The Positive Energy Workplace

10 Books That Boost Leaders' Creativity, Care, and Cultural Knowledge

10 Books That Boost Leaders' Creativity, Care, and Cultural Knowledge

In the book Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization That Thrives (McGraw-Hill), I invite readers to take an inside-out approach to leadership and cultural optimization. People often think that leadership and culture are all about skills and what we do, but speaking even louder is who we are, how we show up, and the energy and intention we bring to the table. Being an effective leader and creating a culture that thrives is rarely about having better skills, changing other people, or even holding huge corporate cultural initiatives--our quickest path to shifting culture and dynamics is more simply in shifting ourselves and how we show up.

To support you as you gallop into the fall, here are 10-plus books and bodies of work to help cultivate your leadership and culture from the inside out. Some of them are oldies but goodies, some are new, and some may completely surprise you to show up on a leadership blog. But they all count. The first section holds some of my favorites that are all about you (after all, you set the tone). In the second section, I share some of my favorites for team and organizational health.

First: You.

1. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution (Spiegel & Grau), by Brené Brown, a storytelling shame researcher who's giving people all over the planet full permission and a compelling invite to dare greatly, rise strong, and embrace their gifts of imperfection. Dive into The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden) to be more of who you are. Dive into Daring Greatly (Avery) to get out there and do big stuff. And dive into Rising Strong when you've fallen and you're "face down in the arena." An awesome trifecta, I consider these three to be foundational leadership reading. Pick the one that resonates for you right now, and dive in.

2. The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (Barrett Koehler), by the Arbinger Institute. When I was introduced to this work, more than 10 years ago, it changed the way I looked at the world. Read this book to clear your heart, get rid of that "ick" in relationships, and to get right with yourself. A big breath of internal peace (and compelling leadership accountability) awaits.

3. Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life (Three Rivers Press), by Byron Katie. Katie's four questions are life changing regardless of your vocation, position, or challenges. (Don't stop at the book: Check out her entire body of work.)

4. The Bulletproof Diet: Lose Up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life (Rodale Books), by Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive. You've got to keep your body and brain humming. Read this book to clear that brain fog, and make your brain and body go zoom.

5. It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways (Victory Belt), by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig. Another great book on self-care and nourishing the only vehicle you have to create all this great impact. Read this book to clear your system, use food for fuel and medicine, and treat your body right.

Now: Your Team and Culture.

6. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box (Berrett-Koehler), by the Arbinger Institute. Read this book to see and be with your team as the truly real and human beings they are, and to start creating more responsiveness in your organization.

7. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide From the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert (Harmony), by John Gottman. Seemingly a marriage and relationship book, his principles are highly applicable to the workplace as well. (Bonus: Your personal relationships will thank you.)

8. The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment That Energizes Everyone (Amacom), by Shawn Murphy. I'm super excited about how Shawn's addressing organizational climate in this new book. After years of consulting to organizations on how to be more human, generate more value, and truly partner with their people, he has created a tremendous resource for others wishing to do the same.

9. Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow (Jossey-Bass),by Chip Conley. Chip takes us back to the basics of core needs and applies them brilliantly to your organization. To help identify and align your company's core needs and employees so all can perform optimally and show up well, check it out. Chip's more recent book, Emotional Equations (Atria Books), is another must-read.

10. Zingerman's Guide to Good Leadingseries (Zingerman's Press), by Ari Weinzweig. Ari's released three books (with a fourth on the way) over the past couple of years sharing how Zingerman's approaches business, leadership, customer service, and building an organization that thrives, zooms, and feeds everyone well. Any of the books in this series will feed you well in leadership and culture.

Of course, this is by no means a complete list! Please chime in! What are your favorites?

Happy Monday, happy reading, and happy showing up!

This post originally appeared on on November 2, 2015.


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