Curated Content | Thought Leadership | Technology News

Inspired Innovation: Books that Have Shaped Today’s Leading CIOs

Those who lead, read.
H. Michael Burgett
Contributing Writer

When innovation and insight are the currency of success, thought leaders must draw inspiration from various sources. Books, often referred to as the vessels of wisdom, have shaped minds, sparked ideas, and laid the groundwork for countless breakthroughs.

In this special feature, we’ve reached out to some of the industry’s most prominent technology leaders, to discover the literary gems that have inspired their careers and guided their leadership philosophies. These executives, entrusted with steering the course of technological advancement, reveal the pages that have shaped their professional journeys, often gifted to others, allow an opportunity to decompress, or simply influence the way they think, innovate, and lead.

Whether you are an aspiring tech leader or an established executive seeking fresh perspectives, this curated list promises to enlighten, engage, and perhaps even ignite your own passion for transformative change.

Beth O’Rorke, Chief Information Officer at Commonwealth Care Alliance

The book that I often gift to others, is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. That book has been so important to me at least four or five times when I have started a new role.

The biggest take-away is that what you’ve done in the past doesn’t make you successful in the future, so you really must reflect and determine the best course of action in each situation.

Other books I often recommend since they hit close to home are Authentic Leadership by Bill George and for those challenging times, Crucial Conversations by Patterson/Grenny. 

Tim Ryan, Chief Information Officer at Aegis Sciences Corporation

The Phoenix Project is a great book. Sometimes technology is treated as more art than science and we need to ensure that Information Technology processes are well-defined and repeatable.

I also like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team—an oldie but goodie—since it makes you realize that things are not always without conflict and organizations need conflict when it’s appropriate to change. Those two I recommend the most.

Then you have some of your traditional books, including The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, that most people should read.

Lonnie Snyder, Chief Information and Technology Officer for the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games

One of my favorite books is David Allen’s Getting Things Done. That changed my career trajectory by giving me a superpower for cutting through stuff and always staying on top of things.

When you’re in a stressful job and getting 200 emails a day, you’re responsible for big projects, and unless you have a system and a way to keep on top of it, you’re underwater and toast.

Jeff Shannon also wrote this great book called Hard Work Is Not Enough. That’s a good business book that I regularly recommend.

Darrell Riekena, Chief Information Officer at Colonial Pipeline

One book that I pull off the shelf to reread is called The One Thing by Gary Keller, who is in real estate. It is driven toward sales, but it is about focus and how you must set aside time to think big and be purposeful with your time. When you have so much going on, what do you do? This book helps answer that question.

The other one I recently read is Management Productivity Multiplier by Gerald Kraines. This book ties back to my philosophy of making sure people understand how their role contributes to the overall organization. That’s been a theme lately: how do you make sure your people are set up for success? How do you keep your eyes on the prize and make sure you are staying accountable to your peers and delivering results?

Harsha Bellur, Chief Information Officer at James Avery

The 2 books that have inspired and influenced me the most are:

Courage by Gus Lee – In his book Courage, Gus presents the principles that differentiate a “good” leader to a “courageous” leader. There are several examples and case studies presented and this has served as a good guide for me.  

Start with Why by Simon Sinek – In Start with Why, Simon emphasizes the need to be purpose driven and have clarity on the “why” we do something and how we can inspire and motivate our teams.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, is not necessarily a leadership book but a great read to understand Humankind.

Jerry Walker, Chief Information Officer at Oregon State Treasury

There are a few books that I often have my teams read.

Apple is a book about the missteps that the company made that allowed Microsoft to get ahead. Another one is High Tech High Touch. The author talks about how everything would become so high-tech, and everyone will fall in love with it, but at some point, it will break, and people will want more touch. Five Dysfunctions of a Team is another good one.

The one book I do give out frequently is The BDPA Story. BDPA started in the mid-70s in Philadelphia for black men in technology. Their mission is to grow diversity in technology. So, the book is a great plug for the organization and also a great read.

Another recommended book is Ursula Burns’, Where You Are is Not Who You Are. That is a fantastic read. Black in White Space by Elijah Anderson and Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change by Jennifer Brown are both really good. I would also recommend The Inclusion Revolution by Daisy Dominguez, and The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. As we think about the future of technology, Chip War is a final recommendation.

Antonio Marin, Chief Information Officer at US Med-Equip

One book I often revisit, especially when transitioning jobs, is You’re in Charge, Now What?. It chronicles the journeys of different CEOs as they join new organizations and construct their 100-day plans. It helps ground me, reminds me that my past success strategies may not apply to a new role, and underscores the importance of adapting to a new organization’s culture.

Another recent favorite is Goliath’s Revenge, which discusses how large companies innovate and defend themselves against startups. It covers not only technology but also business strategies essential for organizational survival.

Beyond professional books, I find profound leadership lessons in the Bible. It helps me put things into perspective, and I often refer to it during my travels or quiet moments.

Phil Crawford, Chief Technology Officer at CKE Restaurants

William Novak, Chief Information Officer at Meaden & Moore

I have always enjoyed reading fiction. Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors. He writes so well and keeps you engaged. For me the key to a good book is to keep me interested.

I absolutely recommend Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, Before You Leap by Kermit the Frog, and Holes by Louis Sachar. They have meaning behind them, and they’re very good stories.

Roxanne Seymour, Chief Information Officer at Beazer Homes

There are several authors from a nonbusiness perspective that I really love and that I really enjoy. I love James Patterson, David Baldacci, John Grisham, and Michael Conley. I thoroughly enjoy a great thriller and detective/police books. It’s a way to step into someone else’s job.

My favorite business book is Good to Great by James C. Collins. The one nugget from that book that I tie into everything I do is that you don’t need to be the smartest in the room and always to show some humility. No one is an expert at everything, so it’s all about relying on a great team to work together.

Aside from Good to Great, I also enjoy some of Sally Krawcheck‘s great motivational books, and I love Sherly Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. I regularly recommend those books to up-and-coming women leaders.

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