9 books that inspired Steve Jobs, Marc Benioff and other top entrepreneurs – CNBC


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These business leaders bettered their companies with help from extraordinary authors that prompted them to do everything from rethink cloud computing to consider how to be a more socially responsible founder.

CNBC Make It rounded up nine books that inspired entrepreneurs from Steve Jobs to Katia Beauchamp and can give you a dose of inspiration, too:

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christensen

Recommended by: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs

Christensen demonstrates how practices that led to a business’s success in the past can eventually lead to its demise. He offers a set of rules that CEOs, entrepreneurs and managers can use to solve this on-going problem.

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography, Jobs referenced the book when arguing that Apple needed to adapt to cloud computing. Christensen’s writing made him aware that the people who invent something are usually the last ones to see past it. “We certainly don’t want to be left behind,” said Jobs.

“Tribal Leadership” by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright

Recommended by: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

This management book demonstrates how leaders can assess and lead the “tribes” that exist within a corporation to increase productivity and growth. It has become an essential tool for managers looking to identify unique characteristics that they may not have been aware of before.

As a leader, Hsieh hopes to bring company culture to the next level. This is not only evident in what he reads but in what he inquires about as well. Hsieh looks to perfect company culture by asking applicants questions such as “On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?” during an interview.

In an interview with USA Today, Hsieh said that the book helped him because it “codifies a lot of what we’ve been doing instinctively and provides a great framework for all companies.”

“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth

Recommended by: Intuit CEO Brad Smith

Duckworth gives the reader an inside look at her own story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently voiced his concern about her intelligence, exploring the idea that persistence is more important than intellect for achieving success.

Smith believes that the book shows anyone, regardless of talent or background, that they can succeed if they have grit — a blend of passion and persistence.

“This book makes all of us underdogs feel like we’re capable as anybody else,” said Smith in an interview with Lifehacker.

“Return on Integrity: The New Definition of ROI and Why Leaders Need to Know It” by John G. Blumberg

Recommended by: KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie

Blumberg focuses on the intersection of leaders’ personal values and those of their organization. The book establishes the idea that core values should not just be the guide but the basis of every decision and action.

Doughtie, in an interview with Glassdoor, describes it as “a powerful book that challenges you to reflect on the importance of personal core values.”

She learned that when each individual worker is aware of their own personal core values, they’ll permeate the organization, strengthening decision-making and enhancing openness, collaboration and trust.

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant

Recommended by: Away Travel CEO Steph Korey

Grant aims to motivate readers to follow through on their original ideas that stray from the norm. He shows his audience how to accomplish this by using studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports and entertainment.

Korey told The Muse that the book reaffirmed the importance of taking thoughtful risks, using lessons learned to iterate and improve along the way, and being willing to write your own playbook.

“This is a great read for anyone who’s interested in big-picture thinking,” says Korey.

“Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” by Kim Scott

Recommended by: SocioFabrica Co-founder and CCO Sylvia Vaquer

The sweet spot between an obnoxiously aggressive and overly empathetic manager is one who can act with what Scott calls “radical candor.” She draws on her experiences as a manager at Google and in a class on optimal management at Apple to show readers how to cultivate radical candor.

Vacquer told The Muse the book has helped her become a more assertive and empathetic leader, one who can demonstrate that she cares, deliver praise publicly and criticism privately, and take care of her own emotional and mental health.

“Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard

Recommended by: Basic Outfitters Co-founder and President Michael Dweck

The Patagonia founder shares how he created his environmentally responsible company based on a belief in doing good and pursuing great adventures. Chouinard tells readers about the amount of courage it took to get to the point of his success.

Expecting a straightforward memoir, Dweck told The Muse he was pleasantly surprised when he realized that the book was actually a roadmap for building an authentic business and becoming a socially- conscious entrepreneur.

After reading about how Chouinard started a business that served the world just as much as it served customers, Dweck was inspired to “be the type of business leader that did things that were meaningful: that moved people or had some impact on life and the world.”

“Jack: Straight from the Gut” by Jack Welch

Recommended by: Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp

The former chairman and CEO of General Electric tells the story of his life as a self-made man and a self-described rebel. Welch describes the unique leadership style the developed during one of the most economically robust eras in U.S history.

Beauchamp say that Welch’s writing can prepare you for rollercoaster experiences in business and encourages you to make mistakes. She says that fans of tough love will like this powerful tell-all about being a leader that includes his failures.

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

Recommended by: Salesforce founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff

Using military strategy based on Chinese warfare, the book explains how to gain advantage over opponents in the boardroom and on the battlefield.

Tzu’s writing influenced Benioff so much that the 2008 reprint of “The Art of War” includes a forward written by the entrepreneur. Since first reading the book more than a dozen years ago, Benioff has applied its concepts to many areas of his life, including his cloud computing company.

“The tenets of the book provided me the concept to enter an industry dominated by much bigger players,” writes Benioff in the forward, “and gave us strategies to render them powerless.”

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