The Best Business Books of 2021

December 9, 2021

Each year the team here at Soundview scours through thousands of business books and selects the titles that we believe have the ideas and concepts that can make a profound impact on the professional development of our subscribers. For each book selected, we create a 4- to 8-page summary (plus a 10-minute audio file) that highlights only the most important aspects of each book.

2021 Best Book Logo

Listed below are the books that we selected in 2021. These books all cover traditional business topics like management, leadership, and teamwork in one way or another. There are also a few that hone-in on more recent business topics such as workplace culture, remote work, entrepreneurship, and managing change. There’s a little something for everyone!

The 30 Best Business Books of 2021:

Around the Corner Around the World

A Dozen Lessons I Learned Running Dunkin’ Donuts
by Robert Rosenberg

In Around the Corner to Around the World, Robert M. Rosenberg shares his insider perspective on all the dramatic highs and lows that are part of the Dunkin’ Donuts story, to guide you to your own success. Let Rosenberg’s compelling story inspire you to create your own.

The Insider's Guide to Culture Change Book

Creating a Workplace the Delivers, Grows, and Adapts
by Siobhan McHale

In The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change, acclaimed culture transformation expert and global executive Siobhan McHale shares her proven four-step process to demystifying culture transformation and initiating positive change. McHale walks readers through the process to culture transformation, including how to analyze where your culture is broken, reframe roles within your company, break deeply embedded patterns, and consolidate gains.

The Adaptation Advantage Book Summary

Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive in the Future of Work
by Heather McGowan & Chris Shipley

The Adaptation Advantage explains the profound changes happening in the world of work and posits the solution: new ways to think about careers that detach our sense of pride and personal identity from our job title and connect it to our sense of purpose. Activating purpose, the authors suggest, will inherently motivate learning, engagement, empowerment, and lead to new forms of pride and identity throughout the workforce.

Undaunted Book Summary

Overcoming Doubts and Doubters
by Kara Goldin

Kara Goldin turned her unsweetened flavored water into one of the most successful beverage businesses of our time. In Undaunted she shares stories about her own fears and doubts, the challenges she encountered, and what she did to overcome them to eventually build a great business and a life she loves. Part autobiography, part business memoir, and lots of insights on self-development, Undaunted offers inspiring stories that impart lessons that any reader can apply to their own path.

Winning Now Winning Later Book Summary

How Companies Can Succeed in the Short Term While Investing for the Long Term
by David Cote

Business leaders often take actions that prop up earnings in the short term but compromise their companies’ long-term health. Upon becoming Honeywell’s CEO in 2002, David M. Cote encountered an organization on the verge of failure. To turn the company around, he and his team adopted bold operational reforms and counterintuitive leadership practices that enabled them to pursue strong short- and long-term results. The outcome was phenomenal. Presenting a comprehensive solution to a perennial problem, Winning Now, Winning Later is a go-to guide for leaders everywhere who seek to leave an enduring legacy of success.

The Phoenix Encounter Method Book Summary

Lead Like Your Business Is on Fire!
by Ian Woodward, Paddy Padmanabhan, Sameer Hasija & Ram Charan

Written with a sense of urgency and purposefully radical provocation, The Phoenix Encounter Method presents a methodology based on extensive research and field testing. Whatever your sector or industry, if you’re responsible for your organization’s ability to use change as a transformative opportunity, you’ll appreciate the dramatic impact The Phoenix Encounter Method will have on you, your leadership, and your organization.

The Hidden Psychology of Social Networks Book Summary

How Brands Create Authentic Engagement by Understanding What Motivates Us
by Joe Federer

Why do people act differently in various online spaces, and what do they seek from participating in each one? In The Hidden Psychology of Social Networks, author Joe Federer draws on evolutionary biology, anthropology, neuroanatomy, psychology, and extensive hands-on experience to answer these questions. Fascinating and deeply compelling, The Hidden Psychology of Social Networks will help you to make more efficient use of your media buys, establish more thoughtful strategies, develop better creative material, and deliver more effective marketing.

Ruthless Consistency Book Summary

How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change, and Build Organizations that Win
by Michael Canic

In Ruthless Consistency, author Michael Canic identifies the three surprising reasons most strategic change initiatives fail: Leaders unwittingly send mixed messages that demotivate their people and undermine those initiatives. Leaders focus on what they do instead of what their people experience. Leaders are not as committed as they think they are or need to be. The antidote to these problems? Ruthless consistency.

Empowered Book Summary

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products
by Marty Cagan & Chris Jones

What is it about the top tech product companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix, and Tesla that enables their record of consistent innovation? The real advantage is not so much who they hire but, rather, how they enable their people to work together to solve hard problems and create extraordinary products. The goal of this book is to provide you, as a leader, with everything you’ll need to create just such an environment. Empowered puts decades of lessons learned from the best leaders of the top technology companies in your hand as a guide. It shows you how to become the leader your team and company need to not only survive but thrive. 

