What do the world's most successful business leaders, politicians, and top minds in medicine and culture read in their spare time?
Facebook asked its “global influencers” – 62 people that span various industries - which of the books they had read in 2016 had helped shape their perspective on leadership. Of the 231 books that the group recommended, 11 were mentioned more than any other.
1. The most recommended book was a foray into the origins of humankind itself. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, explores how, out of six species of humans, Sapiens came to dominate and shape the world we live in today. It asks, among many other things, if we are actually any happier today than we were in the Stone Age.
2. Wharton professor and New York Times writer Adam Grant explores the successes of the type of people he calls “Originals”. His book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World looks at how innovators become successful because they see the world differently. They are “non-conformists”, who “take action to champion new ideas”, who “speak up” and “drive change and creativity in the world”.
But they look nothing like you would expect, says Grant, who includes a quiz on his website to test how original your own thinking is.
3. In at number three is a book by retired US Army General Stanley McChrystal. A Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World outlines a tried-and-tested military strategy that is just as relevant to the business world. “Team of Teams may be both the best military book of the year and the best business one” says one reviewer. “[The authors make] a fascinating point, one I had never seen put quite this way: Your structure is your strategy. In other words, how you organize your institution, how you think about questions of command and control, determines how you operate.”
4. The fourth most popular choice was an altogether more personal one. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance is the story of an upbringing in Middletown, Ohio and its “hillbilly” culture. In a time of political upheaval in middle America, the publication of this book is very timely.
5. In a book that looks forward rather than backwards, Alex Cross’ The Industries of the Future explores what our future will look like. It analyses the technological and economic trends and developments that will shape the next 10 years. Cross examines themes from cybersecurity and big data to the commercialization of genomics and the codification of money markets and trust. A must for anyone who wonders what sort of world today’s children will be living in.
6. Freakonomics may be over 10years old, but it still influences many of today’s leaders. It was the first in what is now a series of books by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt that seeks to redefine the way we view the modern world.
7. In Writing my Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor, a man imprisoned for murder examines criminal justice reform and shows that a person’s actions need not define them for the rest of their lives.
8. The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, delves into the human gene, and how much of who we are is dependent on our genes, versus how we are raised. Part of the readability of what is essentially a scientific book is the fact that is interspersed with personal examples. Mukherjee won a Pulitzer for his previous book on cancer, The Emperor of all Maladies.
9. First published in 1959, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing has been inspiring readers for decades. The author's account of Shackleton's attempt to cross the Antarctic from west to east is a gripping tail of heroism, leadership and survival against seemingly insurmountable odds.
10. What do you do when you create a business that is then sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion? You write a book about the secrets of your success. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih shares the different lessons he has learned in business and life and how, by concentrating on the happiness of those around you, you can dramatically increase your own.
11. Last on the list is Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values, a look at how successful business doesn’t mean an abandonment of spiritual values. The book is “fundamental for those who manage and lead others. Great leadership is conscious leadership.”
Influencers share their thoughts
Some of the influencers shared their thoughts on Facebook videos, including Bill Gates. His list of books spanned the world of tennis, politics, and of course, business leadership. “Leaders who don’t listen can get more and more isolated,” he says.