7 Must-Read Books to Advance Your Career

Whenever someone recommends a book to me to read, I say, “thank-you for the recommendation,” when what I really want to say is, “I write books; I don’t have time to read books!”  Nonetheless, I have developed a rule that when enough people from different walks of life all recommend the same book, I decide to read the book, and invariably, it’s been worth my time. I often then assign the books to my MBA and undergraduate students, who have overwhelmingly found the books invaluable to their work and careers. From the many, many books we’ve read over the past two decades, here are a few that are among the very best, and that we are confident will make an immediate, positive impact on your daily work and your long-term career.

While this might not be fluffy beach reading, it will give you advantages that others you work with won’t have. Not everyone you will work with will admit to enjoying to read, but that is what can set you apart — read what these experts have to share and apply it to your workplace and your career.  

Aneil and Karen Mishra are business school professors and authors of Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012).

1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey's book is one Karen and I have both used with a great deal of success with hundreds of our students, and it provides several timeless principles for managing oneself, dealing with others, and leading organizations. We had the honor of hearing the late Dr. Covey in person when we were graduate students, and his humility and authenticity were evident in the way he related to the audience. We often give this as a gift to graduates.

2. StrengthsFinder 2.0

Like Seven Habits, Tom Rath's book has also been read by millions of people, and its focus on enhancing your strengths rather than just fixing your weaknesses is not only highly relevant for enhancing your own job performance and career potential, but it’s also very practical when it comes to motivating your colleagues and subordinates to get them to do their best. 

3. Build the Bridge As You Walk On It

Bob Quinn is one of the world’s experts on leadership and change management, and I am proud to call him one of his mentors. This sequel to Deep Change incorporates many of the insights of his earlier book while extending them to new situations and challenges faced by anyone who works in or leads an organization. 

4. Positive Leadership

Kim Cameron is another one of the world’s experts on leadership and effective organizations, a mentor of ours, and the professor who shepherded me through my dissertation at Michigan. Both he and Bob Quinn have designed and led numerous innovative leadership development programs at the University of Michigan and around the world, and this short book distills much of the wisdom that he has developed over the years on how to live and lead in a positive way so that you and those around can truly thrive in the workplace. 

5. Words Can Change Your Brain

Empathic communication is at the heart of effectively understanding and influencing others, yet it is so rarely practiced that you would think it’s magical and impossible. It may be magical in terms of its positive effect on oneself and others, but it can be done. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, two experts who not only do rigorous research on the subject but who also have developed transformational programs around them, write in an engaging and compelling way that is neither simplistic nor arcane. It’s the perfect blend of compelling evidence, examples, and tools to practice in order to become a more effective communicator.

6. Good to Great

We asked our Facebook followers what book they would add to this list, and this is what they all agreed upon. I have used this book with my MBAs and we find Jim Collins’ terminology permeating our own, such as making sure to get the right people “on the bus!”

7. Becoming a Trustworthy Leader

We were inspired to write our own book about trustworthy leaders after reading these great books. We wanted to contribute to the library of business books by sharing stories of ordinary people who became extraordinary leaders by finding ways to build trust with employees, customers and colleagues. We have known and followed many of these leaders for years, watching and learning about how the ROCC of Trust makes their organizations truly outstanding.