Personal Development

7 books to read for leadership development

Business leaders who read great books benefit in a variety of ways. Irish playwright and politician Richard Steele said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Books provide the mind with a mental workout by exposing the reader to new vocabulary, global knowledge and the richness of the human experience.

By reading great works of fiction and non-fiction, CEOs and business owners can catapult their leadership to new heights by taking on new perspectives, growing their creativity and becoming more articulate communicators. Books are vessels of knowledge that expose the reader to information across fields, from the sciences to economics to art. Leaders are known for providing a wider perspective and greater vision—through reading, leaders can apply the learnings they gain to their businesses, their culture, and their personal lives.

Vistage Master Chair Tom Cuthbert has had an extensive 35-year business career, and he is a voracious reader. He has built, bought and sold multiple companies across several industries, and today pays forward his business acumen as an executive coach for CEOs and business leaders. He recommends reading great books to be a better leader. If CEOs need a place to start, Cuthbert offers his latest reading list below.


I read (and listened) to 24 fantastic books in 2019. Most of them were business-related, personal growth or pure entertainment. I rate books based on impact to me and add bonus points if I reread it. Here are seven books to add to your reading list for 2020:

Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt

This is the story of Bill Campbell, the executive coach to many tech CEOs and executives. As a CEO coach, I found this book fascinating. I admire Campbell’s courage and love for those he coached. While the results of the companies are amazing, it was the personal growth of the individual and the legacy he left that was most inspiring.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

This was a surprise entry. It turns out 1 in 25 people have sociopathic tendencies. The book is a fascinating look at the makeup of these people who are in our companies, neighborhoods and even our families. Learning to recognize the traits and ways to deal with them was valuable and interesting.

Apollo 8 by Jeffery Kluger

A fascinating story of the first mission to send men behind the moon. I grew up with the Apollo program and loved reliving the excitement and adventure of our country’s greatest technological accomplishment of my lifetime.

Turning the Flywheel by Jim Collins

An excellent monograph focused on the Flywheel from the iconic Good to Great. I heard Collins speak in January of this year and it inspired me to build my own flywheel. It was one of the most impactful exercises I did in 2019 and a fantastic little book.

Brain Rules by John Medina

Really interesting approach to understanding our brains and therefore, our actions. Medina uses science and research to make a case for his 12 Principles to thrive in life and work. The stories and information apply to people of all ages. It helped me understand how others think as well and ways to challenge them to become better at whatever they are passionate about.

Runner up: Indistractable by Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal did a masterful job of creating a practical approach to mitigating distractions. This book builds perfectly on Atomic Habits by James Clear (my 2018 book of the year). I loved the language and stories. They were simple and easy to apply approaches to make our lives indistractable. An outstanding read and highly impactful!

The “Tommy” Award goes to…

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

I reread this book twice! Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator. His tactics are somewhat counterintuitive to conventional negotiation. His results prove that these tactics work. I love negotiation and Voss did a masterful job of providing tangible techniques against a backdrop of real-life drama.

Previous Winners

2018 Atomic Habits, James Clear

2017 Give and Take, Adam Grant

2016 Leadership and Self Deception, The Arbinger Institute

2015 Hyper Sales Growth, Jack Daly

2014 The Power of a Positive No, William Ury

2013 Conversational Capacity, Craig Weber

2012 Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

2011 Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Get more Tom Cuthbert book reviews.

Category: Personal Development


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Tom Cuthbert is a three-time winner of the Chair Excellence Award and facilitates six groups with 100 CEOs and business leaders in San Antonio. He has built, bought and sold multiple companies acro…

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