If you are an avid reader, you know the pressure surrounding the question, “What’s your #1 book recommendation?” What?! Just one? It feels a little like being asked to choose your favorite child!
But difficult as it is, this year – as I do every year – I will embrace the challenge and share my favorite leadership reads. These five books made it onto my reading list in 2014 (though not all were published this year) and have affected my and many of my clients’ work, leadership, and life in profound ways.
My Top 5 Leadership Books In 2014:
Fearless Leadership by Carey Lohrenz
A former F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, Lohrenz shares an extraordinary story of perseverance, passion, and not letting obstacles keep you from your dreams. The lessons she learned easily translate to the business context, reminding us that the fundamentals of leadership apply whether we work in an office, from our homes, or in the cockpit of a jet. I found the chapter on vision particularly compelling: “No matter how much time we spend developing a strategic plan,” writes Carey, “if the vision is not clear, the strategy will not matter.”
Repacking Your Bags by Richard Leider and David Shapiro
With so many adults (more than 70 percent, according to Gallup) dissatisfied or disengaged at work, Leider and Shapiro’s book helps readers define – then begin achieving – meaning and purpose at work and in life. Their formula for the good life: “Living in the place you belong, with the people you love, doing the right work, on purpose.” If you feel the need to do something different with your days but aren’t sure exactly what, this book can help you start to uncover the answers.
The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
A fascinating and extremely helpful resource for an area that weighs heavily on our success: confidence. The authors interview leaders from sports, politics, psychology, and more to share why so many of us struggle with confidence and what we can do to increase it. The main message? Take action. “Action separates the timid from the bold” is a line I highlighted, underlined, and starred. Terrific practical suggestions throughout this excellent book.
Before Happiness by Shawn Achor
If you are unfamiliar with Achor, start by watching his TED Talk, “The Happy Secret To Better Work.” This Harvard scholar teaches us, in a hilarious but research-based way, how to stop waiting for happiness and instead create it for ourselves – and why this is so important to workplace success and emotional well-being. He poses a terrific question I’d encourage leaders to ask regularly: “What are you doing to help people at work fall in love with your company?”
Life By The Cup by Zhena Muzyka
This one just snuck into my reading pile last month and quickly made this list. Zhena created her tea business out of passion and necessity (to pay medical bills for her young son). Her story is a fantastic testament to the power of designing work around clear values and a compelling mission, as well as demonstrating how significantly that clarity helps with challenges, enticing but questionable requests, and a company’s bottom line. “Each of us is born with a particular genius,” writes Muzyka. “Our job in life, our purpose, is to uncover and use it.” I adore coffee but this book has even inspired me to drink more tea!
It’s been an incredible year for books; several others nearly made this list, but these five stand out as truly exceptional. (Feel free to check out my 2012 and 2013 selections, too.) Oh, and for the record, all three of my children are my favorites!
What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Share your recommendations below!
Fearless Leadership (Greenleaf, 2014); Repacking Your Bags (Berrett-Koehler, 2012); The Confidence Code (HarperCollins, 2014); Before Happiness (Crown, 2013); Life By The Cup (Atria, 2014).