8 Leadership Books All Women Should Read

By Lauren McGoodwin

There’s a lot to be said about work culture today. More and more companies offer flex schedules, better parental leave, and value creative work. And perspectives have shifted, allowing us to switch jobs or industries in our pursuit of the “just right” fit.

We also celebrate people who start their own companies—whether we call them “serial entrepreneurs,” “solopreneurs,” “mompreneurs,” or just “bloggers”—and many of today’s leaders are self-made, often taking a great idea and bringing it to fruition through years of hard work. But more freedom also means that some of the formal elements of office work have virtually disappeared. Maybe the biggest concern? A lack of leadership training.

Work looked different for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. You often stayed at the same company for decades and worked your way up, slowly, surely, patiently. And so, by the time you got promoted to manager, you’d been carefully vetted and prepared over the course of years. Often, that preparation included hours of formal management training.

Today, many of us will find ourselves overseeing teams without any guidance or previous experience. Some of us will have spent years flying solo as freelancers or serving in creative roles where we only answered to a boss or client. And that means that too many of us will have never managed anyone else’s time, given critical feedback, or—worst of all—had to fire someone.

Thankfully, formal training isn’t everything and there are resources like Career Contessa spending our days trying to help women build successful carers. Here are some books to help you help yourself. Autodidacts unite.

featured image via hello fashion

1. Own It by Sallie Krawcheck

Think of Own It: The Power of Women at Work as this year’s Lean In. It’s a manifesto for any woman looking to lead. We’ve been huge fans of Krawcheck and her investing company, Ellevest, for years, but her book covers much more than finances. She branches out to cover the role of women at every company. She’s raw and honest, totally unapologetic but also optimistic. According to Krawcheck, our diversity is what will work to our favor in an evolving workforce so, as leaders, we don’t have to do it the way men do. We can forge our own path.

Who It’s Good For:

Anyone who needs a little extra empowerment, especially those of us who might be feeling beaten down from working in a male-dominated field.

Bonus: You should probably watch our free (seriously!) webinar with Sallie Krawcheck on investing like a woman.

2. HBR Guide to Making Every Meeting Matter

Trust The Harvard Business Review to distill a bunch of information down into a handy guidebook. This how-to on running meetings is from an ongoing HBR book series that we love, but we’ve chosen to include this option for one important reason: we’re so freaking tired of wasting time in conference rooms. If meetings bore you too, read this before you start running meetings of your own. Your team will thank you for it.

Who It’s Good For:

If you have to lead a meeting anywhere ever, you just need to read it. Period.

Bonus: Watch our free webinar on self-confidence to find your voice before you head into your next meeting.

3. Originals By Adam Grant

Yep. If you’re reading this list, you’ve set yourself apart. You stand out. You innovate. Chances are you’ve gotten plenty of kudos and promotions and thank yous for all your great ideas. But leading requires a slightly different approach than just coming up with good concepts—you’ve got to keep them alive over time. Grant’s Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World  covers how to continue to innovate without losing your edge to groupthink. Embracing a nonconformist approach may sound counterintuitive in a collaborative work environment, but it’s also that sort of perspective that will shake things up. Oh, did we mention Sheryl Sandberg wrote the foreward? She’s everywhere.

Who It’s Good For:

Anyone who believes — or wants to believe — that success comes from breaking a few rules.

4. The Confidence Code By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

There’s a reason why I recommend this book to any woman looking to make a major career change. Study after study shows that women often lack confidence in their own work, particularly in comparison to their male counterparts. This book will help you isolate those feelings, understand them better, and learn how to counteract them.

Who It’s Good For:

If you’ve ever felt self-conscious in a boardroom, speaking in front of a crowd, or just voicing an opinion at an informal lunch meeting, pick it up ASAP.

5. Start With Why By Simon Sinek

We really, really love Simon Sinek and his landmark concept of “The Why” in business. Actually, who doesn’t? It’s the third most popular TED talk of all time. But what sets Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action apart from his past talks is that it brings that idea down to the individual level. In it, he outlines exactly how you personally can take a disparate team and inspire them to act and innovate. Sign us up.

Who It’s Good For:

Leaders who want to do more than just get it done—the ones who want to change the world. (Don’t roll your eyes.)

6. Thrive By Arianna Huffington

Look, any book by Arianna Huffington is probably going to make a list on leadership and women. She’s Arianna Huffington. The premise of this book goes something like this: At the peak of exhaustion, Huffington took a nasty fall and promptly realized that her health and life were at stake if she kept working the way she was. This book is the result of that light bulb moment—a guide to caring about yourself as much as your work. If you haven’t gotten around to Thrive yet, set aside some time this weekend. In the very least, you’ll finally understand what everyone’s talking about when they reference it.

Who It’s Good For:

The woman who can’t seem to strike a work-life balance no matter how much she knows it matters.

 7. Work Rules! By Laszlo Bock

There’s really only one company that comes up every time people talk about places that prioritize their employees: Google. So if you want a managerial blueprint to follow that has a proven track record, Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead is probably for you. Learn how to hire the right people and retain them based Google’s real experiences.

Who It’s Good For:

Anyone who’s facing the possibility of hiring for the first time or plans on working directly with creatives.

Bonus: Read this interview with a rad woman working at Google to see what it’s really like.

8. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Getting things done and earning the respect and admiration of your team can often feel like a juggling act. In Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Scott speaks from her own experiences and weaves in additional research and observations to argue in favor of a unique management style—one that combines drive and collaboration. No one said being a boss didn’t mean showing some feelings.

Who It’s Good For:

Any boss who wants to build a team that’s not afraid to work together and break new bounds.

Check out more Work Life posts here!