Leadership With a Focus On Personal Growth

Brenda Hamm | July 20, 2023

Shifting gears, the next group of (7) recommended books speaks to your own personal development as a leader. What are the characteristics of an effective leader? What’s your leadership style? What might make you a better leader? What are other leaders saying? Educators Collaborative partners recommend any and all of these to both practicing and aspiring educational leaders alike.

Books are listed in alphabetical order by author.

1) Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President, 2010, by William G. Bowen

Recommended by Nat Conard who says, “Bowen, former president of Princeton University and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, shares insights that are spot on for school leaders as well as university presidents. It’s a timely moment to read his work, as he is also the author of The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions.”

In Lessons Learned, the author demonstrates his keen intellect and deep understanding of the education landscape. His ability to blend personal anecdotes with insightful analysis creates a compelling narrative that keeps readers engaged. The book is not just a collection of success stories, but also a reflection on the mistakes and challenges Bowen faced during his tenure. This candid approach adds credibility and authenticity to his advice, making it relatable and actionable for aspiring and current education leaders.

2) Leading in a Culture of Change, 2001 and 2020, by Michael Fullan

Recommended by Nat Conard who says, “Perhaps there was a time when school leadership was not so much about change, but that time is long past. Fullan wrote this more than twenty years ago, but it remains a clear and accessible guide for school heads and leaders today.”

Leading in a Culture of Change is a guide for leaders seeking to navigate the complexities of organizational transformation in today’s rapidly changing world. A must-read for leaders at all levels who hope to drive meaningful and sustainable change in their organizations. Fullan’s expertise shines through as he presents a compelling case for the central role of culture in the change process. His insights are timely and relevant, particularly in an era characterized by constant disruptions and technological advancements. He translates complex theories into practical strategies and actions that leaders can immediately apply. The second edition ensures that the content remains up-to-date, incorporating recent research and addressing contemporary challenges faced by leaders. This book is an invaluable resource that will empower leaders to navigate change with purpose.

3) Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, 2021, by Adam Grant

Recommended by Sally Mixsell who says, “In this era of politically polarized opinions,
Think Again offers an excellent reminder that listening and responding with an open and curious mind is still one of our most effective tools. Adam Grant offers many good examples of why good listening and thoughtful questions can, in the end, change how someone looks at an issue.”

In Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, popular TED speaker, and Professor of Psychology at The Wharton School, challenges conventional wisdom that unwavering convictions and intellectual confidence define a successful leader. He argues that embracing the mindset of “thinking again” and being receptive to new information and ideas is crucial in an ever-changing world. By acknowledging the limitations of our own knowledge and cultivating “cognitive flexibility” we can challenge our assumptions and fine tune our ability to be lifelong learners. Known for phrases like, “toxic positivity” and “time confetti,” the author’s writing and speaking styles are engaging, accessible, and on point, combining storytelling, evidence-based insights, and practical advice to get his message across. Think Again is as compelling to read as Adam Grant is to listen to.

4) The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, 2017, by Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Recommended by George Sanderson who says, “There are wonderful stories in the book that can be applied to leadership in any field, and to life itself.”

The Power of Moments is an exploration of how certain experiences, or moments, have the power to shape our lives and create long-lasting memories. The authors delve into the psychology behind impactful moments and provide strategies for organizations to design and leverage such moments to bring about positive change. By understanding the elements that make certain moments meaningful, they argue, one can seize opportunities to purposefully create experiences that are extraordinary. This book serves as a resource for leaders and organizations who want to foster connections and motivate behavior change. The Heath brothers’ writing style, if you haven’t already experienced it by reading Switch or Made to Stick, is engaging and accessible, weaving together real-life examples and psychological research to support their ideas. The Power of Moments is an enjoyable and worthwhile read.

5) Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, 2018, by Ruth King

Recommended by André Withers who says, “Mindful of Race challenges one’s habits and takes some of the charge of racism out of the political realm and directs it inward through introspection and balance. It’s like yoga or meditative practice for racial understanding and self-management.”

King skillfully combines her personal experiences as a meditation teacher and diversity consultant with teachings from Buddhist philosophy to guide us through the challenging and necessary work of transforming racism at both an individual and collective level. With compassion and wisdom, she provides a roadmap for navigating difficult conversations, facing discomfort, and cultivating empathy and compassion in the face of racial injustice. Mindful of Race addresses both the inner work of self-awareness and the outer work of engaging in allyship and activism. This book is a valuable resource for anyone committed to cultivating awareness, healing, and creating positive change in relation to racial bias.

6) How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, 2019, by Jenny Odell

Recommended by Tracy Bennett who says, “How to Do Nothing is a must read for school leaders—if we cannot disengage, or at least more thoughtfully and intentionally engage in our frenetic, hyper-connected, overstimulating world, how can we possibly hope to impart those life skills to others?” 

How to Do Nothing offers a compelling exploration of our modern-day relationship with technology, productivity, and the attention economy. Jenny Odell, artist and author, challenges the notion that constant busyness, productivity, and consumerism are the ultimate markers of success and proposes a counterintuitive approach to reclaiming our time and attention. She advocates for the radical ideas of engaging with our surroundings, embracing idleness, and nurturing our connection to the natural world as a means of resisting the constant demands of the digital age.

Odell combines personal anecdotes, philosophical reflections, and cultural analysis to illustrate the ways in which the attention economy shapes our lives and how we can reclaim our attention by actively choosing how we engage with the world around us. She urges readers to redefine the concept of “doing nothing” as an act of resistance against the relentless pursuit of productivity and the manipulation of our attention. By emphasizing the value of contemplation, observation, and community engagement, the author presents a persuasive argument for the importance of carving out space for meaningful reflection and fostering a greater sense of belonging and purpose. Through her insightful prose the author provides practical suggestions and exercises to cultivate a deeper awareness of our surroundings.

7) Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, 2019, by Kim Scott

Recommended by André Withers who says, “Radical Candor ties healthy leadership practices together with truly seeing, and caring for, human beings. It’s not a cold set of management principles for greater yield. Instead, it’s centering people in order to make better organizations and better practices.”

Radical Candor is a guide for any leader who wants to build stronger, more productive relationships in the workplace. Scott shares insights from her years working in Silicon Valley to present a practical approach to feedback and communication. She introduces the concept of “radical candor,” which emphasizes the importance of combining caring personally with challenging directly to create a culture of open and honest communication. Scott’s book offers a wealth of actionable advice, along with relatable anecdotes and real-world examples, emphasizing the importance of developing trusting relationships, timely feedback given in a constructive manner, and fostering an environment where people can thrive.

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