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12 Intriguing Books on Harvard Business School’s Reading List

Harvard Business School Books

You’re really good at selling real estate and you’ve been doing it a long time. Like any closer, you’ve had this gut-feeling … it’s time to take the next step.

So, what is that next step? Thoughts like “How do I start a real estate team” or “What should I do to improve my business?” run wild. All those smarty-pants blogs (and smarty-pants coaches, for that matter) are telling you to build a system. Copy this or that operation. Follow what this person is doing.

But your spidey-sense is tingling. There’s a disturbance in The Force. You need fresh advice — proven expertise on how other businesses started and evolved. You’ve heard the real estate speeches. You’ve listened to the stories. You’re ready to get one step ahead of competitors.

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We’ve compiled twelve of the most intriguing books on Harvard Business School’s reading list (some from this year and some years previous). They speak of companies like Pixar and Procter & Gamble. They talk about amazing CEOs and the actions they did to turn their business around.

While compiling this catalog, we noticed one trend: It’s all about leadership. If you’re looking for a reading list to get your brain-operating-juices rolling, then this is it.


1Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less

Whether you’re looking to start a business or want to expand an existing one, this book will be your how-to guide. Having won numerous awards, there’s a reason Scaling Up Excellence is first in our list. Authors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao compiled years of interviews and research from various organizations into this work. Now, they reveal how the best leaders and teams develop, spread, and instill the right mindsets in their people — rather than ruining or watering down the very things that have fueled successful growth in the past. They unpack the principles that help to cascade excellence throughout an organization. View the book.


2Many Unhappy Returns: One Man’s Quest to Turn Around the Most Unpopular Organization in America

It’s 1997. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) is known as a corrupt, much-maligned agency who is mired in scandal and crisis. Now, you’re asked to step in and take leadership as commissioner of the IRS. The story of Charles O. Rossotti and how he transforms one of the most hated organizations into a positive agency is a tale every leader should read. If he can flip an organization of millions into a productive — but customer-service focused — machine, then think about what you can do from his lessons. View the book.


3Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

This book is a tale from the CEO of Procter & Gamble — and specifically how they leveraged strategy to win the marketplace (for their many brands like Tide and Pampers). If you need a beginner’s guide on business strategy, this book will do you service. They outline clear steps you need to do in order to win your own market. And, you’ll be surprised at the ideas you generate just from reading the material. Pick up this book if you want to learn where to play and how to win. View the book.


4Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty

In any real estate business, you want the best of the best (i.e. agents who can sell). Recruiting top talent is a constant struggle in any industry, and Peter Cappelli tackles this challenge with his book: Talent on Demand. Learn how to match your demand for talent with a supply of excellent team members. Peter shows you how to forecast hiring needs, develop talent as you onboard, and maximize the returns on your hiring investments. View the book


5The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

The title says it all. If your workplace is filled with assholes, then grab a copy of this book. Written by Robert Sutton, this book will show you how a real a-hole of an employee can poison the work environment, reduce productivity, and dampen motivation. And Sutton is plain on how to deal with them: Get rid of them. But besides using common sense on the matter, Sutton provides statistical research on why you should remove the sour apples. Even if the employee is a top producer, if they don’t fit, they don’t stick. View the book.


6Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best and Learn from the Worst

This book is a sequel to The No Asshole Rule, written by Robert Sutton. Before, Sutton argued how to handle “sour apples” in the workplace, but he also learned that bosses can be those as well. To lead a team — to handle assholes in the workplace — Sutton shows you how to be a good boss and shows you what to learn from the worst bosses. He pulls stories from Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, and A.G. Lafley, giving you direct access to unique wisdom. If you want to increase the impact of your team, check out this book. View the book.


7Judo Strategy: Turning Your Competitors’ Strength to Your Advantage

This work, by David Yoffie and Mary Kwak, takes the main principles of judo martial arts and applies it to business strategy. It drives home the ultimate principle of strategy: maximize impact while minimizing effort. The book answers the question: How do you compete with opponents who have size, strength, and history on their side? Their solution: Rather than oppose strength to strength, successful businesses use their opponent’s’ size and power to bring them down. Learn how to translate the core principles of judo – a martial art that prizes skill not size — into a winning business strategy. View the book.


8Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Have you ever wondered where all the ideas and creativity come from inside Pixar Studios? Co-founder and author, Ed Catmull, gives you a peek into the process behind stories like Toy Story and Inside Out. If you want to lead your team members to new heights, then this book is for you. Catmull goes against conventional advice and shows you how to really let teams excel. View the book.


9Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

In 2004, General McChrystal took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq and Afghanistan. He quickly realized conventional military tactics were failing against Al Qaeda, a decentralized network of enemies. Solving this issue meant revamping how the military organization worked and made decisions … decisions that would impact lives. After citing real-life examples, he shows you how the approach can improve business operations. If you are looking for a book to help you stay up to speed with the changing world, this is it. View the book.


10Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach

You think you have a winning business model — but do you? Co-authored by the Boston Consulting Group, this book will help you assess your business environment and define a winning strategy for taking the market. It’s meant to be a practical guide to implementing different strategic approaches for your business needs. It’s especially helpful since it gives room for you to think about how it applies to your area of operation. View the book.


11Arc of Ambition: Defining the Leadership Journey

In this book, you’ll learn how to harness your ambition to achieve new goals. As mentioned by the authors, there is an “arc of ambition,” where everyone starts with an idea and then turns over that idea to others to execute. But how you energize and mobilize people to help you realize that goal — that’s where you need to utilize your ambition. Check this book out for real-world examples. View the book.


12The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business

To cap off our reading list, I thought it’d be best to end with this book — a telling tale from Umair Haque. He makes a clear argument on how businesses have outgrown the old model of short-term growth, competition at all costs, and adversarial strategy. Following those old models only lead to “thin value” — something all real estate professionals should take note of. To create “thick value” — enduring, meaningful, and sustainable advantage — Haque shows you five keystones for doing so. To learn more, check out the book. View the book.


Let Us Know

Whether you read all the books or just one, let us know your thoughts! Share any feedback and recommend other books we should read via our Facebook channel or on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you, and make sure we’re sharing the right books that lead to your success.

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