Recently, a colleague asked me what books I would recommend to as essential reading. I have become quite a fan of many different business books over time, and I’d like to share them with you. I present my Essential Reading List for Aspiring Information Technology Leaders:

Business Reading

The Personal MBA by Josh Kauffman: This is not the typical “learn everything MBAs learn in 48 hours” book. Kauffman takes the essential knowledge from literature and research in business and compiles it into a book stacked with practical information. This book covers critical business topics like value creation, marketing, sales, and finance. It also covers topics that are essential in business but not found in an MBA program, including psychology and entrepreneurial mindset. This book does not replace an MBA. This book helps IT managers and leaders understand business fundamentals so they can speak the language of executives and customers.

Playing to Win by Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley: This book is the entry point to understanding the creation of business strategies. Playing to Win illustrates the differences between a business plan and strategic management. The information in this book comes in very handy for aspiring information technology leaders learning how to align corporate strategy with the strategy of your team.

Leadership and Service Reading

Good to Great by Jim Collins: A classic business book examining the real-life qualities of leadership that build enduring companies. Collins uses real empirical data mixed with business models, demonstrating the true leadership needed to forge a great company.

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service from The Disney Institute: This is a book I urge teams to read. It is a quick, easy read that highlights the customer service approach at Disney Parks. Be Our Guest explains guest service, the business reasons behind it, and the principles that provide an amazing customer experience. Many consider IT professionals as back-office personnel. The truth is we all have customers, even inside of our organizations, so provide them with outstanding service.

Personal Development and Growth Reading

Getting Things Done by David Allen: This book, commonly referred to as “GTD,” was life-changing for me. Keeping your to-do list and action items in your head is a barrier from actually accomplishing anything at all. The GTD system is brilliant, showing you how to best organize all the “action items” of your life. Get them done without fear of forgetting something somewhere down the line.

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: Yes, this book is old, and the stories Carnegie tells feel very old-fashioned. Despite that, this book is essential for learning how to engage people you encounter in any situation.

Optional (though still essential) Reading:

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: The authors are the founders of Basecamp and DHH is the creator of Ruby on Rails. Rework is a collection of essays that underscore fundamental themes. Limit office distractions, emphasize less over more, simplify instead of adding more features, realize that planning is guessing, get started now instead of later, and learn from your successes instead of your mistakes.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey: A classic book that I recommend reading immediately after How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin: If you write code, this is the book for you.