The Best Business Books of 2020

December 17, 2020

As you know, every year our team of writers and editors scour through thousands of business books and select the titles that we believe have the ideas and concepts that are instrumental to the professional development of our subscribers. For each one of those books, we create a quick-read/quick-listen summary that highlights only the most important aspects of each book.

2020 Best Book

Listed below are the 30 books that we selected in 2020. These books cover traditional business topics like innovation, leadership, and teamwork in one way or another. There are also a few that tackle more recent business trends such as workplace culture, hiring practices, negotiation, and storytelling. There’s a little something for everyone!

These are our 30 Best Business Books of 2020:

The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team
by Scott Miller, Todd Davis & Victoria Roos Olsson

Franklin Covey’s Everyone Deserves a Great Manager delivers the guidance you need when you’re promoted: the support, understanding, strategies, and tactics to develop as a leader and turn your people into an engaged, high-performing team. Based on nearly a decade of research, the six critical practices that are identified will give you a head start in building the competence and confidence you need to succeed as a first-time manager.

Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail
by Charlene Li

Charlene Li shows that organizations don’t have to be tech startups or have the latest innovations to transform. They need to develop a disruptive mindset that permeates every aspect of the organization. The Disruption Mindset lays out how to do it by focusing on three elements: a strategy designed to meet the needs of future customers; leadership that creates a movement to drive and sustain transformation; and a culture that thrives on disruptive change. Leaders at all levels will be inspired to answer the call to lead disruptive transformation in their organizations, communities, and society.

Explain Data and Inspire Action Through Story
by Nancy Duarte

In DataStory, Nancy Duarte explains the unique power of stories, which make the brain light up in ways that no other form of communication does, and how using story frameworks to communicate data will encourage others to act on your recommendations. Duarte also decodes how the highest performing brands communicate with data, to teach you the most effective ways to turn your data into narratives that blend the power of language, numbers, and graphics. It’s not about visualizing data; instead, you’ll learn how to transform numbers into narratives that drive action.

by John C. Maxwell

Maxwell unveils how to successfully navigate the challenges of working for a bad boss. Learn how to position yourself for current and future success, take the high road with a poor leader, avoid common pitfalls, work well with teammates, and develop influence wherever you find yourself. How to Lead When Your Boss Can’t (or Won’t) will show you how to lead – even in the most challenging situations.

Unlock Your Power to Influence, Lead, and Create the Impact You Want
by Anese Cavanaugh

Everyone in an organization is a leader. How you show up matters – your intentions, energy, and presence as a leader sets the tone, creating a positive or negative culture and results. In Contagious You, Anese Cavanaugh offers the tools and inspiration to become a dynamic leader who has the power to influence and create the impactful change you want to experience. Discover how you can be contagious.

Living and Leading When Nobody Can Focus
by Joseph McCormack

Pulled in a dozen directions in the current digital age, managers and business leaders often struggle to address important issues and to focus on everything that needs attention. Noise teaches managers and leaders how to help themselves and others sharpen their focusing skills. Author Joseph McCormack explains how noise compromises short-term and working memory and he offers effective techniques to hone focus and reduce interference. Noise is a valuable resource for leaders and managers seeking to develop laser-sharp focus and apply it to everything they do.

8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success
by John Eades

In Building the Best, LearnLoft CEO John Eades takes you on a journey of transformation that will equip you with the tools you need to become the kind of cutting-edge leader today’s workplace needs. Eades describes how successful leaders elevate others and how their practices pay huge dividends. At the core of such leadership is a carefully balanced blend of “love and discipline” – a guiding principle that helps create high levels of performance by leaning on standards while at the same time caring about the long-term success and well-being of each team member.

Accelerating Change by Getting Accountability Right
by Tanner Corbridge, Jared Jones, Craig Hickman & Tom Smith

The team at Partners In Leadership applies 30 years of proven success to a whole new concept: Propeller. This book presents a modern take on accountability while remaining faithful to the elegantly simple premise: When people take personal ownership of their organization’s priorities and accept responsibility for their own performance, they become more engaged and perform at a higher level. With all new examples and stories, Propeller builds on the The Oz Principle’s legacy to inspire the next generation of readers to tap the incredible power of personal, team, and organizational accountability.

52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work
by Melanie Katzman

Strong relationships are the bedrock of lasting success, meaning, and joy at work. In Connect First, Dr. Melanie Katzman shows you an impactful approach to connect first as fellow humans, then as co-workers and colleagues, to forge the deep bonds that make a significant difference. Katzman presents actions that you can take immediately to create a deeply rewarding work life by connecting to yourself, your organization, and the world at large.

How to See What Others Miss, and Win the Future
by Rohit Bhargava

Non-Obvious Megatrends is about what it takes to see what no one else sees. It is also about developing a mindset of curiosity and thoughtfulness. The key to growing your business or propelling your career into the next decade lies in better understanding the present. The future belongs to non-obvious thinkers, and using his 10 years of research, Rohit Bhargava is your guide to becoming one. Rohit shares his signature Haystack Method for identifying trends and teaches you how to curate and predict trends yourself.

