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Top 6 Leadership Books to Read in 2021 According to HackerRank’s CEO

Written By Aditi Chandrasekar | February 9, 2021

stacked and opened books with black background

"Perfection isn’t attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence” — Vince Lombardi

Good leadership is the key differentiator for any business, and there is plenty of material out there to prove it. 

To help narrow down your search, HackerRank’s very own CEO, Vivek Ravisankar, compiled a list of his top 6 book recommendations for improving leadership, striving for excellence, and practicing resiliency.

1. The Ride of a Lifetime, Bob Iger

Ride of a Lifetime book cover

In this book, Robert Iger shares the lessons he learned while running Disney, leading its 220k+ employees, and the necessary principles for true leadership. He shares how relentless curiosity fueled him for 45 years, since the day he started as the lowliest studio grunt at ABC. 

He also talks about thoughtfulness and respect, and a decency-over-dollars approach that has become the bedrock of every project and partnership Iger pursues, from a deep friendship with Steve Jobs in his final years to an abiding love of the Star Wars mythology.

“There are so many leadership lessons from this book, and it’s written as though you were sitting next to Bob all through his journey,” says Vivek.  

2. The Great Game of Business, Jack Stack

Great Game of Business book coverThis book tells a story about how a manufacturing company was turned around by a radical management style of extreme transparency.  

Jack Stack didn’t know how to "manage" a company, but he did know about the principal of athletic competition and democracy: keeping score, having fun, playing fair, providing choice, and having a voice.

With these principles, he created his own style of management: open-book management. The key is to let everyone in on financial decisions. 

Jack Stack is the president and CEO of the Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation, in Springfield, Missouri. The recipient of the 1993 Business Enterprise Trust Award, Jack speaks throughout the country on The Great Game Of Business and Open Book Management.

3. The Score Takes Care of Itself, Bill Walsh

Score Takes Care of Itself book coverBill Walsh is a towering figure in the history of the NFL. His advanced leadership transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to a legendary dynasty. In the process, he changed the way football is played.

Prior to his death, Walsh granted a series of exclusive interviews to bestselling author Steve Jamison. These became his ultimate lecture on leadership.

Bill Walsh taught that the requirements of successful leadership are the same whether you run an NFL franchise, a Fortune 500 company, or a hardware store with 12 employees. These final words of 'wisdom by Walsh' will inspire, inform, and enlighten leaders in all professions.

4. Principles: Life and Work, Ray Dalio

Principles book coverIn Principles, Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares what he’s learned over the course of his remarkable career. 

He argues that life, management, economics, and investing can all be systemized into rules and understood like machines. The book’s hundreds of practical lessons, which are built around his cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency,” include Dalio laying out the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams. 

He also describes the innovative tools the firm uses to bring an idea of meritocracy to life, such as creating “baseball cards” for all employees that distill their strengths and weaknesses and employing computerized decision-making systems to make believability-weighted decisions. 

While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.

5. Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael Singer

Untethered Soul book coverWhether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. 

You’ll discover what you can do to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness. 

By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness,  Singer shows how the development of consciousness enables us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

“A book that I reread every year. Particularly helpful for people going through stressful moments,” says Vivek.  

6. Loonshots, Sofi Bahcall

Loonshots book coverOver the past decade, researchers have been applying the tools and techniques of phase transitions to understand how birds flock, fish swim, brains work, people vote, criminals behave, ideas spread, diseases erupt, and ecosystems collapse.

 If twentieth-century science was shaped by the search for fundamental laws, like quantum mechanics and gravity, the twenty-first will be shaped by this new kind of science. 

This book talks about how great breakthrough ideas survive or die, across many industries and is the first to apply these tools to help all of us unlock our potential to create and nurture the crazy ideas that change the world. 


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