It's not easy to be a leader. It takes a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are that you get to impact other people's lives on a daily basis. What I've personally learned about leadership in my 20+ year corporate career and now being the CEO and visionary of my own company, Beyond Brave Co., is that leadership is about making sacrifices for your employees.
Modern leadership is about being brave and having faith in your team. In order to be an impactful leader, we need to develop the skills to bring people together in a way that brings more meaning to their lives at work and home.
We also need to be able to anticipate the needs of our employees. We cannot be great, brave leaders unless we give up our own ambitions and focus on maximizing the potential and well-being of those whom we lead.
Here are the 5 most impactful books that helped me grow as a leader. You'll be surprised to see that these are not the typical business leadership books! These are books that helped me develop a great understanding of myself and how to help my team grow.
#5 Big Potential by Shawn Achor
This book is the much-anticipated follow-up to The Happiness Advantage. What I love about this book is that Shawn emphasizes that we can reach our "big potential" by working together. The premise is that success is influenced by those around us -- and when we help others become better, we reach new levels of potential. This book opened my eyes to how we can lift the ceiling on what we can achieve while returning happiness and meaning to our lives.
#4 Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
I simply could not resist adding this book to the list (especially when I noticed two copies side-by-side in my library!). The biggest takeaway for me on this book is understanding the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. It was fascinating to learn why people go the extra mile and why others don't have that kind of ambition. Dr. Dweck's research goes deep into how we can pass a growth mindset onto our employees, children, and throughout our organizations.
#3 the War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I know, this isn't a leadership book at all. But what I did find as a leader is that our teams and organizations count on us to be visionaries! We are the leader of the future of our companies and sometimes getting caught up in the analytical world of P&L's and way too many meetings we can lose touch with our creative side. I also learned this concept of "resistance", which is a supernatural force that seems to tell us our ideas are terrible or completely distract us when we really need to do something creative. This book is a must-read for everyone.
#2 Flourish by Martin Seligman
Dr. Seligman is the trailblazer of research on happiness and flourishing. We cannot help our employees maximize their well-being if we do not understand the psychology and science behind it! This book shares Martin's game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show us how to get the most out of life. Our job as leaders is to help our employees flourish! So this book is a no-brainer. I also suggest googling and reading through his research studies.
#1 Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins
Truthfully, this single book had the greatest, most profound impact on my life, business, and relationships. This is why it is ranked as my #1. Power vs. Force teaches the difference between authentic power and forceful power (these are my own words). Basically, Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to inspire and create lasting change using authentic, true power. However, the historical, inspirational, change was also accomplished by Adolf Hitler -- but this was through force. Great leaders have an innate, authentic power. There is no heavy-handed approach, nor is it leadership by consensus. This book is complex and deserves to be read old-school - hard copy book with highlights and folded corners. The best thing about this book is that you will clearly know where you need to grow spiritually and emotionally within the first 20 pages.
These are my favorite books for leaders that are ready to advance into brave leadership. While there are plenty of entry-level business leadership books out there - these are unconventional but are certain to give you an advantage in life and leadership.
The author, Jolynn Swafford is an expert on bravery and founder and CEO of Beyond Brave Co., a company that empowers individuals, leaders, and companies to be brave in order to maximize meaning and potential. Learn more about Jolynn and Beyond Brave on LinkedIn by clicking here.