12 Intriguing Books on Harvard Business School’s Reading List

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Spring is near. Showing properties and leading homebuyers around will hit full swing in no time, which means lots of downtime between houses. This means there’s no better time to revamp your spring reading list than now. Question is … what should you read?


With so many business books to choose from, you could spend weeks just sifting through best-sellers, reading reviews, and narrowing down titles that interest you. Thankfully, BoomTown is coming to the rescue.


We believe success is a combination of what you do and how you do it. And there’s no better demonstration of success than the alumni of the Harvard Business School. Surprisingly, their curriculum focuses on leadership versus economics, marketing, and other general business topics.


For real estate agents and brokers, this is an important distinction. Because a lot of our work is solo-work intertwined within teams, these resources can be a vital asset for reaching new levels of success. So, without further waiting, here’s our suggested reading list for this spring.




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Scaling 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.


Many 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.


Playing 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.


Talent 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


The 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.


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Good 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.


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Duckworth reveals the secret to outstanding success in her new book, titled Grit. For her, achievement is not the culmination of talent, but instead a combination of passion and persistence labeled “grit.” For many of us who face rejection and struggle on a daily basis, this book will walk you through the crucible of challenges, demonstrated from all angles of life (including West Point cadets to teachers working in the hardest schools). By the end, you’ll learn how to make an optimal practice that leads to success. View the book.


Creativity, 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.


Team 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.


Your 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.


Arc 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.


The 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. If you want to learn more about BoomTown, visit our website.

Comments (13)

Mary Weiss
Zillow Group Mortgages - Seattle, WA
Trainer & Content Manager

I just finished reading Creativity, Inc. a couple of months ago. I have it high on my recommendations list as well - not only because it is a well-written and a compelling narrative, but because it also details the struggles Pixar faced in a candid way. It's a Cinderella story in its own right. There were many anecdotes detailing how Pixar tried and failed, tried again and later conquered. Their journey from a George Lucas startup to a Steve Jobs success and now Disney-backed company is intriguing and what I found most compelling was how Pixar values its people above all. They pave the way for other leaders in to employ a power-to-the-people stance as well. 


I hope to read many of the other books on this this list - thank you for sharing! :-) 

Mar 13, 2017 10:24 AM
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

Thanks for the list, I am currently putting together a reading list and wanted some more business type books.  Appreciate it.  Love BoomTown too! -Kasey

Mar 13, 2017 03:43 PM
Julie A. Black
KAUAI DREAMS REALTY Kauai Real Property Specialist - Kapaa, HI
CLHMS, CRS, GRI, Realtor, Broker

I love the title of the book "The No Asshole Rule". That has been my personal philosophy for a few years now.

Mar 13, 2017 04:53 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Steven,

Not sure, who you know, who has down time between showings? I will have to wait until next winter. It is already surprisingly busy & competitive in our market.

Mar 13, 2017 06:57 PM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Steven at BoomTown - excellent list - and 'Playing to WIN' it should be, isn't it?

Mar 13, 2017 08:55 PM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

(Quick question Steven at BoomTown - are there any audio versions of these books?)

Mar 13, 2017 08:56 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I've heard of creativity Inc. it was pretty good, from what I'm told. A lot of those look good!

Mar 13, 2017 11:46 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I know for a fact that some of them have been on audible.com Praful Thakkar I would check there first. They have a lot of them. :)

Mar 13, 2017 11:47 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

This is a terrific list. A couple of them really stand out - bookmarked so I can get started.


Mar 14, 2017 07:04 AM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Thanks for sharing a list of books that could educate and motivate us in our business.

I will have to check if any are audio books, for my drive time.

Mar 14, 2017 08:40 AM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I have read Team of Teams and I would recommend to anyone in business.

Mar 14, 2017 10:21 AM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Well this is a different type of blog!  very informative.  Going to check into a couple of these--thanks!

Mar 14, 2017 03:12 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Building a deceptively better business is very interesting concept kind of a unique perspective!

Mar 30, 2017 11:15 PM