The Ultimate Guide to Powerful Closing and Sales Negotiation Tactics that Unlock YES and Seal the Deal
by Jeb Blount

Buyers have learned to access more information and have gained more control over the buying processthey almost always enter sales negotiations in a much stronger position than the salespeople on the other side of the table. In Inked, Jeb Blount levels the playing field by giving you the strategies, tactics, techniques, skills, and human-influence frameworks required to become a powerful and effective sales negotiator. He teaches you exactly what you need to know, do, and say to gain more control and more power over the outcomes of your deals, and win.

The Ultimate Digital Business Engine that Creates Extraordinary Value for Both Customers and Shareholders
by Ram Charan & Julia Yang

Amazon’s trillion-dollar success is the envy of everyone but is actually achievable by anyone. From high-velocity decision-making to top talent-hiring practices, the insider secrets of Amazon’s success are now within grasp. Learning Amazon’s system is as simple as six building blocks distilled by New York Times best-selling author and global CEO advisor Ram Charan and Julia Yang, in The Amazon Management System. Charan and Yang present concise, actionable advice that can help your business win in a new digital era that demands constant innovation.

Unlocking the 7 Secrets to Leading Others and Leaving Your Legacy
by John Mattone

In The Intelligent Leader, CEO coach and leadership guru John Mattone identifies the key qualities that, together, make up the mindset of great leadership. He presents seven dimensions of intelligent leadership and offers proven strategies to help leaders put them into action. From Mattone, you’ll learn how to embody the qualities, characteristics, and capacities of great leadership.

How to Grow from Top Performer to Excellent Leader
by Ryan Hawk

Popular leadership podcast host Ryan Hawk distills best practices for newly promoted managers from his in-depth interviews with over 300 forward-thinking leaders and his own experience of moving from exceptional individual producer to new leader. Welcome to Management provides a three-part framework outlining how to lead yourself, build your team, and lead your team. New leaders, and existing leaders who’d like to improve, will benefit from Hawk’s valuable research and practical management strategies.

Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life
by Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler

Optimal Outcomes reveals eight groundbreaking practices proven to help people everywhere free themselves from conflict. When situations resist resolution, the Optimal Outcomes Method teaches us conflict freedom. Dr. Goldman-Wetzler’s innovative method blends mindfulness, Jungian psychology, and practical, step-by-step advice to free anyone from seemingly impossible conflict. Applying the practices, you’ll reach your Optimal Outcome––which may be vastly different from what you originally imagined but more satisfying than what you ever dreamed.

Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities
by Patrick Lencioni

In this leadership fable, best-selling author Patrick Lencioni focuses on helping leaders to understand the importance of why they’re leading in the first place. Using plot twists and crisp dialogue, The Motive leads readers through a story of two rival CEOs to an enlightening resolution. Adding his signature lessons from the fable, Lencioni suggests how leaders can honestly assess their true motivation for leading and presents steps for changing their approach in five key areas.

A Self-Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs
by Tom Golisano

Tom Golisano understands the fears, risks, and challenges small-business owners face every day because he’s lived it. He has launched and grown his own successful businesses, including Paychex, and mentored dozens of entrepreneurs. From the importance of understanding your business and industry, to key questions for determining your choice of business, to fundamental principles for making deals and leading, Built, Not Born is essential reading for today’s entrepreneurs.

Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results
by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

Research shows that gratitude boosts employee engagement, reduces turnover, and leads team members to express more gratitude to one another thereby strengthening team bonds – but few executives effectively use this simple tool. In Leading with Gratitude, best-selling authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton identify the myths that cause leaders to withhold thanks and introduce eight simple ways managers can show employees they are valued. It’s a skill that everyone can easily learn.

10 Question to Focus Your Efforts, Energize Your Team, and Scale Your Business
by Michael Hyatt

As a leader, if your vision is compelling, people will apply their best thinking and effort to make it real. In The Vision Driven Leader, Michael Hyatt asks 10 simple questions to help you craft an irresistible vision for your business; ensure it’s clear, inspiring, and practical; rally your team around the vision; distill it into actionable plans that drive results; and more. Vision defines leadership. Learn how to create a good one.

The Art of Launching New Ventures, Inspiring Others, and Running Stuff
by Joel Peterson

To make a lasting impact, leaders will need to learn to launch new initiatives, inspire others, and champion innovative approaches. Joel Peterson lays out a path to do this guided by four core philosophies: establishing trust, creating a sense of mission, building a cohesive team, and executing and delivering results. Let Entrepreneurial Leadership show you the way to make important contributions and leave a mark on the business you serve.

