How readers become leaders | 11 books that inspired famous entrepreneurs

Customisable business insurance
15 February 2021
5 minute read

Successful entrepreneurs are constantly learning. No matter how busy they are, innovators always find time to absorb ideas from the best in their own field and beyond.

From Warren Buffett, who reads 500 pages every day, to Bill Gates, who averages 50 books a year, entrepreneurs aren’t slacking when it comes to their reading. As Buffett says, “That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.” Check out the 11 books that could change the way you think about the world, according to people who are changing the world themselves.


by Malcolm Gladwell What sets the most remarkable success stories apart from the also-rans? In Outliers, Gladwell unpicks the features of great leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. It’s also the book that popularised the ‘10,000 hour’ rule for success (since debunked, but still an inspiring target to set ourselves). While 10,000 hours of practice alone won’t guarantee you success, Outliers is rich in insights and ideas for how you can get there. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos credits Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell as a source of inspiration.

The Rational Optimist

by Matt Ridley Is capitalism a force for good? And is humanity on a path to ever-increasing success, or doomed to a disaster movie future? In The Rational Optimist, Ridley argues that we’ve never had more cause for optimism than now. “We are wealthier, healthier, happier, kinder, cleaner, more peaceful and longer-lived than any previous generation” he writes. Ridley shows how the innate human inclination to exchange goods leads to cultural evolution, bringing more and more prosperity to the world. From climate change to technological changes, Ridley assures us that we are more than equal to the challenges we face. Praised by Sheryl Sandberg and Bill Gates, The Rational Optimist offers an uplifting yet practical call to action.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie Few books are found as reliably on the shelves of entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators as this one. How to Win Friends and Influence People was a landmark book when it came out in 1936, and has remained a top seller ever since. Carnegie’s memorable approach has influenced generations of professionals to boost their likeability, persuade their peers and win over prospects, all without creating backlash.

The Four Agreements

by Miguel Ruiz Sparking brilliant ideas and turning them into reality is hard enough, without limiting ourselves through our own beliefs. In this bestselling book, Ruiz shows how our own beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities can steal our joy and stop us fulfilling our potential. Based on traditional wisdom, The Four Agreements outlines principles for living that all of us can follow. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, co-founder and CEO of Square, praises The Four Agreements, as do Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.

Creativity, Inc

by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace The union of creative giants Disney and Pixar, in a 2006 acquisition by Disney, may not have been a creative triumph, but the merger is rich in learnings for creatives and commercial types alike. In Creativity, Inc, Catmull shares stories of his career at Pixar and Disney, highlighting common pitfalls that managers can fall foul of when trying to nurture creativity. In this bold book, Catmull argues that managers need to tear up the rule book, free up creators to work in unconventional ways, and value the strength over the team over the strength of even one idea. Mark Zuckerberg recommended Creativity, Inc as part of his online book club, A Year Of Books, while Tim Ferriss says “No matter your circumstances, storytelling and creativity are two 'meta-skills' that can take your business and life to the next level. Ed is a master.”

The 4-Hour Workweek

by Timothy Ferriss Wealth and success often go hand in hand with hundred-hour work weeks, but they don’t have to. In Ferriss’ ground-breaking book he details how he went from earning $40,000 a year to $40,000 a month, never working more than four hours a week. Ferriss was an early advocate of streamlining approaches like hiring virtual assistants, freeing up more time to dedicate to travel, learning, and creativity. Ferriss’ classic has inspired countless innovators to work smarter, not harder.

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

by Guy Kawasaki A brilliant idea isn’t enough; you need to take action. If you need inspiration for how and why to jumpstart your business, Kawasaki’s book is a must read. Former Apple insider Kawasaki helped to coin the term ‘evangelism’ for marketing that takes care of itself, by encouraging people to proclaim the good news of the product or service. In The Art of the Start, Kawasaki guides us through the process of turning your passion into profit, from raising startup funds, hiring the right team, creating your brand and creating a buzz.

When: the Art of Timing

by Daniel Pink Timing is everything. Great leaders recognise this, and invest in the knowledge and skills they need to seize the moment. In When, Daniel Pink analyses timing as a science rather than an art, bolstering his case with evidence from economics, biology and psychology to show how timing is more than a subjective instinct.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

by Chip Heath Strong, swift and assured decision-making is a hallmark of great entrepreneurs. But how can we cultivate that skill, if we’re not naturally decisive? Heath offers simple tools and refreshing clarity on how to make the right choice, even when we’re under great pressure. Author of When, Daniel Pink, recommends this one.

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

by Jim Collins Why do some companies make the transition from good to great, while others flounder? Collins analysed 1,435 good companies, watching their performance over 40 years and spotting the 11 that went on to greatness, sustaining elite success for at least 15 years. His gruelling research uncovered the key features that help any company leap from good to great. Good to Great makes for surprising reading, at times, but it won’t let you down if you’re looking for actionable insights and inspiration from companies that are leading the way in their industry.

The $100 Startup

by Chris Guillebeau How do you turn a small investment into a big success? It’s the question that every startup founder and innovator is asking themselves. Now Guillebeau has the answer. His research followed 1,500 people who started out with a small investment (less than $1,000 in startup funds and often as little as $100) and grew to generate at least $50,000 a year. Guillebeau’s sharp-eyed analysis shows how the combination of personal passion with expertise is key to success. As executive and author Seth Godin says, “The money you have is enough. Chris makes it crystal clear: there are no excuses left. START. Start now, not later. Hurry.”

This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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