Harry S. Truman is quoted as saying, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are
Accelerating the learning that is required to transition from Founder to CEO is pretty important. I have personally found that regular reading has helped me.
When I was an officer in the Army, I did not spend the time I should have. I didn’t read as I should have. Because of that, I’m sure my own personal leadership development didn’t progress as fast as it could.
So, when I became a Founding CEO myself, I decided to change that. I started to read, read, and read. Now, it is not unusual for me to read 3-5 books a week. Not all of them are 300 page tomes, but they are books indeed.
I would like to help you. I’ve collected what I think are 6 books that can help jump start your leadership, fast! Think of this as your 2016 reading list…for the first six months…one per month.
1 – Big Impact
Title: Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook
Author: Dan Shapiro
Description: Shapiro mixes first-hand Startup CEO experiences with the experiences of other Startup CEOs he has interviewed. He created a masterfully crafted and very practical book that every Startup CEO should read. He covers almost all the topics you would want insights on: decision-making, delegation, raising money, and more.
Why you should read this book: I like it because it is an easy read and very practical. You won’t find fluff or bloviating or puffed up personal drama. It’s a straight forward book that packs a lot of learning. I recommend it to everyone.
2 – Tough Love
Title: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
Author: Ben Horowitz
Description: Horowitz is well known as one of the leaders of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. He chronicles his leadership lessons from the many high profile companies he led. MANY of the Founding CEOs that I have interviewed have read the book. The reason? It’s an unvarnished, in-your-face account of entrepreneurial leadership that really makes you question whether or not you should take the leap. It’s that good.
Why you should read this book: If you want an account of what struggle looks like, you should read this book. Ben seems to have experienced almost everything a Startup CEO can experience. But, it’s his personal feelings about the ups and downs and the practical advice he shares that makes this book a must read.
3 – Key Decisions
Title: The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup
Author: Noam Wasserman
Description: This research based book captures many of the common dilemmas that Founding CEOs encounter as their journey to CEO. Noam Wasserman reveals these common pitfalls and decision points in a way that is easy to read and relatable in many ways.
Why you should read this book: I like Noam’s book because he has condensed his research into a practical flow chart of issues that most Founding CEOs face. You can literally keep it on your book shelf and refer to it every other month and find your next dilemma and advice on how to navigate the dilemma. Several of my coaching clients have read it and attest to its profound impact on their lives – most through better, more informed decisions.
4 – Great Reference Guide
Title: Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business
Author: Matt Blumberg
Description: Blumberg has created one of the most detailed reference guides on Founding CEO leadership on the market. He covers more topics than any of the other books. He offers valuable insights into how the CEO sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. He discusses how to build a company’s human capital by recruiting, hiring, and retaining the very best talent. He examines how a CEO must align available resources with the company’s strategy in order to ensure success. And, there is a lot more than these topics.
Why you should read this book: This is not necessarily the type of book that you read cover to cover in one sitting. It is rich, dense, and packed full of very specific tips on an array of topics.
5 – Processes
Title: Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises
Author: Derek Lidow
Description: Lidow’s experience as a Startup CEO and his time as a Princeton University professor combine to create a wonderful resource. The best part of the book are the actions he believes you should take at the key developmental phases of your business. It’s heavy on processes and light on sentiment. But, he clearly delineates what you need to do as a leader during each phase your business goes through. I think this aspect of the book is very insightful and helpful.
Why you should read this book: If you have no idea how you should be spending your time, this is a great book for you as a Founding CEO. Derek breaks it down very clearly and I believe makes a great case for understanding the processes inherent in Startup CEO leadership.
6 – Unique Angles
Title: The CEO Tightrope: How to Master the Balancing Act of a Successful CEO
Author: Joel Trammel
Description: Joel has an amazing track record of success as a Founding CEO. His analogy of a tightrope that a CEO must balance on is a great image to keep in mind. He covers many topics and angles that are not often covered. For example, I like his chapters on decision making and how it relates to building consensus.
Why you should read this book: It’s a well written book with some unique angles on Founding CEO leadership that you will appreciate. I also think his style of writing is well suited for a weekend read or a flight across the country.
Send me an email when you are done.
What’s your biggest insight?