“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
For many of the leaders I work with it is summertime. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, the books on this list would be just as rewarding curled up on a cold winter’s night. Either way, here are my top five picks for this summer.
I like to do this list every year not just because I have a passion for books! A recent Harvard Business Review article, titled For Those Who Want to Lead, Read suggests the leadership benefits of reading are wide ranging. The article sites that not only can it improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight but it can make us more effective at leading others because it increases our verbal intelligence and communication skills. The thing that really caught my attention was that the article stated that leaders who read electively for as little as 6 minutes can reduce stress by up to 68% which we all know leads to more fulfilling and effective humans.
1. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What you Don’t Know by Adam Grant
One of my favorite quotes from this book so far, “We learn more from people who challenge our thought process than those who affirm our conclusions. Strong leaders engage their critics and make themselves stronger. Weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves weaker. This reaction isn’t limited to people in power. Although we might be on board with the principle, in practice we often miss out on the value of a challenge network.”
2. Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away by Rebecca Goldstein
I loved this quote as it pertains to hardworking leaders, “The will to matter is at least as important as the will to believe.”
3. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tool and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and The World by Ronald Heifetz
“Leadership is a difficult practice personally because it almost always requires you to make a challenging adaptation yourself. What makes adaptation complicated is that it involves deciding what is so essential that it must be preserved going forward and what of all that you value can be left behind. Those are hard choices because they involve both protecting what is most important to you and bidding adieu to something you previously held dear: a relationship, a value, an idea, an image of yourself.”
The last two books on my list are from the same author because I have gifted this author’s book to more leaders, friends and family than probably any other books. Why? These books keep on giving. I have read them both countless times and use them daily and always get something new when I open the pages whether I read for five minutes or an hour.
4. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo
The Book of Awakening is a practice in mindfulness. One definition of mindfulness is; a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This is often a large part of the work I do with leaders around Emotional Intelligence.
If I tried to pick one passage from this book, I would end up transcribing the entire text. It is so rich with awakenings. Here is one to give you an idea of the journey that awaits …
“Sometimes the simplest and best use of our will is to drop it all and just walk out from under everything that is covering us, even if only for an hour or so—just walk out from under the webs we’ve spun, the tasks we’ve assumed, the problems we have to solve. They’ll be there when we get back, and maybe some of them will fall apart without our worry to hold them up.”
5. And finally, also by Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen
“Help me resist the urge to dispute whether things are true or false which is like arguing whether it is day or night. It is always one or the other somewhere in the world. Together, we can penetrate a higher truth which like the sun is always being conveyed.”
As Zafón so eloquently penned, I hope that you find in these pages “more of what you already have inside you.”
What would you add to the list?