12 Must-Read Books for Aspiring CFOs

September 13, 2018
Andrew Ranzinger

It’s no secret that successful people read, a lot.

Top finance executives are no different from anyone else in the C-suite, so we asked Fortune CFOs which books had influenced their path in business and why they found those books so influential.

Here are 12 books top CFOs said shaped their thinking, changed their perspective, and gave them tools to succeed. 

The Mind of the Strategist: The Art of Japanese Business

“In this simple book, Ohmae outlines how to take any massively difficult, seemingly unsolvable problem, break it down into components, and then one by one solve the components with a Japanese way of thinking.”

—Carl Lukach, CFO of Univar

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

“Much more than a survival book, this book is full of lessons relating to risk management, creating mental models, the emotional versus the rational mind, and stoicism.”

—Ted Stalick, CFO of Mercury Insurance

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

“Extremely helpful on management situations (up and down), negotiations, and increasing self-awareness.”

—Jeff Barker, CFO of Taylormade Golf

Rites of Passage: Your Insider’s Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century

“The book is a guide for effectively using the top-retained executive search firms to advance one’s career. Rather than simply relying on networking, referrals, or waiting for a call from a search firm, I learned how to proactively get in front of the recruiters who were actively looking to fill the positions I wanted.”

—Tom Powell, CFO of Teleflex

Fit for Growth: A Guide to Strategic Cost-Cutting, Restructuring, and Renewal

“Provides a detailed, step-by-step approach to redirecting an organization’s resources and investments toward its few ‘differentiating capabilities.'”

—Mike Buckley, CFO of Nike Direct

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

“This book helped me put into context some of the challenges an organization faces as it undertakes a major initiative. It helps you navigate what motivates you and what may be a flawed sense of what is right, driven by not understanding where another person’s perspective comes into play and the reason why that individual has that perspective.”

—Anthony Scaglione, CFO of ABM

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

“This book underscores the need to reinvent yourself.”

—Sandeep Batra, CFO of Crompton

The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World

“Written by a Shell planning executive, this book is an excellent take on scenario planning, sensitivity analysis, and untethered thinking.”

—Mark Mey, CFO of Transocean

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

“This book helped define my management style and open my eyes to managing as I progressed through my career. The idea of hiring for talent and not experience is one that is very hard to wrap your head around on a fundamental basis, but has guided me in many of my hires over the years.”

—Anthony Scaglione, CFO of ABM

Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire

“Read the book and enjoy the history through the lens of analyzing the global governance your company has in place for growing and getting things done. The failures of one of the world’s most successful 400-year empires might provide insights for better governance over the operations and investments of your global company.”

—Carl Lukach, CFO of Univar

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

“Cause and effect explained beautifully.”

—Sandeep Batra, CFO of Crompton

The Core: Better Life, Better Performance

“A book on leadership based on learnings from the world of sports.”

—Eeva Sipilä, CFO of Metso

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