5 of the Best Books on Leadership for Your Reading List

Next up for your reading list: GE executives' favorite books on leadership and business.

There are a lot of business books out there, and you probably have some on your reading list. Which are the best? Top GE executives have recommended the best books on leadership. Each book provides insights for your business life and provokes fresh ways of thinking.

Key Takeaways
  • Reading some of the best books on leadership allows you to reflect upon your company's practices and compare them to what other companies (and leaders) are doing successfully.

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Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, by Ranjay Gulati

Every business claims to be customer-centric, but many maintain an inflexible corporate structure that prevents meeting customer needs. GE Capital Chief Commercial Officer Isabel Fernandez recommends Reorganize for Resilience, which reveals how a number of businesses, such as Best Buy and Cisco, cut through barriers to build connections between siloed departments, transforming internal competition into customer-focused collaboration.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

GE Capital Fleet Services President and CEO Kristi Webb has been reading Team of Rivals, which describes newly elected president Abraham Lincoln's leadership strategy. Lincoln loathed yes-men and sought critical, independent thinkers who would give him the best advice available, even if it wasn't what he wanted to hear. Men who had formerly opposed Lincoln, including Edwin Stanton and Salmon Chase, soon grew to admire him for his fairness, his willingness to listen to differing viewpoints, and the good humor with which he mediated heated cabinet debates. This is one of the best books on leadership, and people in any industry can learn from Lincoln's successes and apply his methods to their team.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't, by Simon Sinek

GE Capital executives are reading other insightful books on leadership, including Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. This leadership primer suggests that an important part of team-building is creating a climate in which individuals willingly sacrifice their own needs for the larger good. This sacrifice is exemplified by Marine Corp officers, who always let junior Marines eat first. Great leaders foster what Sinek describes as a "circle of safety," where everyone performs an essential role, feels they belong, and devotes themselves to achieving organizational goals.

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries

Another choice from GE Capital executives, this book has been changing the way companies — not just startups — think about building and launching new products. Ries's approach helps firms undertake projects that use capital more efficiently and leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, Ries calls for rapid scientific experimentation and methods to shorten product development cycles, measure progress, and learn what customers really want.

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, by Amanda Ripley

Journalist Ripley travels around the globe examining the best educational systems to discover what they're doing right and learning what can be translated to American systems. Her comparative analysis is a gold mine of best practices for how to develop young people's minds. This provocative book, also recommended by Fernandez, will have you thinking differently about our educational system and is worth inclusion on your reading list.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education.