“Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives.”
That was the opening salvo in Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 best-selling book Lean In. The book sparked debate about gender equality and urged women to expect and demand more for their careers.
But Sandberg’s book certainly wasn’t the first to challenge women to reach for greater leadership roles. In keeping with Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled the most compelling titles on the subject, and offer our top picks that are well worth the turn of the page.
1. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
What it’s about: When the Taliban took control of Pakistan’s Swat Valley, one girl fought for her right to an education. She almost paid the ultimate price when she was shot in the head at point-blank range.
Why pick it up: Malala reminds us that the change we want begins with us, and to be absolutely fearless in our pursuit.
2. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
What it’s about: The last queen of Egypt and one of the most intriguing women in the history of the world.
Why pick it up: Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. This book captures the intellect and wit of the woman who reshaped the contours of the ancient world.
3. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution by Brené Brown
What it’s about: A profound truth: Vulnerability — the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome — is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.
Why pick it up: When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.
4. Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright
What it’s about: A national bestseller since its original publication in 2003, Madam Secretary is a riveting account of the life of America’s first woman Secretary of State.
Why pick it up: It’s an account of one of the most powerful and admired women in U.S. history, including her upbringing in war-torn Europe and the balancing of career and family.
5. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
What it’s about: An unlikely political star tells the inspiring story of the two-decade journey that taught her how Washington really works — and really doesn’t.
Why pick it up: Warren shows why she has chosen to fight tooth and nail for the middle class — and why she has become a hero to all those who believe that America’s government can and must do better for working families.
6. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
What it’s about: A portrait of an obscure German princess who became Empress of Russia, and one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.
Why pick it up: Never underestimate the power of a cold, calculating and unaffectionate mother to inspire ambition in her child.
7. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Bring, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
What it’s about: On the morning of April 6, 2007, Arianna Huffington was lying on the floor of her office in a pool of blood. She has collapsed from exhaustion and hit the corner of her desk on the way down, cutting her eye and breaking her cheekbone in the process. Thrive is the journey of her wakeup call.
Why pick it up: Don’t just go out there and climb the ladder of success. Instead, redefine success. Because the world desperately needs it.
8. Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential by Carol Dweck
What it’s about: It isn’t just our abilities and talent that bring our success – but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.
Why pick it up: It’s vital to seek out opportunities to stretch so that you are challenged. But as a leader, it’s vital not to regard your followers’ abilities as fixed, but rather to believe that those you lead can change, adapt and grow.
Some of these books are historical. Some are contemporary. They all remind us that when a woman honors the feminine within herself, she honors it around the world.
Question: What books have helped you along your leadership journey?
Join me and Dr. Tony Baron on April 27th in San Diego for The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit
Discover how to create a culture that can respond swiftly, communicate freely, encourage experimentation, and organize as a network of people motivated by a shared purpose to meet the demands of the 21st century business environment. To learn more or register, go to: executiveexcellence.com/reimagine