Top 20 Books for CFOs

CFO books

No matter your industry or role, continuous learning and education is critical for both personal and professional growth. Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school and enter the workforce. Instead, it’s a constant process of accruing knowledge and incorporating new concepts.

This is especially true for finance professionals and CFOS. Whether it’s new ideas, new regulations, or simply new sources of inspiration, CFOs need to stay up-to-date with changes in their industry, and also with wider trends.

Beyond that, CFOs can’t merely be focused on their own wheelhouse as financial professionals, but must also develop a wider understanding of the business landscape. CFO is a leadership position that is increasingly strategic and requires adaptation to changing circumstances, so it’s important for any CFO to have a broad base of knowledge.

To that end, we created this list of 20 books that every CFO can learn from. The books are divided into four categories:


These are books designed with CFOs in-mind to provide them with strategies, insights, and guidance to be successful.

The Successful CFO – Tony Tripodo

With deep insights based on 40 years of experience, Tripido shares the lessons he learned that helped him become successful. The book is focused on helping CFOs meet the needs of an increasingly demanding role that has taken on greater importance in recent years.

The Successful CFO

The Strategic CFO: Creating Value in a Dynamic Market Environment – Ulrich Hommel

With so many changes happening so quickly in the finance space and in the wider business realm, the role of the CFO has had to adapt just as quickly. This book looks at the impact of technology, new products, and changing markets and tries to help CFOs understand the dynamic landscape in which they need to operate.

The Strategic CFO

The Lean CFO: Architect of the Lean Management System – Nicholas S. Katko

Lean management has become an increasingly popular management style and this book helps CFOs understand how that approach can be integrated into their work. It also examines specific steps and changes to accounting practices that CFOs can take to help them enact the lean management philosophy into their organization.

The Lean CFO

The New CFO Financial Leadership Manual – Steven M. Bragg

With the CFO role being an executive position, there is a natural intersection of financial responsibility and the demands of leadership. This work aims to be a comprehensive guide for CFOs to navigate those two responsibilities while helping them understand the way their role must interact with other important players on their finance team.

CFO Financial Leadership Manual

Deep Finance: Corporate Finance in the Information Age – Glenn Hopper

Like all things, technology is having profound impacts on financial professionals and the way they work. New tools and platforms are dramatically changing the way CFOs approach regular tasks that were, until recently, labor intensive. Deep Finance looks specifically at the way technology is changing the role of the CFO and finance professionals more generally.

Deep Finance


The CFO is a leadership role. They not only have to lead a team, but serve an important role leading the company in its financial management. These recommendations will help CFOs understand what it means to be a leader.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

This classic work focuses first and foremost on helping individuals increase their own personal productivity and effectiveness. The qualities are invaluable to those in leadership roles and can help CFOs understand how to bring out these same qualities in their employees. Simple and focused, it has become well known in the professional world.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace – John C. Maxwell

Leadership isn’t a question of natural ability. It’s a skill that must be honed and developed over time and influenced by experience. Maxwell explores the ways change impacts leadership, and the techniques leaders can use to change themselves as trends shift. Staying nimble and adapting is critical.


Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek

Going to work can’t just be a simple question of what. Professionals today demand deeper meaning in their professional lives beyond the mundane everyday tasks that come with any role. Sinek examines the way meaning, and asking the question of “why” can help leaders inspire their employees to pursue more meaningful goals and ultimately contribute to greater success.

Start with Why

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization – John Wooden

There is perhaps no one that knew more about winning than famous UCLA coach, John Wooden. In this work, he shares his insights into leadership, and the lessons he learned from inspiring his players to reach the highest levels of success.

Wooden on Leadership

Disrupt-It-Yourself: Eight Ways to Hack a Better Business—Before the Competition Does – Simone Dhan Ahuja

“There’s always a bigger fish.” In the competitive landscape of modern business, there is always a chance that a competitor will come along and disrupt your business. One way to prevent that, is to disrupt yourself. Ahuja shares her experiences and lessons that can help leaders develop the tools to implement rapid and fundamental changes. It may be these changes that keep your business successful and ahead of competitors.



Change isn’t just something that happens in the business world – it’s absolutely necessary. Here are books that can help you understand how to leverage change and innovation to your advantage.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail – Clayton M. Christensen

Inherent to any successful company, is the tension between the existing factors that have driven success, and those that will carry the business forward in the future. Part of a series of books that have become a go-to source on innovation and its impacts, Christensen explores how companies often miss waves of innovation, and how you can prevent that at your own company.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Peter F. Drucker

Why they can be thought of as two separate disciplines, Drucker explores the intricate links between innovation and entrepreneurship. In the modern economy, they are impossible to separate and it demands a deep understanding of both from professionals looking to succeed. Even established businesses need to understand these processes and how they can be impacted, or disrupted by them.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom – Matt Ridley

What kind of political and cultural environment inspires innovation? In parts of the world where freedom is well established, innovation is also able to flourish. So argues Ridley in this book, that also explores specific historical examples of innovation, the unique circumstances that enabled them, and what lessons can be learned from those experiences.

How Innovation Works

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses – Eric Ries

Another example in the category of lean management, this work focuses on startups and how running lean can help them succeed. And while not every business faces the unique challenges of a startup, there are nevertheless powerful lessons to be learned about innovation from those that focus on it the most.

The Lean Startup

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal

One of the most important tasks for any innovator is building a product that sticks, that keeps the user interacting with it. CFOs have much they can learn from this work by Nir Eyal, and the ways that building products, or processes, that people are drawn to is a recipe for success.



While these works aren’t necessarily directly related to the day to day of being a CFO, they still can help anyone learn a bit more about what it means to be human. And after all, CFOs and their teams are just people who want to succeed.

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

An epic adventure across the world looking for treasure – what could be more inspiring than that? Well, the Alchemist pulls an interesting trick, helping the reader learn valuable lessons about the self, and that sometimes the treasure we’re looking for is hidden right in front of us.

The Alchemist

Zen Shorts (A Stillwater and Friends Book)

What can you learn from a giant panda? In this book for children, which can be enjoyed by adults as well, it turns out quite a bit. Stillwater, the panda in question, shares zen-inspired pearls of wisdom and life lessons that can help expand anyone’s horizons – whether they’re five or 50.

Zen Shorts

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins

This is Goggins personal story of how he climbed out of poverty and a difficult childhood to ascend the ranks of the US Armed Forces where he served in several elite units. His lessons on resilience, perseverance, and how to tap into all of your capabilities can provide inspiration for anyone.

Can’t Hurt Me

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown

In our multitasking obsessed world, it can be all too easy to try focus on a thousand things at once. But, perhaps the answer is instead to narrow our focus on the essentials. That’s the claim of this work that can provide you with new perspective on what is most important in life.


Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It – Chris Voss

What can you learn from an FBI hostage negotiator? Turns out quite a lot. Voss draws on his experience dealing with some life-threatening situations to help you understand how you can handle, less stressful, negotiations in your own life whether they’re personal or professional.

Never Split the Difference

Whether you find helpful information or inspiration in one of these books or, in a favorite book of your own, CFOs need to stay focused on finding new ways to help their businesses succeed. Continued education and knowledge building are key, especially in these challenging economic times.

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