The Best Business Books of 2019

December 19, 2019

Every year (since 1979) the editors at Soundview review thousands of business books looking for the handful that can really make a positive impact on the professional development of business professionals. For each of the books that meet our stringent criteria, we create a quick-read/quick-listen summary that highlights the most important aspects of each book.

Listed below are the 30 books that we selected in 2019. These books touch on tried-and-true business topics like innovation, leadership, teamwork, and motivation. There are also those that tackle more recent business trends such as workplace culture, customer engagement, and artificial intelligence. There’s a little something for everyone!

How the Smartest Companies Use Learning to Engage, Compete and Succeed
by Kelly Palmer & David Blake

Companies and their employees need to focus on building skills for the future. The Expertise Economy shows how the most forward-thinking companies, big and small, are transforming their employees into experts and ultimately creating their biggest competitive advantage. Kelly Palmer and David Blake challenge CEOs and business leaders to let go of outdated and traditional ways of closing the skills gap and embrace the urgency of reskilling and upskilling the workforce.

How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation in Any Company
by Amy J. Radin

In the stories, tools, techniques and advice inside The Change Maker’s Playbook, leaders will find tangible steps to find and safeguard the plans that will deliver the sustainable business-changing impacts – new customers, new relationships, new sources of value and growth their businesses need. Radin’s 9-part framework shows leaders how to find the big ideas and follow them through implementation. Three phases – Seeking, Seeding and Scaling – organize the framework in a format that outlines every step of the way.

10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World
by Erica Keswin

Author Erica Keswin shows that the most successful leaders actively form quality relationships with their employees by demonstrating authenticity, openness and basic politeness. She distills the key practices of the most human companies into advice that any business leader can use to build a “human workplace.” The lessons in Bring Your Human to Work foster fairness, devotion and joy in the workplace. By bringing your human to work, you can design a workplace that is genuine, aligned and true to itself – and just might change the world.

Proven Sales Coaching Tactics for Breakthrough Performance
by Michelle Vazzana & Jason Jordan

Sales coaching works. Crushing Quota breaks the process down into manageable components. Critical points are: provide clear direction for sellers on how to get to quota; ensure effective execution by coaching the right things, in the right measure, executed the right way; and assess seller performance and make timely course corrections. Based on research-based best practices, Crushing Quota is a guide to make sales coaching work for any sales team.

Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment
by Todd Rose & Ogi Ogas

In the Dark Horse Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas studied women and men who achieved impressive success even though they blazed their own trail. In Dark Horse, Rose and Ogas show how the four elements of the dark horse mindset empower you to consistently make the right choices that fit your unique interests, abilities and circumstances and will guide you to a life of passion, purpose and achievement.

Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth
by Amy C. Edmondson

Written for leaders and teams, The Fearless Organization is a practical guide for creating cultures where knowledge and innovation flourish because people feel safe to contribute their ideas. Success requires a continuous influx of new ideas, new challenges, and critical thought, and the interpersonal climate must not suppress, silence, ridicule or intimidate. The Fearless Organization offers a step-by-step framework for establishing psychological safety within a team and an organization.

Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results
by Barry O’Reilly

There is a learning curve to running any successful business, but when you get stuck in outdated practices and thinking, you need to unlearn. Executive coach Barry O’Reilly shows how to break the cycle of behaviors that were effective in the past but now limit or may even stand in the way of your success. Good leaders know when they need to continuously learn. But great leaders know when to unlearn the past to succeed in the future. Unlearn shows you the way.

How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work
by Aron Ain

Ain, the award-winning CEO of Kronos, a global provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions, believes that anything is possible when people are inspired. By embracing employee development and engagement as a growth strategy, Ain transformed his company’s culture and built a billion-dollar business. WorkInspired takes leaders and managers inside Kronos’s highly admired culture and shares the surprisingly simple rules they can follow to replicate that success.

Energize Your Company’s Culture by Choosing What Really Matters
by Jon Katzenbach, James Thomas & Gretchen Anderson

The fate of any change effort depends on how leaders engage their culture. The Critical Few lays out the Katzenbach Center’s proven methodology for identifying your culture’s four most critical elements: traits, keystone behaviors, authentic informal leaders, and metrics. By leveraging these critical few elements, you can tap into a source of catalytic change within your organization. People will make an emotional, not just a rational, commitment to new initiatives and you will elicit enthusiasm and creativity.

You Can Enhance Employee Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday
by Gregg Lederman

More than eighty years of research attests that humans have three primary cravings at work that, once fulfilled, make them happier and more productive: respect, purpose, relationship. You have the power to create an even better place for your employees to work by showing people that they matter and that what they do matters. In CRAVE, you’ll find a field-tested and science-backed pathway to improving engagement and the customer experience – and you’ll be able to offer more of what people crave!

Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most
by Robert J. Anderson & William A. Adams

Scaling Leadership is the just-in-time guide for those in positions of senior leadership who need to transform their organizations. Drawing on a huge international database of senior leaders providing 360-degree written feedback to fellow senior leaders, Scaling Leadership distills lessons from successful leaders into a powerful and universal leadership framework that will let you chart your specific path of development.

Cracking the Code to Customer Devotion
by Sandy Rogers, Leena Rinne & Shawn Moon

In Leading Loyalty, co-authors Sandy Rogers, Leena Rinne and Shawn Moon have identified the key differentiators of loyalty-leading organizations. Leading Loyalty helps you infuse the principles of empathy, responsibility, and generosity into every employee and customer interaction, and reveals the practices of everyday service heroes – the customer-facing employees who cultivate bonds and lift revenues through the roof. It’s time to invest in building loyalty – this book will show you the way.

Embrace, Learn, and Adapt to Failure As a Way to Success
by Bill Wooditch

In Fail More, author Bill Wooditch provides the knowledge, insight, and tools needed to use every failure – large and small – to actually create a successful business, career, and life. By embracing failure, not just “getting past it,” you will outrun your competition, whether you’re building a startup, advancing in your career, or improving your personal life. The most underrated tool for success is failure. Now, you have a pragmatic program for turning failure today into profits and growth tomorrow.

The Key to Personal and Professional Change
by Bill Wiersma

Identity, with its unique ability to reveal our better angles, breeds confidence sufficient to fuel desirable change. The Power of Identity takes the central principle (identity) from author Bill Wiersma’s groundbreaking book The Power of Professionalism and deepens its application to individuals and organizations alike, demonstrating how identity is a powerful agent of change in every aspect of a person’s life.

The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace
by John C. Maxwell

In Leadershift, John C. Maxwell helps leaders gain the ability and willingness to make leadership changes that will positively enhance their organizational and per­sonal growth. He does this by sharing the 11 shifts that leaders need to be successful over the course of their careers. Each shift has the potential to change a leader’s trajectory, set them up for new and exciting achievements, and strengthen and sustain their leadership abilities.

How to Become Someone Worth Following
by Jeremie Kubicek & Steve Cockram

In The 100X Leader, global leadership experts Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram suggest that if you want to get the best out of people, you have to be willing to fight for your highest good, even at a personal cost. They explain what makes such leaders unique, how to become that person yourself, and how to share the same gift with others. The 100X Leader will help you become a leader worth following and empower you to provide practical tools and techniques for developing unforgettable leaders.

How to Create a Movement That Drives Transformational Change
by Greg Satell

In Cascades, innovation expert Greg Satell presents a guide for driving transformational change. What you need is a cascade: small groups that are loosely connected but united by a common purpose. When they synchronize their collective behavior as networks, they become immensely powerful. Satell gives examples of past and present movements and explains why and how some succeed while others fail.

How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation
by Dan Schawbel

In Back to Human, Dan Schawbel uses his exclusive research to reveal that virtual communication contributes to a stronger sense of isolation at work than ever before. To change this culture, leaders will need a more socially connected workforce, which will create greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while preventing burnout and turnover. Back to Human is a call to action to leaders to make the workplace a better experience for all of us.

Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition
by Neil Sahota & Michael Ashley

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is here and it will change business and life as we know it. The best business leaders see it as an opportunity. Own the A.I. Revolution delivers the information and insight you need to understand it, embrace it, and leverage it before your competition does. Authors Neil Sahota and Michael Ashley share A.I.-focused strategies, tactics for training staff, case studies, and insight into ways A.I. will transform the world in coming years.

How You Can Prevent Unconscious Bias, Sexual Harassment, Ethics Lapses, and Inspire a Healthy Culture
by Patti Perez

In The Drama-Free Workplace, attorney and HR expert Patti Perez reveals the secret to avoiding all forms of drama, legal exposure, and low morale is creating a healthy workplace culture. She helps organizations understand the causes of and the solutions to problems related to sexual harassment, bias and diversity, and ethics lapses; how to practice fearlessness, fairness and freedom; anticipate and prevent situations that give rise to drama; and use emotional intelligence to communicate persuasively about sensitive topics. The practical tools she shares will help all your employees to feel valued and motivated.

How Established Companies Turn the Tables on Digital Disruptors
by Todd Hewlin & Scott Snyder

Goliath’s Revenge presents an insider’s view of how industry leaders are accelerating innovation, building new skills, and disrupting themselves to come out stronger in this post-digital age. This valuable resource shows how to realign your business model, reset your talent development priorities, and retake market share lost to digital-ready competitors. By following six new rules of innovation, you can reset your company’s strategy to become a digital disruptor and carve your future leadership position.

