I read a lot of books about strategy and leadership. But not in the way you might think. I find the best strategic lessons often come from the books that are not taught in business school and were not purposefully written about strategy. The authors probably did not even know they were providing strategic guidance.
I have found great insight in books that require me to connect hard-learned lessons from others to my own real-life opportunities and challenges.
For example, I recently read Phil Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog. He writes transparently about growing teams during times of rapid expansion — something we face daily at Aha! as our company is growing super fast.
I am always looking for more books to add to my reading list. So, I turned to folks on LinkedIn for their favorite non-strategy strategy books. It was a popular thread with more than 75 comments. And it was interesting to read through your recommendations and learn how these titles impacted you.
I thought it would be helpful to gather the list in one place. So, here are the recommendations you shared — presented in alphabetical order:
13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks
“I’m always more creative after I’ve reread it. It will push your brain — one of the best shortcuts I’ve found to challenging your own thinking and actually getting out of the box you’ve been thinking inside.”
A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
“It’s not a management book, but it’s about adversity, strategy, and never giving up.”
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
“You can learn about perseverance, teamwork, and grit. You’ll also find nuggets regarding the value of excellence in craftsmanship and performance.”
Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
“This is an interesting way to present history. Few things nudge your brain to see the world in a fresh way, but this one did the trick.”
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
“So many tips — everyone has a price, the power and value of relationships, having plan B, grooming the next leader…”
Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella
“This is a book about improving your golf game through sports psychology, but I have pulled all kinds of great nuggets about the power of positive thinking, focus, goals, and how to be positive and happy from this book. (Plus it helped my golf game, so that’s a win-win!)”
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
“It’s a classic work on the evolution of man (and woman) under multiple circumstances.”
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
“It certainly makes you think about the connection between seemingly disparate things in a new way.”
Musashi: An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era by Eiji Yoshikawa
“So many lessons on how to plan for adversity, strive for excellence, face your enemy, and how to recognize success and brilliance when you see it.”
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
“Great lesson on entrepreneurship watching how Howard grew his car empire through capitalizing on opportunity.”
Skunk Works by Ben R. Rich
“Great story about how incredibly talented and passionate teams can accomplish amazing things, even under exceptionally challenging conditions. These folks built the SR-71 Blackbird in a room with no windows and without supercomputers.”
The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee
“At its core, the book is a study in behavioral psychology, how to think, act, and respond to people.”
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
“A terrific and inspiring read about leadership and leading by example, following one of history’s greats — Abraham Lincoln.”
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
“Critical thinking, long-range planning, survival, outwitting the competition (his captors), accountability, overcoming obstacles and failures, and forgiveness. This book is about strategy and success amidst adversity of the highest magnitude.”
Insight often comes from the most unexpected people, places, and stories.
There is no book that will give you all the answers. The challenges you face are unique to you and your teammates. So, your approach to solving those problems must be unique as well — including where you look for inspiration.
Which non-strategy strategy books have had the biggest impact on you?