a close up of a book shelf

Brain Food for Fearless Leaders

Leadership requires being open to new ideas and one of the best ways to expose yourself to new thinking is through reading. We recommend leaders read not only from their technical field, or on the topic of leadership, but from a wide range of disciplines to look for application in your world, or to stretch your thinking and keep growing in your knowledge and ability to embrace paradoxical ideas.

Some of our recent favorite books include the practical and the challenging, but all will expand your leadership thinking and abilities. See if any of these add to your breadth or depth of exposure:

Building a Better Leadership Toolkit

One of the primary instruments of leadership is your brain, and our brains have their own unique operating systems that have not been updated as humans evolved our societies, our technologies and our work. The recently updated  Your Brain at Work  by David Rock is one of the best sources for information on how your brain helps and hinders you and how to understand your own brain, the brains of the people you work with, and how to use that information to be more effective.  One of our favorite tools (SCARF factors) comes from this book, and we use it often to talk about why people resist change and experience negative emotions at work.

A popular read that we come back to often is Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, which illuminates the path to connected courageous leadership, through accepting vulnerability as part of the process. One of the most powerful tools we share with leaders is the power of curiosity to bring out the best thinking and action in others, and this books uses examples from Brown’s research to show how that works and how you can begin the journey yourself.

Broadening Your Knowledge, Challenging Your Thinking

One of the most challenging we’ve read lately is The Tyranny of Merit by Michael Sandel. A professor at Harvard, Sandel challenges modern ideas around rewarding merit and effort and exposes the flaws in our ideas about who is worthy and how we build a cohesive society. As a B Corporation, we wrestle with these ideas often, and even if you do not agree with Sandel’s conclusions and recommendations, it’s hard not to think more deeply about how we measure worthiness and fairness after reading this book.

In a similar vein, Yuval Noah Harari’s SapiensTalks about how we meet our needs as humans through different eras and how the decisions we have made through history shape the world as it is today. It’s a fascinating longitudinal view of our species and an engaging way to learn more about the development of our social structures to master the world around us. You may learn a few things, and your view of the world and how humans operate in it will certainly become more nuanced.

Sharpening Your Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a skill that comes naturally to few, but can be improved in almost everyone. We shifted the thinking on strategic planning at several organizations this year, drawing from the powerful Blue Ocean Strategy methodology developed at INSEAD by  W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. Their more recent book Blue Ocean Shift walks you through how to decide which business areas are ripe for a Blue Ocean approach, and how to make that shift and implement it.

And if you ever wanted to be a strategy consultant, or just think like one, my friend Fred Pelard launched his book How to Be Strategic to share some of the most powerful frameworks for making better strategic decisions, and even lays out the people you need in the room, the personalities you want, and exercises for each stage of strategy development and implementation. This one book is a great primer on how to be more strategic in solving any problem, and gather better creative ideas and select the best ones for your team.

We are constantly reading from a variety of fields, and our full list of recommended books is here

What have you read lately that made you think?