Recommended Reads

At last count, I’ve read well over 300 books in the realm of business, careers and personal growth. Below you will find the ones that I found had the most value AND that were actually applicable to the real world (without being idealistic or impossible to apply to real life). So here are my top recommendations if you’re trying to pursue a better life, both personally and professionally, than the one you’re currently living. I have no affiliations with any of these authors and none of them have asked for my recommendation. They are honestly the books I have learned from/enjoyed the most.

Clicking on the images or titles will take you directly to the Amazon page for each book. If you pick one of these up, I hope you find as much value in it as I did. If you’ve read any of them, let me know what you think in the comments down below. If you have suggestions for books not listed here, email me at thinkceo@live.com. I’m always looking for the next great airplane read.


Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand on the Business Battlefield
I love this book. I read it when in came out in 2008 and used it constantly when I was trying to get in good with a new (and difficult) boss. As the youngest-ever CEO of John Hancock Financial Services and the bestselling author of another extremely popular book, “Brand Warfare”, David D’Alessandro tells his true story of how he learned the unwritten rules of corporate ladder climbing. David does a good job of breaking down career management into what really matters. I also like his no-nonsense style of writing and his willingness to expose his own mistakes on his rise to the CEO position. I find this an easy read and still pick it up now and then as a reminder of some of the basics. It’s also a book I give as a gift to hungry newbies to give them a leg up when I see genuine potential and honest passion.


How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization
This ones about 150 pages, but it’s an easy read. I can get through it in on a single flight to Europe. It was one of the first books I read when I was promoted into middle management. It came out that same year (1998) and was recommended to me by the person giving me the offer letter. I like it because it’s structured around both physical activities and putting yourself in the right mindset. I changed some habits immediately after reading it and saw many of my peers go through hard times when their own actions went against the advise in this book. If you’re serious about reaching the top (or even a VP level or above position), I recommend this sit somewhere close by as you climb the corporate ladder.


StrengthsFinder 2.0
I’m not usually one to try these “test-based assessment” books, but a few of my colleagues took part in the online test and said it was dead on. After purchasing the book and running through the test, I agreed with the outcome. The book has an interesting take on career management. The author suggests spending time turning strengths into what I would call “super-strengths” that can propel your career forward instead of spending time endlessly trying to improve your shortcomings. I took this book’s premise and used its principles, but still made sure my shortcomings weren’t so bad that they would hold me back. I liked the program and found it most effective for dividing tasks by assigning myself work that caters to my strengths and delegating work to others that simply doesn’t need the things I do best.


The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
WORKBOOK – The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
John Maxwell has authored a steady stream of leadership resources over the years. This one, I believe, encapsulates most of his work nicely. The workbook is a good companion, but not necessary. This book is different because it focuses on leaders in the middle of the organisation. In this book, Maxwell applies his leadership principles to the person who is not the leader and therein helps the average person in the organisation become the sort of person who can lead others whether they are below them, beside them, or above them in the hierarchy. The book – at 300+ pages – is a little longer than it needs to be, but it is clear, easy to read and the logic is easy to follow.


Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change
This book is for those with a little more time under their “corporate belt” and those at VP/Director level and above. It is highly academic and guides theoretical practices around decision-making at the corporate strategy level; therefore, it’s usefulness in real world applications is only for those who have real influence in an organization. The book helps strategic decision makers take a hard look at their own companies and helps compare by utilizing case studies of other significant market players (AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, etc). I admit, I had a tough time getting through this book, but I have to say I am a better leader because of the learnings I pulled from its pages.


How to Think Like a CEO and Act Like a Leader: Practical Insights for Performance and Results! (English and Korean Edition)
The reason I lke this book is two fold: 1. It tells it like it is and 2. it’s a good reminder book on critical areas without a lot of fluff. That said, I would not recommend this book if your one of those people who need to get motivated by a book. I use it as a punch list to make sure I’m still doing everything a good leader does, but the content itself is dry and has too many references and not enough original thought to give me any “a-ha” moments. If you’d like a companion book to some of the others I’ve mentioned here, this is a good one to have on the rack.


Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition)
Unless you are a one person operation or selling a legally required product, this book is a must read. It’s often used as a text book for college courses. I read the 4th edition about 10 years ago, but recommend the newest edition for anyone who is either selling themselves within an organization (aren’t we all) or selling products/services to customers. Cialdini organizes compliance techniques into six categories based on psychological principles that direct human behavior: reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Once you understand them, you can use them to your advantage in creating benefits for yourself and identify when others are trying to use them on you.

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