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Where do you look for insights and reflection to spur on your learning and growth? One of my favourite ways to spark new insights is through reading, so I’m excited to share some of the books that are currently on my bookshelf. These reads have challenged me to think differently about leadership and have inspired me to be a better leader.

Here are 5 books that I highly recommend.

1. After Story by Larissa Behrendt

“Aunty Elaine would remind me that there is more than one way to tell a story; there can sometimes be more than one truth. ‘The silences are as important as the words,’ she’d often say. There is what’s not in the archive, not in the history books – those things that have been excluded hidden overlooked.”

With daily discussions on the relevance of the Voice to Parliament in the lead up to the Referendum, After Story* is an insightful read.

It’s impossible to summarise the depth of learning and reflection that comes from this book in just a few lines. This fiction novel follows the journey of a young Indigenous lawyer, Jasmine and her mother, Della, who go on an English tour exploring the literary greats such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf.

Larissa Behrendt, a Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman, is a writer, lawyer and academic. She does a beautiful job in juxtaposing English literary history with the wisdom and history of the Aboriginal culture and storytelling, exposing the importance we place on some people’s histories and not others. This is an important read for all leaders.

Leadership Action: Take time to listen to the stories of those around you. Everyone has a unique perspective that can help us grow and learn.

2. Expansive Leadership: Cultivating Mindfulness to Lead Self and Others in a Changing World by Latha Poonamallee

“The ability to lead begins with the process of self-discovery, self-awareness, self-leadership, and discovering our connections to other people and the universe at large.”

Leadership starts with your own personal reflection of who you are and how you view yourself, others, and the world around you.

In Expansive Leadership*, Latha Poonamallee uses mindfulness and meditation as tools to help you explore your personal leadership philosophy. Her call for collective and inclusive leadership is powerful, and her 28-day journey will guide you inwards and outwards as you work to cultivate your own leadership skills.

Leadership Action: Take time for self-reflection each day. Consider what you’ve learned and how you can apply it to your leadership.

3. Head and Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership by Kirstin Ferguson

“We don’t want leaders who only seek to command others, but instead who draw on the strengths and collective leadership of those around them. We want leaders who understand their limitations and have the strength to be vulnerable. We want leaders who are humbled by the sheer complexity of the issues they need to resolve and the ambiguity of the problems they need to confront. We want leaders who value feedback and who know they will always need to work at being the best leaders they can be.”

I first came across Kirstin Ferguson when she ran a social media campaign #CelebratingWomen to increase kindness online a few years ago. Each day for a year, the campaign celebrated women from all walks of life from all over the world. The campaign culminated in a book called Women Kind.

In Head and Heart*, Kirstin explores the attributes needed to lead with both the head and the heart. She believes that by balancing logic and empathy, leaders can create meaningful change in their organisations. Kirstin is an inspiring board director and leadership commentator who shares her insights on leadership, organisational culture, and emotional intelligence.

Leadership Action: Practice empathy in your daily interactions with others. Seek to understand their perspective and experiences.

4. Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari

“It’s not your fault you can’t focus. It’s by design. The truth is that you are living in a system that is pouring acid on your attention every day, and then you are being told to blame yourself and to fiddle with your own habits while the world’s attention burns.”

Johann Hari’s book Stolen Focus* is a must-read for leaders who want to improve their ability to focus and engage. On a 3-year journey to explore the external forces at play that are robbing us of our attention, Johann actually explores a range of modern day challenges affecting humanity. Understanding these trends and their impact on our ability to do our best work is crucial to anyone who is keen to build a better society.

Leadership Action: Take regular extended breaks from technology and practice being present in the moment.

5. Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us by Ivy Ross and Susan Magsamen

“Artistic experiences can amplify human potential.”

Your Brain on Art is a fascinating read that explores the intersection of brain sciences and the arts. Authors Ivy Ross and Susan Magsamen discuss the importance of the arts for our well-being and their connection to community.

This year, I’ve focused a lot of my own personal research on the power and importance of awe, wonder and creativity on our leadership performance. Given that many leaders and professionals are feeling burnt out and uncertain, art may be a way to engage our teams and communities.

More interestingly, this book is written by Ivy Ross, Vice President of Hardware Design at Google and Susan Magsamen, who is a leading expert in Neuroasesthetics, looking at the intersection of brain sciences and the arts and how artistic experiences can amplify human potential.

In the age of AI, this book gives us insight about how art just might be the key to unlocking the next level of human potential!

Leadership Action Tip: Engage in creative activities such as painting, writing, or music to boost your creativity and well-being.

So there you have it, my top five book recommendations for leaders who are looking to grow and learn so far this year. Tell me what you are reading.

*Disclosure: We love to promote great resources to support your personal leadership development. This post contains affiliate links which means if you decide to use the links and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

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