Books on Leading Software Development

Business | . 5 min read (1106 words).

These are my top book recommendations on leading high-performance software development organisations. As a bonus, I also link to related online resources and videos for shorter summaries of the key ideas.



Pile of

There are a lot of good books about this, but most people have limited time to read. My goal here is to give prioritised recommendations of the very best books I know for anyone who wants to learn about organising and leading software product development well. I read a lot and these are all books that I have read at least once (often many times) and find absolutely outstanding.

By software product development, I mean software development and operations of ‘software products’ in a wide sense. Many general principles apply in all these situations. The top 5 books are the best general books to quickly get as much modern knowledge of this as possible in my opinion. I also recommend a few books on different specific topics for diving deeper.

For those with even less time or as a complement, I also link to some online resources and videos. These are great to show your teams too!

I’m using these books myself to brush up before starting a new job as CTO.

Top 5 books

In order of priority, these are my recommendations:

  1. EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products by Marty Cagan.
    • Leadership lessons from the product management expert Marty Cagan on product and engineering leadership. I wish more people read this!
  2. Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.
    • Describes how to organise software development teams for enabling empowered teams in a team-first organisation.
  3. Radical Focus - Second Edition by Christina Wodtke.
    • Introduction to OKRs for goal-setting across empowered teams.
  4. Doing Agile Right by Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, Steve Berez.
    • Great insights on how to succeed with agile and avoid common pitfalls.
  5. The DevOps Handbook - Second Edition by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, John Willis, Nicole Forsgren.
    • Great introduction to DevOps, which is another essential concept.

These are in order of priority. If someone wants to read fewer books, I would recommend starting from the top. Even the first book by Marty Cagan alone gives a great overview of most topics covered in the other books and will help anyone improve regardless of previous knowledge level.

Special topics

Here are additional book recommendations for specific topics to complement the above ones, in no particular order. These are my top recommendations for learning more about each topic. There are many topics left out here, so it is by no means complete.

Recommendations by topic:

Web resources

These resources are useful to gain knowledge related to the books recommended above:

Here are a few recommended video talks related to the topic, which are partially based on the books: