36 Best Business Books that Changed Microsoft Leaders’ Lives

I’ve overhauled a book list of the 36 Best Business Books that Changed Leaders’ Lives.

Some of the most effective leaders I know, regularly draw from books for insights, inspirations, and new ideas to change their game.

Business is an interesting game, by the way:

“Business is a game, played for fantastic stakes, and you’re in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game.” — Sidney Sheldon

There is no shortage of books to read or new ideas to learn.

Instead, the challenge is finding the best business books that are worth reading – the books that you can use to accelerate and enhance your business effectiveness.

To find the best business books for building business effectiveness, I reached out to the most effective Microsoft leaders I know (past and present0 and asked them a simple question …

“What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?”

Here are the results …

Top 3 Business Books for Improving Business Effectiveness

The top three business books that showed up multiple times were:

1.  Blue Ocean Strategy


Blue Ocean Strategy is a beautiful strategy guide on how to make your competition irrelevant. 

Rather than swim with the sharks in the red ocean of competition, find the blue ocean and swim with the dolphins.  

Learn how to expand the market to non-consumers by reducing friction points and pivoting around what’s truly valued by customers. 

Learn how to differentiate to avoid commoditization.

2.  Good to Great


Collins and his team researched 1,435 companies to find 11 companies that made huge improvements in their performance over time. 

What did the 11 companies have in common? 


They demonstrated discipline in people, thought, and action. 

This is the book that made the Hedgehog concept famous. 

The Hedgehog concept is the intersection of three circles:

  1. What can you be the best in the world at?
  2. What drives your economic engine?
  3. What are you deeply passionate about?

3.  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team


Normally I don’t like storybooks for business skills, but the fable format really works for this one. 

This book is about how to function as a unit by learning the five dysfunctions:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results.

I’ve experienced great shifts in culture by leaders who learned the lessons from this corporate fable and applied them to their teams.

The 36 Best Business Books that Changed Leaders’ Lives

Here is the list of the best business books that changed leader’s lives:

  1. All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
  2. Authentic Leadership
  3. Blue Ocean Strategy
  4. Built to Last
  5. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
  6. Fierce Conversations
  7. First, Break All the Rules
  8. Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street
  9. Freakonomics
  10. Good to Great
  11. How To Win Friends and Influence People
  12. Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance
  13. Jack: Straight from the Gut
  14. Leadership on the Line
  15. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
  16. Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
  17. Memoirs of Hadrian
  18. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
  19. Pasteurs Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation
  20. Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too
  21. The Soul of a New Machine
  22. Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle
  23. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  24. The One Minute Manager
  25. The Art of Happiness
  26. The Art of Innovation
  27. The Art of Leadership
  28. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything
  29. The Art of War
  30. The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered
  31. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  32. The Innovator’s Dilemma
  33. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
  34. Unleashing the Idea Virus
  35. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
  36. Winning with People

For mini-descriptions of each, please see 36 Best Business Books that Changed Leaders’ Lives.