The Long-Distance Teammate Book Summary

Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere
by Kevin Eikenberry & Wayne Turmel

Written by the founders of the Remote Leadership Institute, The Long-Distance Teammate is the most authoritative single resource for helping remote workers get work done effectively, build relationships that are both productive and satisfying, and maintain a career trajectory when they are not in constant close contact with their leader, co-workers, or the organization in general. In short, there is a big difference between working at home and being an effective member of a team. This practical guide describes that difference and allows you to be a great remote teammate.

The Culture Quotient Book Summary

Ten Dimensions of a High-Performance Culture
by Gregory Besner

The Culture Quotient reveals the 10 essential cultural qualities that can help any organization prepare for and thrive in a constantly changing future. It focuses on helping companies achieve better financial results, increase employee engagement, and improve talent acquisition and retention. Author Greg Besner, founder of CultureIQ, also provides practical takeaways and tips to help readers implement culture programs at their companies. 

Quantum Marketing Book Summary

Mastering the New Marketing Mindset for Tomorrow’s Consumers
by Raja Rajamannar

Quantum Marketing is for all businesspeople who seek to understand how rapidly marketing is evolving, what some of the smartest people in the discipline are doing to get ready for this dramatic shift, and what the new world will look like for companies, consumers, and society as the race to develop revolutionary marketing strategies reaches a whole new level.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Book Summary

Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals
by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey & Jim Huling

The 4 Disciplines of Execution offers a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the whirlwind. The original book sold more than 500,000 copies; in this revised and updated edition, the authors have refined 4DX based on 4,000 implementations, with content targeted to leaders’ roles. By following the 4 Discipines, leaders can produce breakthrough results, even when executing the strategy requires a significant change in behavior from their teams.

Rituals Roadmap Book Summary

The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic
by Erica Keswin

Rituals Roadmap combines cutting-edge scientific research with examples from the most human companies, like Adobe, LinkedIn, and KIND, to show how they establish rituals during meetings, employee onboarding procedures, and daily interactions among co-workers. If you’re serious about employee engagement, Rituals Roadmap is your blueprint for creating a workplace full of engaged, connected employees who drive revenue and stay at their jobs long term.

Business Made Simple Book Summary

60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More
by Donald Miller

Author Donald Miller knows what it takes to grow a career and create a company that is healthy and profitable. His book, Business Made Simple, covers the key areas in which successful leaders and their businesses excel, such as character, leadership, messaging, management, execution, and more. This is the must-have guide for anyone who feels lost or overwhelmed by the modern business climate, even if they attended business school. Learn what the most successful business leaders have known for years, through the simple but effective secrets shared in this groundbreaking guide.

Marketing 5.0 Book Summary

Technology for Humanity
by Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya & Iwan Setiawan

Marketing 5.0 provides marketers with a way to integrate technological and business model evolution with the dramatic shifts in consumer behavior that have happened in the last decade. Following the pattern presented in the best-selling Marketing X.0 series, the authors cover crucial topics necessary to understand modern marketing, including agile marketing, artificial intelligence for marketing automation, segments-of-one marketing, contextual technology, and more.

Change on the Run Book Summary

44 Ways to Survive Workplace Uncertainty
by Phil Buckley

The only thing you can rely on in today’s workplace is uncertainty. Between mergers and acquisitions, layoffs and team shuffles, pandemics and recessions, only the nimble survive. Being successful in change is not about being perfect; it’s about being fast and effective so you can move on to the next task or challenge. Written for the time-strapped manager, Change on the Run will help you line them up and knock them down. It’s a laser-focused guide to navigating your way through disruption, without any time-consuming fluff or theory.

The Live Enterprise Book Summary

Create a Continuously Evolving and Learning Organization
by Jeff Kavanaugh & Rafee Tarafdar

For decades, leaders have been encouraged to run their organizations like lean, agile startups. They often place their bets on trends like digital transformation or design thinking. This is well-intended, but in isolation these trends are not enough. In The Live Enterprise, you’ll learn how to apply the benefits of the startup operating model – and go much further. This essential guide can help you create groundbreaking structures, response capacities, value chains, and more. It can help transform your organization into a constantly learning, ever-evolving industry leader.

The Lost Art of Connecting Book Summary

The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships
by Susan McPherson

In The Lost Art of Connecting, “serial connector” and communications expert Susan McPherson offers a simple, three-step methodology to help people go back to basics, tap into our humanity, and learn to be more intentional and authentic. With helpful tips and useful advice on making the most of every step, The Lost Art of Connecting is the handbook we all need to foster personal and professional relationships that blur the lines between work and play – and enrich our lives in every way.

Trampled By Unicorns Book Summary

Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It
by Maëlle Gavet

Trampled by Unicorns explores how technology has advanced humanity’s most noble pursuits, while grappling with the origins of the industry’s destructive empathy deficit. Author and leading technology executive Maëlle Gavet argues that the causes and consequences of Big Tech’s failures originate from four main sources: the Valley’s cultural insularity, the hyper-growth business model, the sector’s stunning lack of diversity, and a dangerous self-sustaining ecosystem. Yet, the book is not just an account of how an industry came off the rails, but also a passionate call to action on how to get it back on track.