Speak with Conviction and Write for Impact
by JD Schramm

Communication expert JD Schramm offers actionable advice to leaders at all levels of experience and confidence on how to deliver better presentations, effectively motivate teams, draft clear and concise emails, and ultimately become an influential speaker, a compelling writer, and a more effective communicator. Learn how to tailor your communication to any goal, setting, or audience and make it count. Communicate with Mastery shows you how.

How to Change Anyone’s Mind
by Jonah Berger

Change is hard, but catalysts can remove roadblocks and reduce the barriers to change. In The Catalyst, Jonah Berger identifies the key barriers to change and how to mitigate them. Learn how catalysts change minds in tough situations, such as how marketers get new products to catch on and how leaders transform organizational culture. Whether you’re trying to change one person, transform an organization, or shift the way an entire industry does business, you can learn how to become a catalyst to make it happen.

6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights
by Douglas Conant

Doug Conant, Founder of ConantLeadership, former CEO of Campbell Soup Company, and former President of Nabisco Foods, condenses his remarkable leadership story into six practical steps. The six steps outlined in The Blueprint are manageable and incremental, designed to help leaders work through the same steps that he used to transform his journey. Leaders who feel stuck and overwhelmed now have a blueprint for lifting their leadership to make meaningful change in their organizations and in the world.

Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders
by John C Maxwell

After leaders have invested in their own leadership growth, the best way to accomplish their vision and grow their organizations is to develop leaders. In The Leader’s Greatest Return, leadership expert John C. Maxwell shares the most important lessons he has learned about the leadership process over the last quarter century. He instructs readers in how to recognize potential leaders, attract leaders by creating a leadership “table,” position leaders to build a winning team, and more. Following Maxwell’s guiding principles, leaders will experience the compounding value of developing leaders and achieve the highest levels of leadership themselves.

12 Strategies to Improve Your Odds of Finding the Best Hire
by Chaka Booker

The interview is the cornerstone of the hiring process, yet science has shown the odds aren’t in your favor. Mastering the Hire will dramatically improve the one decision that determines everything you can accomplish–who you hire. After years of scientific research and first-hand interview experience with thousands of candidates, Chaka Booker has created a system that helps employers consistently make great hires. In Mastering the Hire, he provides 12 proven strategies that have been used to accurately identify the right talent 90% of the time. Booker’s method is for anyone who wants to beat the hiring odds.

How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates
by Karin Hurt & David Dye

Often leaders think they’re creating an open environment that encourages employees to speak up. However, people are often discouraged for saying the wrong thing and not rewarded when they say the right thing; so, they don’t say anything. In Courageous Cultures, authors Karin Hurt and David Dye provide a road map to build a high-performance, high-engagement culture around sharing ideas, solving problems, and rewarding contributions from all levels. Building a Courageous Culture can be your ticket to better results and competitive advantage.

Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation, and Intuition at Work
by Natalie Nixon

Creativity is the key to developing breakthrough products and services. In The Creativity Leap, Natalie Nixon writes that since humans are hardwired to be creative, it is a competency that anyone can develop. Innovative people in any field can apply a combination of inquiry, improvisation, and intuition to the ways they think through problems and work with others to continually increase their creative competency. Drawing on interviews with 56 people from diverse backgrounds, Nixon offers inspiring examples and techniques to unleash the creativity within all of us.

Successful Strategies from Business, Government, and Daily Life
by Joshua Weiss

The art of negotiation requires creativity and quick thinking to find win-win solutions, especially when the stakes are high. Joshua Weiss presents examples of actual negotiations to help readers envision what real negotiation is like. As a result, you’ll be better able to grasp the true power of negotiation to deal with some of the most difficult problems you face or to put together the best deals possible. The Book of Real-World Negotiations can be a valuable resource for current and future negotiators.

How Good People Fight Bias
by Dolly Chugh

In The Person You Mean to Be, social psychologist and professor Dolly Chugh reveals the surprising causes of inequality, grounded in the “psychology of good people.” Employing her research findings in unconscious bias and work across several disciplines, she offers practical tools to guide us on how and when to engage (and not engage) in our workplaces, homes, and communities. She leads us from willful ignorance to willful awareness. Ultimately, Dolly guides us closer to becoming the person we mean to be.

How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams
by Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy & Anne Chow

Bias is the result of mental shortcuts, our likes and dislikes, and is a natural part of the human condition. In The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias, the experts at FranklinCovey illustrate how your workplace can achieve its highest performance rate once you start to overcome your biases and allow your employees to be whole people. By recognizing bias, emphasizing empathy and curiosity, and making true understanding a priority in the workplace, you can unlock the potential of every person you encounter.

Let us know in the comments area below which of these books you’ve already read and which are on your reading list … which ones you loved and which ones you’ve recommended to colleagues. And, keep your eyes open – our editors have already identified some great books that we’ll be summarizing in 2021, Alternatively, you can always look back and see which titles were on our 2019 list of Best Business Books. Happy Reading!


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