Reading Lists

2023 Great Leaders Reading List

In celebration of National Book Month, we present a curated reading list that delves into the literary preferences of some of the world’s most renowned and influential leaders, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Simon Sinek, Warren Buffet, and others. These visionary minds have not only shaped industries but have also harnessed the power of reading to fuel their intellectual growth and leadership acumen. For military professionals, reading is not just an activity, it’s a strategic imperative. Literature, with its diverse perspectives, deep insights, and timeless wisdom, offers military professionals a unique opportunity to broaden their horizons, refine their decision-making abilities, and cultivate the qualities of great leadership and followership. In the pages of these recommended books, readers will discover a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration that can fortify their roles within their respective organizations and ranks.

What We Owe The Future

By: W. MacAskill (2022)

Recommended by Elon Musk, in “What We Owe The Future,” philosopher William MacAskill issues a compelling call to action, emphasizing the profound moral responsibility we bear to positively impact the distant future. He introduces the concept of longtermism, asserting that safeguarding the well-being of generations yet unborn should be a paramount ethical concern. MacAskill argues that addressing immediate crises like climate change or pandemics is insufficient. We must also prepare for potentially catastrophic scenarios, uphold moral progress, and anticipate a future where digital intelligence supersedes human intellect. By making judicious decisions today, we can secure a legacy of justice, hope, and beauty for generations to come, profoundly shaping the destiny of humanity.

The Innovator’s Solution

By: C. Christensen & M. Raynor (2013)

Recommended by Jeff Bezos, “The Innovator’s Solution” by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor builds upon the concept of disruption, emphasizing how companies can proactively become disruptors in today’s fast-paced business landscape. This enduring work remains highly relevant in the contemporary business environment, offering insights into achieving disruptive growth. It provides guidance on essential business decisions, identifies the forces behind poor decision-making in innovation, and presents frameworks for creating the ideal conditions for disruption to thrive. A valuable resource for senior managers, leaders, and innovators seeking to drive growth and success.

Shoe Dog

By: P. Knight (2016)

Recommended by Bill Gates, Warren Buffet & Tim Cook, “Shoe Dog,” written by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, recounts his entrepreneurial journey from borrowing $50 from his father to launch a company importing Japanese running shoes to building a global powerhouse with annual sales exceeding $30 billion. Knight’s memoir reveals the challenges, setbacks, ruthless competition, and exhilarating triumphs he encountered along the way. It also highlights the essential role of relationships, particularly with his former track coach Bill Bowerman, and the dedicated team of individuals who helped shape Nike into a renowned brand and culture that revolutionized the world of sports and business.

Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader

By: M. Dell (2021)

Recommended by Bill Gates, Ray Dalio, Richard Branson, & Matthew McConaughey, “Play Nice But Win” offers a captivating account of Michael Dell’s journey, from hiding signs of his nascent PC business in a dorm room to becoming the leader of Dell Technologies. The book recounts the three pivotal battles fought for the company’s inception, preservation, and transformation in the ever-evolving tech industry. With humor and humility, Dell reflects on his mentors, competitors turned friends or foes, and the challenges faced, highlighting his enduring vision that technology is fundamentally about people and their potential, illustrating that leadership is the key to building something that endures in the world of technology and business.

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

By: M. Tegmark (2017)

Recommended by Elon Musk, In “Life 3.0,” MIT professor Max Tegmark delves into the profound implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on various aspects of human existence, including crime, war, justice, jobs, society, and our very essence as humans. Tegmark explores essential questions about the future of AI, such as its impact on prosperity, the workforce, and the potential dangers of AI arms races. The book invites readers to engage in a critical and wide-ranging conversation about AI’s transformative potential, from superintelligence to questions of consciousness and the ultimate limits of life in the universe.

Quiet: Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

By: S. Cain (2013)

Recommended by Simon Sinek, In “Quiet,” Susan Cain sheds light on the underappreciated qualities of introverts, who make up at least one-third of the population. Cain argues that society has favored extroversion to an excessive degree, leading to the undervaluation of introverts and their unique contributions. Through compelling stories and meticulous research, she demonstrates the need to redefine our perspective on introverts and help them recognize their own strengths in a world that often prizes extroversion.


