Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

My Top Book Recommendations

The following is a list of ONLY my top reading recommendations. I know the list looks long, but I assure you these are just the very best out of my library. I have put the symbol ** behind my absolute favorites. If after you go through the list, if you notice that I am missing a book that you really love – please send me a note with the title, I am always on the look out for excellent books!

Top books on leadership

On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner **
Primal Leadership by Goleman
Leader to Leader by Hesselbin from the Drucker Foundation
The Leader of the Future by Hesselbin et all, from the Drucker Foundation
Flight of the Buffalo by James Belasco **
Servant Leadership by Greenleaf **
Leading People by Rosen and Brown **
Authentic Leadership by Bill George **
All of these are superb — I have another 50 when you finish these!

Top books on ability to generate sales

SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham **
The SPIN Selling Fieldbook by Neil Rackham (very powerful)
Integrity Selling by Ron Willingham **
Relationship Selling by Jim Cathcart
Changing the Game by Wilson
Consultative Selling by Hanna **
The Little Red Selling Book by Jeffery Gitomer (not the one on sales answers)
Stop Telling – Start Selling by Linda Richardson
How To Be A Rainmaker by Jeffery Fox (not his other How to… books)
Getting In to Your Customer’s Head by Kevin Davis
Customers as Partners by Chip Bell
Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith ** (great for selling services or virtual products)
Question-Based Selling Thomas Freese **
Bottom-Line Selling by Jack Malcolm (superb for understanding a customer’s financials)
Again – there are another 20 to add to this list – but these are a great start

Top books on running a great company
and general business knowledge

Good to Great by Jim Collins **
Built to Last by Jim Collins
Results Rule! by Randy Pennington **
Think Big – Act Small by Jason Jennings
Mavericks at Work by Taylor & LaBarre **
Great Places to Work by Levering
What (Really) Works by Joyce **
What the Best CEO’s Know by Krames
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters
A Passion for Excellence by Tom Peters
Liberation Management by Tom Peters
Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter by Clarke **
The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack **
The Ten day MBA by Steven Silbiger
Teaching the Elephant to Dance by James Belasco
If Aristotle ran General Motors by Tom Morris
Touchstones by William Band
The Knowing-Doing-Gap by Pfeffer and Sutton
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
The Goal by Goldratt
Tough Management by Martin
Small Giants by Burlingham
Warfighting by U.S. Marine Corps Staff – Gen. Gray **

Top books on customer service

At America’s Service by Karl Albrecht **
Service America by Karl Albrecht **
Customers for Life by Carl Sewell **
Quality is Free by Philip Crosby
Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service by Bell & Zemke
Managing Knock Your Socks Off service by Bell & Zemke
The Service Edge by Zemke
Lesson in Excellence from Charlie Trotter by Clarke (also above in general business books)
The Customer Driven Company by Richard Whiteley **

Top books on negotiation

Negotiate THIS by Herb Cohen
Think Before You Speak, by Lewicki
Getting To Yes, Fisher, Ury
Negotiating Rationally by Bazerman and Neale
Gain the Edge by Martin E. Latz
The Intelligent Negotiator by Craver

Top books on team building

The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith**
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Lencioni

Top books on dealing with conflict

Crucial Conversations by Patterson
Difficult Conversations by Stone
Crucial Confrontations by Patterson
Effective Communication Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals by Chambers
The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Elgin

Top biographies of people
who have built successful businesses

Nuts — about Southwest Airlines
Pour Your Heart into It — about Starbucks – by Howard Schultz
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance — by Lou Gerstner
Moments of Truth by Jan Carlson**
Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove
Augustine’s Laws by Norm Augustine

Top books on life balance, self-motivation,
happiness and success

A Strategy for Daily Living – by Ari Kiev **
Quantum Leap Thinking by James Mapes
Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders (yes, this is a business book)
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
As a Man Thinkth by James Allen **
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey **
Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins
True Success by Tom Morris
Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman
Taking Responsibility by Nathaniel Brandon
The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz
You Can Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson **
Living, Loving and Learning by Leo Buscaglia ********
Managing Your Mind by Butler & Hope
Awareness by Anthony De Mello **
Empires of the Mind by Dennis Waitley
The Breakthrough Factor by Henry Marsh
Getting Things Done by David Allen

Top biographies

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Last Lion by William Manchester (Churchill)
John Adams by David McCullough
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis

I also do a lot of reading on advertising, marketing and branding – so if you want a book recommendation on any of those topics, just send me a note.


  1. Do you know that Collins/Porras has just launched a sequel to Built to Last?


  2. Cool – I had not heard — what is the topic?

  3. John,
    I met you in Jacksonville with the Haven Homes group. I have taken your advice an have read 5 books in Jan. . I am very interested in the subject of “Integrity”. I just finished Henry Clouds book on the subject and wondered if you knew of any other books on this.
    It seens to me this the core of everything in life…I have read a book on Starbucks and Enterprise Car and this all seems to me to be a matter of Integrity.
    Anyway hope to see you again soon.

  4. Rick == thanks for the note — congrats on the reading — I am sure it will help you in many ways. As to the topic of Integrity there are several books that are focused on it — my favorite is “Authentic Leadership” by Bill George — it is on my list — I highly recommend it. I also just finished a book called “Mavericks at Work” – more on the social aspects of corporate leadership — but some nice discussion on values and integrity in it too.

    I agree with you comments – integrity is at the core — another word often used is “Credibility” == a close cousin of integrity — but it all comes down to: do your actions match your words – do you truly walk the talk.

    Unfortunately it is far too rare that I meet senior leaders that hit this mark 100%. It is a tough challenge in today’s work world — but one worth pursuing with vigor — integrity id key.

    Thanks for the comments — keep em coming – John


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