The Definitive Guide to Business

Converse CEO shares 3 business books that have shaped his career

Converse CEO Davide Grasso is "an omnivore when it comes to reading," he tells CNBC. "I read pretty much anything that comes to me, from sports and culture magazines to poetry and Edgar Allan Poe short stories."

"It's a good mental exercise," he says. "It keeps my mind agile."

When it comes to business books, three in particular have shaped his impressive career.

Davide Grasso, CEO of Converse
Courtesy of Converse
Davide Grasso, CEO of Converse

"Judgment," by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis

Of Tichy and Bennis's book, Grasso says, "It boils down to the fact that after we know all the techniques — after we know all of the operational procedures and we have evaluated all the quantitatives and even the intangibles — at the end of the day, key decisions are always driven by judgment."

The authors, who have spent decades studying leadership and advising top CEOs such as Jack Welch and Howard Schultz, teach you how to make the tough calls when the stakes are high.

The book gets you to think about "how to keep clear judgment, how to avoid being blindsided, and how to avoid being swayed in our judgment," Grasso tells CNBC.

"Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?" by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

Gerstner, the former chairman and CEO of IBM, tells the story of his unlikely turnaround of the tech company, which was on the brink of bankruptcy in the early 1990s.

"I was impressed about the book for three reasons," says Grasso. "One, he wrote it himself. There's no shadow writer. The second one is, he really resuscitated IBM from the grave. It was three months away from basically running out of cash.

"The third thing is, he did it by basically leveraging 80% of the management he found there, so he didn't clean house. He dissected what was working from what wasn't working and engaged people fairly quickly, saved the company first, and then turned it around."

"Winning the Brain Game" by Matthew May

"I'm fascinated by how our brains and our emotions work, together or disjointedly," says Grasso, which is why he's a fan of "Winning the Brain Game," which explains the seven "fatal flaws" of thinking, such as leaping to solutions that don't work or overthinking problems.

"It really shows how emotions, like fear, can affect the way we think," says Grasso.

May also offers strategies to overcome these "fatal flaws" in order to become more mindful and a better decision maker.