If you spend more than a hot minute chatting with me, you'll know that once we start talking leadership, it doesn't take long before I'll mention a fascinating book about the topic. (lifelong reader here 😊 )
But one of my frustrations with the leadership literature is that the VAST majority are written by men (case in point, when I did a completely un-scientific survey for the best leadership books, all of the “Top 5” recommended books were written by men).
So I wanted to make sure we take the time to acknowledge women who write on leadership topics. 🦸♀️
Here are 17 excellent leadership books written by women - I recommend adding any and all of them to your bookshelf 📚
*I’ve included Amazon links to all the books - this means that if you order from my link, I’ll get a small commission (no cost to you). It’s kind of like buying me coffee to say “thanks for putting the links together!"
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
“Don't grab hurtful comments and pull them close to you by rereading them and ruminating on them. Don't play with them by rehearsing your badass comeback. And whatever you do, don't pull hatefulness close to your heart.
Let what's unproductive and hurtful drop at the feet of your unarmored self. And no matter how much your self-doubt wants to scoop up the criticism and snuggle with the negativity so it can confirm its worst fears, or how eager the shame gremlins are to use the hurt to fortify your armor, take a deep breath and find the strength to leave what's mean-spirited on the ground. You don't even need to stomp it or kick it away.
Cruelty is cheap, easy, and chickenshit. It doesn't deserve your energy or engagement. Just step over the comments and keep daring, always remembering that armor is too heavy a price to pay to engage with cheap-seat feedback.”
I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time
"We need to savor moments as they come. A lot of time and life management is mental. The human brain easily wanders and it wanders more to worries than to happy musings on what a blessed life you have. Such ruminations steal happiness.”
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life
“Things happen to us all the time. You don’t have much choice about that. But where we do have choice is in what we do with what happens.”
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
“Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence—like a gift—by praising their brains and talent. It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong. If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change
“From the moment I enter a room, I am clear about how I intend to be treated and how I intend to engage. I do not tell self-deprecating jokes about my race or gender, though I will do so about my personal idiosyncrasies. I can be charmingly humble or playfully self-effacing without pandering to stereotypes in order to make others comfortable. For example, my attire, my hairstyle, even my presentation style, reflect me rather than aping the behavior of others. I know that when I offer criticism of men in the workplace, I may be seen as a man-hater. I know because I am not married, I may be seen as a lesbian. I know because I will never be less than curvaceous and wear my hair natural”
Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder
"The desire to be perfect holds us back in so many ways. We don't speak up for ourselves, as we know deep down we should, because we don't want to be seen as pushy, bitchy, or just straight-up unlikeable."
The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change
“As you go through various stages of your career, you’ll start to realize how much uncertainty there is in the world. It’s a pretty universal truth that once you get the job you thought you wanted, the enjoyment eventually fades and you find yourself looking for something else. You think you want to work for that cool startup, and you get there only to find it’s a mess. You think you want to be a manager, only to discover that the job is hard and not rewarding in the ways you expected. In all of this uncertainty, the only person you can rely on to pull through it is yourself.”
The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth
“The failure of an employee to speak up in a crucial moment cannot be seen. This is true whether that employee is on the front lines of customer service or sitting next to you in the executive board room. And because not offering an idea is an invisible act, it's hard to engage in real-time course correction. This means that psychologically safe workplaces have a powerful advantage in competitive industries.”
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
“...there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine....you've got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people....Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it...it's doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
“There is no perfect fit when you're looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life
“Life is full of diving boards and other precipices, but, as we’ve seen throughout this discussion of emotional agility, making the leap is not about ignoring, fixing, fighting, or controlling fear—or anything else you might be experiencing. Rather, it’s about accepting and noticing all your emotions and thoughts, viewing even the most powerful of them with compassion and curiosity, and then choosing courage over comfort in order to do whatever you’ve determined is most important to you. Courage, once again, is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking."
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
“You may be worried about earning their respect, and that’s natural. Unfortunately, though, being overly focused on respect can backfire because it’ll make you feel extra defensive when criticized. If, on the other hand, you can listen to the criticism and react well to it, both trust and respect will follow.”
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It
“If you don’t feel heard, pay attention to how you may contribute to this dynamic: Do you use the more traditionally female mode of communication, which is to defer and wait your turn? That’s fine to do when the stakes are low. But there are situations where in order to be heard you have to forgo the usual rules, starting with the belief that you always have to follow the rules.”
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know
“Simply put, a woman’s brain is not her friend when it comes to confidence. We think too much and we think about the wrong things. Thinking harder and harder and harder won’t solve our issues, though, it won’t make us more confident, and it most certainly freezes decision making, not to mention action. Remember, the female brain works differently from the male brain; we really do have more going on, we are more keenly aware of everything happening around us, and that all becomes part of our cognitive stew. Ruminating drains the confidence from us. Those negative thoughts, and nightmare scenarios masquerading as problem solving, spin on an endless loop. We render ourselves unable to be in the moment or to trust our instincts because we are captive to those distracting, destructive thoughts, which gradually squeeze all the spontaneity out of life and work. We have got to stop ruminating.”
The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It
“It turns out that how you think about stress is also one of those core beliefs that can affect your health, happiness, and success. As we’ll see, your stress mindset shapes everything from the emotions you feel during a stressful situation to the way you cope with stressful events. That, in turn, can determine whether you thrive under stress or end up burned out and depressed. The good news is, even if you are firmly convinced that stress is harmful, you can still cultivate a mindset that helps you thrive.”
Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life
"With the right approach and a true ongoing commitment, you can foster a culture that encourages communication and feedback at all levels; one where honesty trumps hierarchy and even the lowest-ranking member feels safe putting problems on the table."
Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership
“A clear sense of the future—where you, your group, and your organization are trying to go—is the framework for virtually all you do as a manager.”