April 24, 2023
Terri O'Brien

Readers make better leaders: My reading recommendations inspired by World Book Day

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As a leader, I love to receive questions from my teams and professional network about how to grow as coaches, collaborators and decision-makers. While I like to tailor my responses and take time to talk through goals and opportunities, one thing I always recommend is to read leadership books. Whether you are a seasoned C-suite executive or an intern just starting in your career, leadership books will always be a great tool for your leadership toolbox.

To mark World Book Day, here is my list of must-read books and authors for leaders and aspiring leaders alike. Each of these books and authors address different aspects of self-awareness and positive leadership. I loved reading all of these.

The Arbinger Institute Books: This organization has published many books focused on helping leaders consider the importance of mindset when building and growing teams. The Outward Mindset is one of the most impactful books I have read. This book has helped me understand that “the biggest lever for change is a fundamental change in the way one sees and regards one’s connections with and obligations to others.” In other words, if we want to elicit change we need to shift our mindset from inward-focused on solving our own problems first, to outward-focused in truly helping others overcome their challenges. If you like this book, I also recommend The Anatomy of Peace and Leadership & Self-Deception.

Dr. Brené Brown: With one of the most watched TedTalks ever, “The Power of Vulnerability”, Dr. Brené Brown skyrocketed to fame by speaking about how to confront uncomfortable emotions. In her book, Dare to Lead, she asks the reader to lean into empathy and vulnerability and have the courage to have tough conversations. When I started my professional career, the idea of vulnerability as a strength felt like a double-edged sword; I wanted to bring my whole self to my roles but I also felt the pressure to fit a certain mold of what I thought a leader was ‘supposed’ to be. Dare to Lead, is a great reminder that leadership is not one-size fits all.

Byron Katie: For some, the heavy pressure of perfectionism is quite real. It can be a driver but it can also become a roadblock. I came across Katie’s work and method of self-inquiry called ‘The Work’, when I was looking for books that paired leadership with a healthy mindset. In her book, Loving What Is, Katie asks readers to confront stressful thoughts, interrogate them and then let them release their hold on what should be, allowing us to fully embrace and accept, even marvel at the perfection of what is. I use Katie’s methods in my everyday work and life to practice radical acceptance, gratitude and appreciation that all things in life happen for us, and not to us. I whole-heartedly recommend (and frequently gift) this book to anyone interested in practicing a strong self-awareness and appreciation for life’s perfect imperfections.

Équité Association is a not-for-profit organization focused on creating a more equitable world for Canadians. I am passionate about equity and therefore, it is not difficult to understand why leading through self-awareness and empathy is so important to me. Good leadership books provide tools needed for an innovation and growth mindset, and will help you find your community of fellow leaders. No matter your role, continued learning and growth are the traits of any great leader.