. You’ll see your share of book recommendations to help you with both this time of year, but few books collect books that have shaped the way true leaders of great businesses and organizations work, think, and lead. This special compilation episode uses leadership book recommendations from CEOs and senior executives, NGO founders, and even an Ambassador, to present options that will inspire, surprise, and change you.

Enjoy this episode of Meet the Leader and don’t miss their brand new sister podcast book club.


Inspirational leadership books

A curious mind: the secret to a bigger life, Brian Grazer
Who recommends it?
Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America.
Why he recommends it: You wouldn’t expect a bank manager to recommend a book on curiosity, but Moynihan understands the key role curiosity plays in overcoming challenges, helping you stay curious about different issues and not assuming you know. all the answers.

Present at Creation: My Years at the State Department, by Dean Acheson
Who recommends it: Former Ambassador Tom Shannon
Why he recommends it: Dean Acheson, who was Secretary of State during Harry Truman’s presidency, played a pivotal role after World War II in building a range of global structures. Acheson said he came through this time with boundless energy, determination and almost complete ignorance of the challenge he faced. Shannon said our modern age also brings uncertainty, but sometimes we have a better sense for certain challenges that lie ahead and these memories can be an inspiring approach to tackle difficult times.

Made for Goodness: and why it makes all the difference, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Who recommends it: Tariq Al Olaimy, Founder, 3BL Associates
Why he recommends it: The book covers the horrors of the HIV / AIDS crisis in South Africa, but also the trust and kindness that existed. Said Al Olaimy: It is “a memory for me to believe in the goodness of human beings”.

The Tibetan Book of Life and Death, by Sogyal Rinpoche
Who recommends it: Leena Nair, HR Director, Unilever
Why she recommends it: After the COVID-19 tragedies, the book prompted her to think about both life and death, but also purpose and meaning.


Leadership books that teach

Giving and receiving: Why helping others drives our success, by Adam Grant
Who recommends it? Rich Lesser, CEO, Boston Consulting Group
Why he recommends it: Less read Give and take early in his tenure as CEO and found the message of putting the success of others first and key to BCG’s priorities. He gives this book to every CEO and partner and it even led to a special book club night with his executive committee.

Team of rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Who recommends it: David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle group
Why he recommends it: This book explores Lincoln’s Cabinet, a group that included enemies and rivals who became a team of allies through their respect and reverence to the President. “What you get from this is that even if you have enemies, even if you have competitors, if you work with them, you can achieve great things,” says Rubenstein.

From ten years to midnight: four urgent global crises and their strategic solutions.
Who recommends it: Bob Moritz, PwC Global President
Why he recommends it: This book, written by Blair H. Sheppard, Global Head of Strategy and Leadership for the PwC Network, describes some of the key challenges gleaned from interviews with a wide range of people, from global leaders to taxi drivers. The book finds that regardless of their background, respondents shared concerns about issues such as wealth disparity and technological disruption. The book describes how these problems provoked four major crises, analyzing each one and proposing sometimes counter-intuitive solutions. Moritz says the book has helped PwC refine its strategic thinking and find ways to take action. “For me it was a great opportunity to sum up the challenges and then really take the next steps in what we’re doing.”

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty, by Clayton M. Christensen
Who recommends it: Lindiwe Matlali, Founder, Africa Teen Geeks
Why she recommends it: As the founder of Africa’s largest IT NGO, Matlali is committed to using technology education to reshape opportunities across the continent and create a pipeline of new developers, engineers and entrepreneurs. Promoting entrepreneurship is a top priority for Lindiwe and Christiansen’s approach to creation is essential, she believes, in helping people around the world reshape their opportunity.

I love capitalism! : An American story by Ken Langone
Who recommends it: Carmine Di Sibio, CEO of EY
Why he recommends it: This book tells the story of how the Long Island native became a world-class philanthropist, director of the New York Stock Exchange and the co-founder of Home Depot. The book shows the types of opportunities that capitalism can make possible, said Di Sibio. “It really is a very good book.”

Good to excellent: why some companies are taking the plunge and others not, by Jim Collins
Who recommends it: Carlos Brito, former CEO of AB InBev
Why he recommends it: The book, based on facts and figures, examines how businesses have built their success through effective corporate cultures. He notes that only great people and culture can give you great challenges. Brito said: “The fact that you attract talented people is the biggest determining factor in whether you will be able to build a great, sustainable business. As they grow, the business will grow.”

Leadership books that challenge ideas

The struggle for beauty: our path to a better future, by Fiona Reynolds
Who recommends it: Polly Courtice, former Founding Director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).
Why she recommends it: This book examines the history of British belief in the importance of scenic beauty and the political and economic forces that shaped the countryside. Courtice said she loved this exploration of the “struggle” between nature and the economy. She said she was also very moved by the book having grown up in South Africa and having developed a sense of “the beauty of the world around us”. Readers interested in this book, said Courtice, will understand that some of the battles we are fighting are not new, but the scale is greater and the risks greater “if we don’t recognize that we have to live in it. harmony with nature world. ”

The tyranny of merit: what has become of the common good, by Michael Sandel
Who recommends it: Dario Gil, Director, IBM Research
Why he recommends it: This book explores society’s obsession with success and how it can be the startling source of divisions and inequalities. “It’s an analysis of the dark side of meritocracy,” Gil said. The winners of this system may have an inordinate sense of their own importance, while the “losers” – excluded from certain paths to success, such as degrees and other degrees – may be dismissed and dismissed as undeserving. Gil said: “It’s a very interesting point that I encourage everyone to consider. “

The bubble level: why greater equality makes societies stronger, by Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett
Who recommends it: Organizational psychologist John Amaechi
Why he recommends it: This book offers new analysis to show why greater economic equality, not wealth, is the hallmark of more successful societies. Said Amaechi, “This is awesome.”

Year of impossible farewells by Sook Nyul Choi
Who recommends it: Audrey Choi, Director of Sustainability, Morgan Stanley
Why she recommends it: The book, written by Choi’s mother, offers a personal family story about the time her mother grew up in North Korea during the Japanese occupation of World War II. Growing up in America, Choi says the book also offers an incredible perspective on the nature of opportunity and how advancement is increasingly out of reach in parts of the world.

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by Anne Case and Angus Deaton
Who recommends it: Debra Whitman, AARP Director of Public Policy
Why she recommends it: Whitman is writing a book on the second half of life and recently dug into it, uncovering a range of surprising changes in life expectancy, including the fact that men at the top of 1% of incomes live 15 years longer than men at the bottom of the ladder. Facts like this show how income inequality has paved the way for unequal life, leading to gaps in the time that some people can spend on Earth with their families. This idea “under the radar” of the inequality of life, says Whitman, has had an impact on our politics and understanding can help anyone understand how many people see their future.


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