19 for 20

A Collection of 19 Books to Use in 2020 to be a Better Manager, Entrepreneur, C-suite Officer or Just an Overall Contributor

The beginning of the new year always brings hope and promise. For hope and promise to have a chance, we have to be willing to do the necessary preparation work. I have assembled a group of 19 books to help you clear out some of the cobwebs of winter and set you up for success in 2020 and beyond. These books are divided into 5 categories; Mindset/Purpose, Productivity, Innovation, Strategy and Leadership.

I would recommend starting with the Mindset/Purpose books. To be able to embrace some of these new or renewed ideas and change effectively, you need to be, in the words of Ray Dalio, “radically open minded”. After the Mindset group, I would recommend the Productivity books. The new year is a good time to clear the desk and develop your calendar productively. After that, there is no particular order.

Some of these books are new, some recent and some definitely have been around a while. Remember, just because a book is old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have relevance in today’s work environment or to you personally to make you better at who you are and how you work. This collection has served me well. I hope these can help serve you well too.

Mindset/ Purpose

Principles – Ray Dalio

What is it about? Investment banker, advisor, financial guru Ray Dalio has made mistakes throughout his extremely successful career. Openly admits them. But at the same time he wrote down the mistake that he made and then how to improve or avoid it in the future. He complied all of these lessons and kept adding to it. He shared these with his employees and built several successful businesses.

Why is it important? As we venture out, whether a new career, new job, new company, we need to ground who we are. We each need our own set of principles that we will not compromise no matter the circumstances. Dalio has provided lists of both life and work principles that you can easily adopt or adapt. By the way, Part 1 is a very fascinating look at the past few decades from a financial viewpoint and Dalio is uncompromising in describing his mistakes and those of the financial industry.

Principles for Success – Ray Dalio

What is it about? This book is based on the previous work, which is a 567 page chronicle of principles to help anyone. However, Dalio, wants to reach more people, a lot more people. This new version of his previous work is designed for anyone of just about any age to learn some important life principles.

Why is it important? Young people starting out in their business life can have a difficult time navigating through different jobs with different companies and being lead by a lot of different people. Dalio wants young people to learn some valuable life lessons with fewer hard knocks along the way before they can be compromised.

Start with Why – Simon Sinek

What is it about? This book has been around since 2009. You can find Sinek’s TED Talk about Why on YouTube or TED Talks. Successful companies need to know who they are at their core, why they are in business. Sinek provides a few very prominent examples that help define the understanding of Why.

Why is it important? Without that foundation, individuals and companies can go from product to product, from market to market, and earn a living but never really gain personal and financial success.

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

What is it about? This is Sinek’s latest work. Businesses have always been judged based on quarterly and annual returns, essentially a financial scorecard. When businesses only look at the score at the end of the year they are playing a finite game, thinking that it is over only to start another game next year. This is a sign of short term thinking that limits success.

Why is it important? When we think longer term, we are in an Infinite mindset or Infinite Game. While a quarterly or annual score can provide a valuable measurement, it is not the end all, not the end of the game. The Infinite Game allows you to think about employee development, product development and customer development that will last.

Put Your Dream to the Test – John Maxwell

What is it about? Whether you are looking for business or personal success, understanding your purpose is vital to achieving that success. Purpose then allows you to create your dream. But for dreams to be successful they must be bounded and supported. Dreams need to be based on reality and also need planning.

Why is it important? Sinek’s book on Why is great for a general discussion of why/purpose but Maxwells’ book provides more of the steps along the way to be successful. Maxwell asks questions about your dream and how to move forward with concrete steps to success.


Free to Focus – Michael Hyatt

What is it about? Amazon and book stores have hundreds if not thousands of books to help you be more productive. Michael Hyatt’s latest book is an amalgam of his productivity coaching he has done for hundreds of executives for more than a decade.

Why is it important? Hyatt has assembled a system that allows you to continuously keep your most important goals always in sight and work to accomplish all of the tasks necessary along the way to be successful. After identifying only 7-10 of the goals you want to accomplish during the year, determine the sub-goals and actions to be taken during a given quarter, identify the Weekly Big 3 and the Daily Big 3 to keep you on track.

Traction – Gino Wickman

What is it about? For a business to be successful the CEO/president needs to have a handle on how to run the business. Wickman identifies 6 main components; vision, people, data, issues, process and traction.