How Visionary Leaders Keep Their Organization Focused on What Matters Most
by Scott Stawski & Jimmy Brown

The Power of Mandate explains the basic principles and philosophy of Mandate Driven Leadership, including creative disruption and sheer willpower, to implement a vision and strategy. Authors Scott Stawski and Jimmy Brown show that the most radically successful companies are the ones that defy groupthink and break the mold. The winners in our digital economy are the disruptor innovators such as Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Bill Gates and many others, who have changed entire industries and sustained consistent innovation.

The Four Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership
by Alden Mills

SEALs and civilians operate in extremely different environments, but what makes both kinds of teams excel comes down to the same thing: service to others, trust, empathy, and a caring environment. Unstoppable Teams shows managers at every level, at both large and small organizations, how to inspire, motivate, and lead the people around them. It’s the handbook for how to build care-based teams that will push people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Ten Skills for Agile Leadership
by Edward Morrison, Scott Hutcheson, Elizabeth Nilsen, Janyce Fadden & Nancy Franklin

Today’s challenged leaders need to understand how to design and guide effective collaborations that cross boundaries both inside and outside organizations to accelerate innovation and change. Strategic Doing introduces 10 skills that are explained in detail and show how individual skills are used as part of an effective collaboration. Strategic Doing outlines a new discipline of leadership strategy specifically designed for open, loosely connected networks.

High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports
by David Meltzer

Game-Time Decision Making provides everything you need to improve your decision-making game and build a championship-level business. It takes you step by step through the process of putting together an all-pro team with diverse skillsets, building a positive mindset that will overwhelm the competition, developing a keen awareness of “the playing field,” creating both offensive and defensive strategies for brand and marketing, and more.

50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture that Can Adapt to Change
by Kursat Ozenc & Margaret Hagan

Rituals are powerful tools: They reinforce good habits, motivate personal and professional achievement, create a common bond between co-workers, and build shared values. A ritual is only effective when its purpose is clearly defined. In Rituals for Work, Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan provide a blueprint for building a culture of engagement, innovation, and shared purpose for organizations of all sizes, across industries. It is a resource that will inspire executives, managers, team leaders, and employees of every level.

Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals
by Susan Fowler

Science tells us that satisfying three basic needs – for choice, connection, and competence – is essential to optimal motivation. In Master Your Motivation, Susan Fowler says that motivation is energy, and what matters is the quality, not the quantity. Drawing on the latest empirical knowledge, she proves that high-quality, optimal motivation is a skill that you can learn. Master Your Motivation shows you how to identify and shift the quality of your motivation in order to achieve success.

How Organizations Lose their Energy and How to Get It Back
by Tom Roth & Steve Buchholz

Employees can often lose their way amidst change. Various factors contribute to employees unplugging: experiencing change as loss, repetitive change leading to fatigue and/or apathy, becoming overwhelmed because of additional work, low work satisfaction, and feeling poorly led. Unplugged provides a fresh look at engagement as a choice that employees make based on how they perceive the change they are faced with and how much discretionary energy they will give to the endeavor. Leaders also need to understand what to do.

5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging
by Joseph Michelli

In The Airbnb Way, author Joseph A. Michelli describes how innovative leaders have managed to build a unique brand by inspiring and engaging a community of hospitality entrepreneurs?a feat unparalleled in the shared economy. Michelli shares five essential concepts that underpin outstanding Airbnb experiences and shows how these can be leveraged by any business that wants to deliver technology-aided, human-powered experiences, disrupt an established industry, retain strong market position, or improve sales or service.

How Top Leaders Engage and Retain Their Best Performers
by Christopher Mulligan & Craig Taylor

Without taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Talent Keepers offers proven suggestions, ideas, and strategies for forward-thinking leaders who want to create a vibrant workplace environment. Authors Christopher Mulligan and Craig Taylor – of the acclaimed TalentKeepers organization – explore the winning approaches that are designed to create the kind of engagement that produces perpetual positive energy, energizes others, and leads to commitment and loyalty.

Let us know in the comments area below which of these books you’ve already read and which are on your reading list. And, keep your eyes open – our editors have already identified some great books that we’ll be summarizing in 2020 – so stay tuned … In the meantime, feel free to take a look at the 2018 list of Best Business Books.


Soundview subscribers get in-depth summaries of the key concepts in best-selling business books (like the books listed above) delivered to them every week! Take your career to new heights by staying up-to-date with the trends and ideas affecting business leaders around the globe. Download a free sample now.