Each year the Center for Values-Driven Leadership publishes a list of recommended reading for leaders who want to build flourishing, values-driven organizations. Previous lists include books on leading change, leading sustainability, and values-driven leadership in general. But some of our most used booklists of the past have been recommended reading for women in leadership.
This year, we’re updating our list of best books for women in leadership with titles recommended by successful women in a variety of industries: law, healthcare, education, technology, consulting, and more.
We asked women to tell us about a book that shaped the way they lead or changed the way they think. What follows are their recommendations. Note that most of the books are not specifically about being a woman in leadership; instead, these recommended readings contain insights that women (and probably all leaders) can find helpful as you build a career, respond to challenges, and elevate your leadership.
Do you have a favorite book for women in leadership that you don’t find here? Share it in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, for each book below we provide a link to its corresponding Amazon page. The CVDL receives no commission from your purchases.
Books for Advancing Women in Leadership
Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership, by Melissa Greenwell
Recommended by: Carla Worthey, Ph.D., AVP of Key Talent Acquisition & Development, HCA Healthcare
This book offers pragmatic approaches to getting more females into the C-suite and boardroom. The author breaks it all down into 10 simple steps, which are evidence-based practices that incorporate common tactics like mentorship, succession planning, leadership models, and practices that retain and promote your female talent. This book takes well established ideas and focuses on how to be intentional with your efforts to make change.
On Point, by Pam Borton
Recommended by: Heather A. Bailey, Partner, SmithAmundsen LLC
I know Pam and have seen her speak. She’s amazing. Pam’s book is not only inspirational but it has changed the way I manage my staff and work with my colleagues. It is an easy read but with much power behind Pam’s words and guidance.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
Recommended by: Georgia Dudley, Empowering Women Network
“Lean In” sparked an important conversation about women and leadership. Sheryl Sandberg’s advice coupled with the statistics given in the book give women information on the barriers they face and how to work around them. She partnered with McKinsey & Company, and since the inception of the book in 2012, each year McKinsey and Sandberg have published “Women in the Workplace,” a report dedicated to why women aren’t advancing in corporate America. If we understand the “why” we can mitigate some of the challenges faced by women in the workplace.
Books for Leading Change
Teaching the Elephant to Dance: Empowering Change in Your Organization, by James A. Belasco, Ph.D.
Recommended by: Heather A. Bailey, Partner, SmithAmundsen LLC
James’ book has not only helped me become a better manager, but it has also helped me become a better attorney in how I advise my clients on their day-to-day employment issues. Change is never easy, but James gives you good tools to use when having to persuade others to buy-in.
The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni
Recommended by: Lucie T., Enterprise Project Manager & Process Engineer, SurveyGizmo
This book was referred to management/leadership at New Belgium Brewing and kicked off projects to address organizational health over a 2 year period. It was a game changer.
Books for Personal Development as a Leader
What if I say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits of Culturally Effective People, by Verna A. Myers
Recommended by: Kathy Lietz, Sr. Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, USG Corporation
I have used Habit #20 about expanding your comfort zone and professional and social circles as a development opportunity with our Diversity & Inclusion Strategy Council (DISC) members. They were challenged with doing something outside their comfort zone and reporting back the experience.
Maximizing the Triple Bottom Line through Spiritual Leadership, by Louis W. Fry and Melissa Sadler Nisiewicz
Recommended by: Tina Huesing, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, Wyrmwood Consulting
I recently got asked how I handle my spirituality at work. Do I talk about it? That reminded me of conversations I’ve had at businesses I do consulting with. Some businesses have explicit policies that ask employees to not talk about their beliefs, other businesses expect their employees to have a faith. It’s good to be clear about one’s own spirituality and how one wants to embrace it at work. Especially those leaders who are interested in so much more than just being profitable, who want to be lead an organization that nurtures the human spirit, I recommend this book.
The idea behind spiritual leadership is to tap into the fundamental needs of both leaders and followers for spiritual well-being. Human beings are searching for meaning in their lives and that includes their lives at work; they want to make a positive difference. And human beings want to belong to organizations, groups, and teams that shares their values. In their book, Fry and Nisiewicz share their model of organizational spiritual leadership: it starts with the leader herself being at one with her inner life that gives her a sense of making a difference and therefore a sense that her own life has meaning. From there she models the values she holds dear and creates a sense of membership within her organization.
The book resonated with me and I find myself referring back to it again and again. How do we bring our values to work? How do we make a difference? An inspiring read!
Books for Work-Life Balance
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Recommended by: Dawn V. Gay, Executive Director, Patient Innovation Center
This book is a godsend. As a leader, manager, professional healthcare executive, doctoral student, and single mom, I have gained unique insights on the importance of setting boundaries to achieve your life-long goals. It’s a great read and well worth the time to help you make healthy choices, balance your life, and guide you through transformative change, especially if you are a giver.
The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
Recommended by: Lisa Ruiz, Head of Latin American Regulatory Affairs, AbbVie, Inc.
This is a wonderful resource for individuals who are struggling for work life balance. The authors take the reader through a process with the intent to get clarity for themselves on what is most important for the individual in order to ensure that they are focusing their time and energy on what matters. Engaging in what matters on a personal level generates the energy that we need to do everything else. It was a game changer for me personally and I have given out copies to all of my team and many others.
And Finally, a Book for Inspiration
Today I Will Fly! By Mo Willems
Recommended by: Melissa Norcross, Vice President for Strategy & Operations, Ontario Systems
This small children’s book, read easily in 5 minutes, packs a punch. It reminds us that unfettered optimism, positivity and determination will help us achieve seemingly impossible goals, but getting help can get us over the finish line.
Leaders are readers – that’s one thing we’ve learned through our research inside some of the world’s most remarkable companies.
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