The Introvert's Edge to Networking Book Summary

Work the Room. Leverage Social Media. Develop Powerful Connections
by Matthew Pollard

In The Introvert’s Edge to Networking, Matthew Pollard, an introvert himself, draws on over a decade of research and real-world examples to provide an actionable blueprint for introverted networking. In this paradigm-shifting book, you’ll discover how to overcome your discomfort through a clear networking system, use your strengths, connect with the right people, and much more.

Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership Book Summary

How to Make a Difference Regardless of Your Title, Role, or Authority
by James Kouzes & Barry Posner

A book about leadership for people who are not in formal or hierarchical leadership positions, Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership provides a comprehensive and practical approach to addressing leadership challenges, no matter the setting or circumstance. This book offers authoritative new insights, original case studies and examples, and practical guidance for those individuals who want to make a difference. You supply the will, and this book will supply the way.

Fix This Next Book Summary

Make the Vital Change That Will Level Up Your Business
by Mike Michalowicz

In Fix This Next, Mike Michalowicz describes how every business has a hierarchy of needs, and if you can understand where you are in that hierarchy, you can identify what needs immediate attention. Simply fix that one thing next, and your business will naturally and effortlessly level up. This book offers a simple, unique, and wildly powerful business compass that has already helped hundreds of companies get to the next level, and will do the same for you. Immediately.

The Business of We Book Summary

The Proven Three-Step Process for Closing the Gap Between Us and Them in Your Workplace
by Laura Kriska

A leader-focused new approach to understanding, managing, and maximizing organizational diversity, cultural difference, and inclusion, The Business of We provides a practical roadmap for creating trust with others who are different from ourselves—those who speak another first language, worship in another faith, or see a different reflection when they look in the mirror.

Conscious Leadership Book Summary

Elevating Humanity Through Business
by John Mackey

John Mackey started a movement when he founded Whole Foods, bringing natural, organic food to the masses and not only changing the market but breaking the mold. Now, for the first time, Conscious Leadership closely explores the vision, virtues, and mindset that have informed Mackey’s own leadership journey, providing a roadmap for innovative, value-based leadership—in business and in society.

Flux Book Summary

8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change
by April Rinne

A world in flux calls for a new mindset, one that treats constant change and uncertainty as a feature, not a bug. Flux helps readers open this mindset — a flux mindset — and develop eight flux superpowers that flip conventional ideas about leadership, success, and well-being on their heads. Whether readers are sizing up their career, reassessing their values, designing a product, building an organization, trying to inspire their colleagues, or simply showing up more fully in the world, enjoying a flux mindset and activating their flux superpowers will keep readers grounded even when the ground is too often shifting beneath them.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World Book Summary

Surviving and Thriving in a World of Digital Giants
by R “Ray” Wang

Which kinds of companies will thrive, and which will get crushed by the powerful forces in the global business landscape now at work? Drawing on original research and case studies from author R “Ray” Wang’s acclaimed firm, Constellation Research, Everybody Wants to Rule the World reveals how extreme consolidation is changing the global business landscape and how data-driven digital networks have driven the most successful companies. Ultimately, this book will help you understand how the business world is changing in the face of extreme competition. Most important, you will learn how to adapt now to stay relevant and in demand.

Decoding Greatness Book Summary

How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success
by Ron Friedman

For generations, we’ve been taught there are two ways to succeed – either from talent or practice. In Decoding Greatness, award-winning social psychologist Ron Friedman illuminates a powerful third path – one that has quietly launched icons in a wide range of fields, from artists, writers, and chefs, to athletes, inventors, and entrepreneurs: reverse engineering. To reverse engineer is to look beyond what is evident on the surface and find a hidden structure. Using eye-opening examples of top performers and groundbreaking research on pattern recognition, skill acquisition, and creative genius, Friedman reveals the staggering power of reverse engineering.

Impact Players Book Summary

How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact
by Liz Wiseman

In Impact Players, New York Times best-selling author and researcher Liz Wiseman reveals the secrets of these stellar professionals who play the game at a higher level. Drawing on insights from leaders at top companies, Wiseman explains what the most influential players are doing differently, how small and seemingly insignificant differences in how we think and act can make an enormous impact, and why—with a little coaching—this mindset is available to everyone who wants to contribute at their highest level.

Leading from the Middle Book Summary

A Playbook for Managers to Influence Up, Down, and Across the Organization
by Scott Mautz

Leading from the Middle delivers an insightful and practical guide for the backbone of an organization: those who have a boss and are a boss and must lead from the messy middle. Accomplished author and former P&G executive, Scott Mautz walks readers through the unique challenges facing these managers, and the mindset and skillset necessary for influencing what happens across the organization. You’ll learn the winning mindset of the best middle managers and how to develop the most important skills necessary for managing from the middle.

As the calendar flips to 2022, keep your eyes open – our editors have already identified some great books that we’ll be summarizing in the next year. Alternatively, you can always look back and see which titles we’ve summarized in the past. Happy Reading!


Soundview subscribers get 4- to 8-page 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. Sign up today and save 15%.