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Summer Reading List: 5 Books for Leaders

(posted: July 27th, 2020)

[Any links in this post are provided as a courtesy to the reader. The reviews are my own opinions, all of the books were purchased, and I do not receive any kind of compensation if you click on a link!]

For this year's reading list, I decided to revisit some books that I consider classics.

These are books that I can dip into again and again for inspiration and reminders. Of course, I have many books that fall into that category, so to winnow the list I gave some thought to which titles would be especially helpful and appropriate at this unique and challenging moment in time.

Some of these books may be new to you, some you may have read, and others you may have put on your "to read" list but just not gotten to them. If you've read some of these, that's great! I urge you to go back and skim them for useful snippets of wisdom, or open to a random page to see the information in a new light. And if you've meant to read some of these, there's no time like the present!

Finally, there is one surprise bonus book at the end of the list. Some of you are in possession of this book already and know it's power. For the rest of you, read on to learn more!

Leaders: 5 Books for Your Summer / Fall Reading List

I've grouped the first three books on the list together, because Grit, Resilience, and Mindset are intertwined concepts that work together. If you can only read one book this summer, make it these three!

1.) Grit, Resilience, & Mindset

Grit, by Angela Duckworth - There are a lot of elements that go into success, but perhaps the most interesting and least understood is the one Angela Duckworth calls "grit": Persistence, perseverance, passion, determination, an ability to stick with something no matter the setbacks and obstacles. According to Duckworth, grit predicts success more reliably than talent or IQ, and the good news is, you can learn to be gritty! The author makes suggestions for how to develop the habits and traits that can lead you to succeed, and in a way that includes happiness. You can read more of my take on Grit.

Resilience, by Eric Greitens - Born out of correspondence with one of his former Navy SEAL comrades, whose life after his war service was falling apart, this book is about building resilience to have a purposeful life. We all have "frontlines," our own battles and challenges, though most of us don't experience the frontlines of war. Our frontlines may be a difficult work environment, a troubled relationship, or health issues. Greitens touches on finding direction and purpose, while also pushing through adversity and learning from it. Read a bit more of my thoughts on Resilience

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck - We all have either a fixed mindset ("my talents and abilities are unchangeable") or what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset ("I can figure this out, even though I've never done it"). The way you think, your mindset', influences how you succeed. Success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every other area you can think of is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. Most of us combine both mindsets, and, like grit, a growth mindset can be learned and developed. Read more and get some tips on Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

2.) Rising Strong, Brene Brown

We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage. Leaders who care, and who dare to risk for what they believe in, will fall. This book is about rising from those falls, acknowledging the pain of failure, learning, and risking again.

Rising strong is our clearest path to deeper meaning, wisdom, and hope. The book includes suggestions for putting the learning into practice, and even how to apply this at work as a leader. Find the book, here.

3.) Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, by Amy Cuddy

Have you ever found yourself on the spot, in a nerve-wracking situation, and choked? I have, and Amy Cuddy has, too.

In this book she demystifies executive presence (hint: it's all about being your genuine and confident self) and reveals that we can cultivate our own presence moment by moment, day by day. One of the keys is the Power Pose.

This book is a must for leaders and those who aspire to leadership roles.

Read more of my take, here.

If you're short on time, catch the TED Talk, here.

4.) Leading with Emotional Courage, by Peter Bregman

Much like Brene Brown, Peter Bregman zeroes in on the discomfort and risk inherent in great leadership.

Great leadership is hard, because to get from good leadership to great leadership requires emotional courage, something not taught in business school. Emotional courage allows you to have the difficult conversations, say the hard things, cut through the noise, and get hings done. This book is packed with practical tips and steps you can take to build this critical leadership skill.

One of the things that I love about the book is the super short, bite-sized chapters. You should read the book through from beginning to end at least once, but you can dip in and grab a tidbit of wisdom from any chapter when you only have a moment to spare. See the book, here.

5.) The 5 Dysfunctions of at Team, by Patrick Lencioni

The need for effective teamwork has skyrocketed in importance with so many teams working remotely for the foreseeable future.

In this short, readable book, Lencioni blends a number of important leadership concepts into a business fable. You'll see yourself, your team, and your teammates in the narrative, identify times when you've had similar experiences, and find the concepts hitting close to home. Everyone in leadership needs to know how to affect outcomes through effective teamwork, and this is one of the best places to start. The 5 behaviors start with a foundation of trust, which leads to productive conflict, commitment, accountability, and ultimately, results.

Many of my clients have turned their teams around with the help of this book. See the book, here.

Note: I'm really excited about a special event I've been working on for you, related to the Five Dysfunctions / Five Behaviors! We'll be sending out more information on that shortly, so keep your eyes peeled.

Bonus Book! Kristi's Little Book of Inspiration

This lovingly compiled book of quotes is not available in any bookstore. I created it to give to clients, colleagues, and friends as a token of gratitude, and to offer, as the title, says, some inspiration.

A recent recipient really said it best: "While I consider myself to be the consummate optimist, even I have my moments, especially during these dark times. I was having such a moment a few days ago when your book arrived! Holy crap, I felt like it was Christmas. And I don't even celebrate Christmas. Thank you so much for this inspiring book of wonderful quotes. It sits with me at my desk and helps me to stay strong."

As Marjorie says, these are dark times. To help boost optimism and banish darkness, I'll send a copy of my Little Book of Inspiration to the first five of you to contact me.

Please, if you already own a copy, give others a chance!

Reading for Professional Development

Even if you only read one book off the list, I know that you will find yourself energized, inspired and ready to go out and see the opportunities in our current challenge! Of course, if you are hungry for more classics of leadership, drop me a line. I have many more suggestions and I am always thrilled to share.

Challenge Yourself
  • Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your key takeaways?
  • What other leadership book, or books, do you consider classic?
  • What else is on your reading list now?
  • Please share your thoughts and additions in the comments below.

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