By: H. Rosling, O. Rosling & A. Rosling Rönnlund (2020)

Recommended by President Obama and Bill & Melinda Gates, In “Factfulness,” Hans Rosling and Anna and Ola Rosling explore the systematic errors in our understanding of global trends. They reveal the ten cognitive biases that skew our perspective on poverty, population growth, and education. By addressing these biases and offering a more fact-based worldview, the book empowers readers to better comprehend the state of the world, enabling them to respond more effectively to both challenges and opportunities in the future.

The Effective Executive: Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

By: P. Drucker (2006)

Recommended by Jeff Bezos, Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive,” emphasizes the importance of getting the right things done in an executive role. He identifies five key practices that executives should learn to enhance their business effectiveness: time management, selecting valuable contributions to the organization, mobilizing strengths effectively, setting priorities, and making sound decisions. Drucker draws from various business and government examples to illustrate the skillset and insights required for effective executive leadership.

How to Win Friends & Influence People

By: D. Carnegie (1998)

Recommended by Dave Ramsey, Warren Buffet & Daymond John, Dale Carnegie’s classic book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” offers practical advice to help individuals excel in both their professional and personal lives. It provides valuable strategies on how to make people like you, win them over to your perspective, and bring about positive change in others without generating resentment. With millions of copies sold, this timeless bestseller continues to be a must-read for anyone looking to reach their full potential in the twenty-first century.

Turn the Ship Around: Turning Followers into Leaders

By: Navy Captain (Ret) L. D. Marquet (2013)

Recommended by Simon Sinek, “Turn the Ship Around!” by David Marquet tells the true story of how the author, a former Navy captain, transformed the performance and culture of the nuclear-powered submarine Santa Fe. Marquet was initially faced with poor morale, performance, and retention rates on the Santa Fe because of the traditional leader-follower model of leadership. However, he successfully flipped this model, empowering every crew member to take on leadership responsibilities, resulting in a highly engaged team that achieved record-setting performance, morale, and retention rates, with many crew members later becoming submarine commanders themselves. The book offers valuable insights for organizations looking to shift their leadership paradigms and improve their results.

Man’s Search for Meaning

By: V. Frankl (2006)

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl has been highly recommend by countless great leaders for years. It is a powerful account of Frankl’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps and an exploration of the human capacity to find meaning even in the darkest moments. Frankl’s theory of finding meaning in life emphasizes that the fundamental human drive is not merely for pleasure, but to seek out and pursue what holds personal significance. In a world filled with evolving challenges and increasing complexity, Frankl’s timeless work remains an inspiring testament to the resilience of the human spirit, urging us all to find purpose in the act of living, regardless of the obstacles we face.

The Alchemist

By: P. Coelho (2014)

Recommended by Brené Brown, LeBron James, & Will Smith, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is a modern classic that weaves together magic, mysticism, wisdom, and wonder in a tale of self-discovery. It follows the journey of Santiago, a shepherd boy from Andalusia, as he embarks on a quest to find a worldly treasure. Along the way, Santiago learns valuable lessons about listening to his heart, recognizing opportunities, interpreting omens, and, most importantly, pursuing his dreams. This inspirational story has captivated millions of readers worldwide, transforming lives and emphasizing the importance of following one’s aspirations.

Podcast Spotlight: The Spear

From the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy, The Spear is a podcast devoted to exploring the combat experience. Each episode features a guest who describes their personal stories and experiences. In these episodes, The Spear explores a variety of topics to include decision-making under stress, what it feels like to be in combat, and other important and relevant topics, sure to be of great value to military professionals.

Podcast Links: Modern War Institute, Spotify, Apple

National Book Month is an annual celebration in the United States held during the month of October. It serves as a reminder of the enduring importance of reading, writing, and literature in our lives, fostering a love for books and encouraging literacy among people of all ages.

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