Leadership

Richard Branson shares the 5 best leadership books he read in 2016

Richard Branson at the 2105 CGI Annual Meeting in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Richard Branson at the 2105 CGI Annual Meeting in New York.

Self-made billionaire Richard Branson likes to peruse global affairs magazines, such as The Economist and The New Yorker. But "I've never been an avid reader of leadership books in general," he explains in a recent blog post.

That said, he has some stand-outs to recommend.

The Virgin Group founder lists five books he read in 2016 that helped shape his perspective on leadership. Consider adding these to your 2017 reading list.

"Winners" by Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell, the chief strategist for prime minister Tony Blair, knows what it takes to win. He helped lead his party to victory in three successive general elections.

In "Winners," Campbell draws on interviews with a range of successful people, from elite athletes to business magnates, to get to the heart of success.

It "highlights tangible lessons from a diverse range of interesting people," Branson notes, and is "filled with useful tips."


"If I Could Tell You Just One Thing" by Richard Reed

Richard Reed took Innocent Drinks from a smoothie stand on a street corner to one of the the biggest smoothie brands in Europe.

His success boils down to four pieces of advice, which he discusses in "If I Could Tell You Just One Thing."

"Scanning through the delightfully illustrated pages, I found so many wonderful pearls of wisdom from remarkable game-changers, from Stephen Fry to Andy Murray, Sir David Attenborough to Martha Lane Fox," Branson writes. "If you're looking for inspiration or useful life lessons, I recommend you pick up a copy."


"Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed

In "Black Box Thinking," Matthew Syed argues that success requires acknowledgment of, and a willingness to engage with, failure.

He discusses individuals and organizations that have successfully embraced what he calls a "black box approach" to improvement, including David Beckham and Dropbox.

It "highlights the need for a growth mindset in life," Branson says. "It advocates for changing attitudes towards failure, and understanding that the only way we learn is by trying things and altering our behaviour based on the results."


"Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck

"Travels with Charley" has been on Branson's bookshelf for decades.

In the book, author John Steinbeck takes a road trip with his dog Charley through nearly forty U.S. states and documents what he sees, who he meets, and what he learns.

"With his inimitable charm, it opens your eyes to the small pleasures of life, and the great wonders of humanity in the little moments that matter," says Branson. "Less a direction on how to lead, you could see it as a subtle guide on how to live."


"Ending the War on Drugs"

Finally, Branson includes a book he contributed to, "Ending the War on Drugs." It's a collection of twelve essays that show the impact of the drug wars on society and the global economy, and then discusses potential solutions.

"It brings together such a smart group of experts to explain why global drug policy reform is so important," Branson explains. "Attitudes towards treating drugs as a health issue, not a criminal problem, are changing fast. Anyone who reads this book will understand why."

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