5 Must-Read Books for Women Leaders
I’ve been in a book club of one form or another for more than 15 years. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to read. Now that I’m building my career, I often like to read books that focus on developing leadership skills.
The reality is that women make up almost half the workforce and yet in the S&P 500 only 5% of CEOs are women, 26% are Executives or Senior Level Managers and 37% are mid-level managers. But I’m not looking for books that tell me how to fit into a culture designed for men―I’m interested in books that offer insights on how to succeed while being authentic and true to myself.
The five books I’ve highlighted below take different perspectives, but they all are geared for women leaders. Take a look, and add them to your reading list.
While a few years old, this beautiful book holds up, compiling photos, advice, and inspiration from 100 women across all industries: architects, designers, tattoo artists, media titans, and more. Author Grace Bonney weaves together their real stories of what happens when you dare to lead and follow your dreams. Learn how these inspiring women followed their creative influences, overcame adversity, became entrepreneurs, and learned to run global businesses. In a world where accountability seems to be at a premium, I love this from Tavi Gevinson, Founder and Editor–in–Chief of Rookie, talking about the best advice she ever received: “Own everything.”
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
Brené Brown, 2018
Best-selling author Brené Brown, the woman behind one of the most-watched TED Talks ever, and a renowned a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, uses her decades of vulnerability research to support her thesis that truly great leaders support and encourage, rather than dominate. Brown asks, “How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?” As women continue to navigate challenging workplaces in the era of #MeToo, increasingly diverse colleagues, and the effects of AI, Brown reinforces the need for caring humans and dares to suggest that this cultivates better employees and better leaders.
So maybe the title and some of the text is NSFW, but what this book is safe for is motivating you to get out of your own way and step up to lead. This is the book that launched several others in the “Badass” series of motivational and self-help books. In it, author Jen Cincero, a world-traveling success coach, helps women overcome the “imposter syndrome” of feeling like a fraud and not believing they deserve more. Her prose is encouraging and relatable, with a healthy dose of honesty and a swift kick in the you-know-what. Cincero also includes practical tips and steps to understand your own behavior and how you can change it to create the life you want. This book is an easy read that will start that mental transformation from “I can’t” to “of course I can.”
Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
Arianna Huffington, 2015
What if success wasn’t measured by how hard you worked or how much you earned? What if being truly successful meant living a life you enjoy, treating yourself and others with compassion, and doing what makes you happy? In this book, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, who also founded Thrive Global, poses these questions and then makes the case that measuring success based on power and money is leading to epic burnouts, stress, illness, and weak relationships. Citing research showing that people are not only sleep-starved but suffering from stress-related illnesses, Huffington suggests that true success can be attained through meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving generously. It’s a book worth reading for anyone who seeks to climb the corporate ladder in a way that is healthy and helpful.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
Kim Scott, 2019
It may have a click-bait title, but this book is really about honesty and humility. A former leadership guru at Apple and Google, Kim Scott debunks the theory that a leader can’t be both strong and kind. The book’s blurb sums it up perfectly: “Radical Candor is about caring personally and challenging directly, about soliciting criticism to improve your leadership and also providing guidance that helps others grow. It focuses on praise but doesn’t shy away from criticism―to help you love your work and the people you work with.” To me, that’s a leadership strategy more people should embrace and practice.
Danielle creates marketing materials and digital content for social channels. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Danielle lives in Forest Hills, NY, with her teenage son.