Small B-cell lymphomas and leukemias (SBCLs) are a clinically, morphologically, immunophenotypically and genetically heterogeneous group of clonal lymphoid neoplasms, including entities such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), follicular lymphoma (FL), lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (LPL), marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) and hairy cell leukemia (HCL). The pathogenesis of some of these lymphoid malignancies is characterized by distinct translocations, for example t(11;14) in the majority of cases of MCL and t(14;18) in most cases of FL, whereas other entities are associated with a variety of recurrent but nonspecific numeric chromosomal abnormalities, as exemplified by del(13q14), del(11q22), and +12 in CLL, and yet others such as LPL and HCL that lack recurrent or specific cytogenetic aberrations. The recent surge in next generation sequencing (NGS) technology has shed more light on the genetic landscape of SBCLs through characterization of numerous driver mutations including SF3B1 and NOTCH1 in CLL, ATM and CCND1 in MCL, KMT2D and EPHA7 in FL, MYD88 (L265P) in LPL, KLF2 and NOTCH2 in splenic MZL (SMZL) and BRAF (V600E) in HCL. The identification of distinct genetic lesions not only provides greater insight into the molecular pathogenesis of these disorders but also identifies potential valuable biomarkers for prognostic stratification, as well as specific targets for directed therapy. This review discusses the well-established and recently identified molecular lesions underlying the pathogenesis of SBCLs, highlights their clinical relevance and summarizes novel targeted therapies.