3 books future leaders should read right now

Artist: Jacob Sparks

I’ve been reading a lot lately, so I thought I’d quickly highlight three essential books I’ve found, which are influencing my thinking on women in leadership roles. If you’d like to have a session with me, where I create a personal reading list for you, get in touch now.

Recommended by terrific diversity speaker David McQueen, Kim Scott’s book is a clear and disarmingly honest guide, introducing a fresh and effective approach to managing developers and design teams in the digital world. Built from experience working with teams at Google, the process she outlines and her general advice are spot on. 

‘Work collaboratively. Telling people what to do doesn’t work at Google.’ 

If you love clearly demonstrated and practical, useful models, mapping out real-world ways to work better and to manage (both down and up) this is a powerful book. In each section, she uses a consistent outline, entitled ‘how to get from obnoxious aggression to radical candour’, which I found just brilliant. Scott is also fearlessly honest about approaches that didn’t work for her.

This small but dense book is more academic; exceptionally radical and maybe less likely to have already crossed your path. I was recommended it by Professor Helen Kennedy, of University of Nottingham, formerly of University of Brighton, who is much missed from the local digital and media arts scene, as she did incredibly important work here inspiring and connecting under-represented people, progressive business and academic projects. 

Anyway, Helen said I should look at this book as it connected with how she sees my work, so I was immediately flattered and intrigued.

It’s a short, rigorously academic (and brilliant) work on the qualities of ‘people of tomorrow’, focusing on the move away from a mechanical way of thinking about leadership competencies. 

O’Hara and Leicester argue that we must cultivate more flexible and compassionate qualities, such as collaboration and authenticity, as these are future-compatible far beyond conventional business skills. It’s a truly inspiring read, touching on spirituality, psychology and production, as ways of being. 

If you’re concerned that your chaotic career path or your way of doing things is ‘wrong’ because you’re into multiple things, or you don’t fit into a box or job title, or you’ve changed from one path to another; this book can offer a powerful validation in uncertain times. It also provides a rich source of visionary thinking that I am learning a lot from. 

People with your skills can be the most valuable leaders.

The title is pretty self-explanatory for this one and I have been thinking of it as a particularly on-point, useful companion to Reni Eddo-Lodge’s iconic global bestseller Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (which I have recommended previously).

Bex Carson, the Chief Product Officer at the Brighton based global company Brandwatch, recommended Diangelo’s book as an opener, during her excellent Spring Forward event earlier this year, which showcased the women in Brandwatch’s R&D team (designers, product managers, engineers and data scientists).

The event was inspiring and I took away this particular recommendation and have treasured it since. I think it was an insightful, even courageous move, for Bex to suggest everyone in the room read it. 

I won’t go into the content specific, or spoil the smart way in which this book unfolds to confront important topics without alienating the reader. But if you are even casually thinking about issues around race in the current chaotic, scary time, be brave and give this excellent analysis a read.

Always be learning. You’re not going to know all the answers and everybody makes mistakes. But, even when it may not seem like it in the heightened media atmosphere, people always appreciate the effort. For business to become truly equable and progressive, there simply will be a sea change. Or a revolution. 

If you’d like to have a session with me, where I create a personal reading list for you, get in touch now.