Why is it important? To me, one of the most important aspects to Traction is the running of the leadership team meeting or any meeting as far as I am concerned. Business people waste hundreds of thousands of productive hours to meaningless, and seemingly endless meetings. Wickman outlines a structure that can make any team meeting more relevant and productive. Wickman calls it the Level 10 Meeting.


Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Peter Drucker

What is it about? This book came out in 1985 and identifies sources of innovation and the practice of entrepreneurship. Innovation throughout history has followed certain patterns and can be deciphered by the discerning eye. Drucker helps identify these patterns as well as understanding how entrepreneurial thinking can work be structured for success even within a large organization.

Why is it important? While this is 25 years old, it provides new insights every time I read through it. What else can I say but Peter Drucker.

Purple Cow – Seth Godin

What is it about? Seth Godin is the guru of product innovation and catalogs ways to add spice to your innovation strategy. For companies to be successful it is vital to identify new products and services that are not just the same as others.

Why is it important? While the Blue Ocean Strategy is an interesting way to identify markets, finding a product or service that actually solves problems is the key to success. Godin helps identify ways to experiment and test ideas for success.

Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be More Persuasive – Robert Cialdini

What is it about? Many people think advertising is the art of persuasion and to a certain extent it is true. Yes! gives solid examples that you may have seen that have worked in advertising, sales and marketing.

Why is it important? Cialdini takes all of these examples and provides further information on how these can be incorporated into your business. It provides positive steps that can be used within and without the organization.

Optimize – Lee Odden

What is it about? The sub title is How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing. Should say it all.

Why is it important? Innovation is needed in more than products and services. We need to be more innovative in how we contact and connect with customers. Optimize offers proven strategies and examples to improve your message and your success.


The Art of the Long View – Peter Schwartz

What is it about? Planning is an important part of any successful venture. But how far out do you plan? One year? Five years maybe 10? How about 100 years? Schwartz talks about the importance of an extremely long view, both past and future, and how it can help shape your decisions for today.

Why is it important? Just as in Sinek’s Infinite Game, we need to look further than then next quarterly or annual report. I have found this a captivating read from someone who was responsible for the 100 year view of Royal Dutch Shell.

Strategic Management – Edward Freeman

What is it about? This book describes the stakeholders approach to management. Also how to assemble a workable framework for input to be useful and successful. A topic I have been told, on more than one occasion, was not in fashion.

Why is it important? In 2019 the Business Roundtable changed their mantra from maximizing shareholder value to a more holistic approach of the importance of every stakeholder. All members signed on. But it takes time and effort. The idea is now back in fashion so this book is one to turn to for some help.


Leadership Gold – John Maxwell

What is it about? John Maxwell has been recognized for years as a leadership guru. In this book, one of his biggest sellers, he provides stories, examples and actions all leaders should perform to be a better leader.

Why is it important? The business headlines are filled with, let us say, lapses in judgement, by entrepreneurs, who in previous headlines, were heralded as the next coming of Jack Welch. This book needs to be on your shelf within easy reach so you can go back to it from time to time.

Leadership is an Art – Max DePree

What is it about? One of my first leadership books and one of the best. Max DePree took over Herman Miller furniture and transformed it from a bland office furniture supplier to a leader in modern office styling and efficiency.

Why is it important? DePree is the epitome of a servant leader, a quality desperately needed then, now and in the future. Not a long read but filled with insights to help leaders at any level in the company.

The Leadership Challenge – James Kouzes & Barry Posner

What is it about? Kouzes and Posner come at leadership from a more data driven understanding. They have studied organizations and the effects on their success by different types of leadership.

Why is it important? Kouzes and Posner lift the veil on some leadership myths that have been around for decades. A lot more detail but the same result as other leadership books, we need stronger, better leaders.

Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 – John Maxwell

What is it about? Each of has limitations. To be better leaders, there is one person that you have to start with – you. In this updated book, Maxwell provides concrete steps you can take to lift the Law of the Lid so that you can increase your leadership capabilities.

Why is it important? We forget that continuous improvement is needed with ourselves and not just in the production environment. Great place to start is with this book.

Developing the Leaders Around You – John Maxwell

What is it about? While you are working on yourself, you can then help others. Here are some steps you can do throughout your workday to lift others.

Why is it important? A leader’s most important function is to create other leaders. When we support, engage and raise other leaders, the effect is not just additive, but exponential.

QUESTION: What was your biggest takeaway from this story, or from this post? Share in the comments below!

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