One of the best ways to get inspired as a business leader is to read a book on leadership. Experienced and inexperienced leaders alike can benefit from reading biographies about the best leaders in history.
Biographies help readers get a fuller sense of the lives and philosophies of leaders. This includes insight on the trials and tribulations that those individuals faced while building their respective empires.
Reading biographies can uncover some unique solutions to persistent problems. Additionally, biographies can leave leaders feeling refreshed, emboldened, and able to take on any challenge that is thrown at them.
Below are some of the most inspiring biographies that business leaders should read:
By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop, by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson
This book explores how two women, who met at Harvard Business School, built one of the largest fashion retail companies in recent history. Gilt Group redefined the way people shop by creating an invitation-only online space that mimicked the excitement of daily sample sales.
Today, Gilt Group is worth more than $1 billion and has become a leading fashion retailer despite being less than a decade old. In the book, the two authors tackle some common problems with advice on how to create an effective and motivated team, as well as how to keep a company afloat during a recession.
Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-Founder of Microsoft, by Paul Allen
When he was only 21 years old, Paul Allen teamed up with Bill Gates, an old childhood friend, to develop a new programming language. The two had worked together at various programming jobs since they were teenagers.
Over the course of time, they spoke with other engineers about the type of language they wanted to develop. Despite being discouraged by their peers, the pair believed they could create the language of the future – and they succeeded.
Allen, who is known for being a rather private person, provides a detailed account of the founding of Microsoft and the hurdles that he and Gates had to overcome in the beginning. He also talks about how he rolled his momentum from Microsoft into other endeavors from brain mapping to space travel.
Start Something That Matters, by Blake Mycoskie
Feeling a bit disillusioned after his fourth startup experience, Blake Mycoskie decided to escape his comfort zone and travel to Argentina. While there, he discovered there was an overwhelming need for children’s shoes at many charities.
Inspired by this need, he was struck with an idea of how to help. This insight developed into TOMS, a unique shoe manufacturer driven by humanitarian ideals.
For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, a pair of shoes is donated to a child in need. In his book, Mycoskie discusses the elements that led to the company’s success. These elements include creating a corporate story and making the most out of very limited resources.
The John Deere Story: A Biography of Plowmakers John and Charles Deere, by Neil and Jeremy Dahlstrom
The green and yellow logo of John Deere equipment has become a part of mainstream American culture. Few logos in the machinery industry are more recognizable around the world.
Despite the company’s success, it had very humble beginnings. John Deere got his start working as a blacksmith, struggling to make ends meet.
Wanting to make new opportunity for himself, he relocated to the Midwest. There, he was inspired to develop a steel plow that worked in the region’s stiff soil. Using the highest-quality materials and fair pricing, he slowly built a corporation that is still thriving centuries later.
The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century, by Steven Watts
The power behind the Henry Ford story is the realization that people do not have to be the first to do something in order to be the most successful. Ford did not invent the automobile, nor was he the first to create an assembly line.
However, his innovations resulted in a better automobile and a more effective assembly line than anyone else had previously envisioned. By hiring skilled workers that he paid well, Ford created one of the first mass production manufacturing systems that turned out highly-reliable vehicles.
This reliability is what made his product stand out on the market.
Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business, by Barbara Corcoran and Bruce Littlefield
While most people know of Barbara Corcoran as one of the hosts of Shark Tank, she had relatively humble beginnings. By the age of 23, she had held 22 different jobs.
Eventually, however, she joined a small real estate company that inspired her to found the Corcoran Group, which is now valued at $6 billion. This book focuses on her childhood, the impact of growing up with nine siblings, and how the lessons she learned while young served her in the competitive New York real estate market.
Entrepreneurs can learn a great deal from Corcoran.
Built from Scratch, by Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus
Not many people have heard of Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus. However, nearly every American knows The Home Depot, their company.
After the two were fired from their executive positions in the late 1970s, they teamed up to address a real void in the consumer goods market. Though they started from nothing, they went on to build a company that is now worth more than $30 billion.