9 New! Books to Celebrate Women’s History Month

9 New! Books to Celebrate Women’s History Month

As a certified Women-Owned business, we are celebrating Women’s History Month 2021 by highlighting books by and about women. These nine new books depict women who have pushed boundaries, effected change, redefined roles, or who have enriched our understanding of what it means to be powerful.

1. Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fairby Kim Scott (March 16, 2021)

Why pick it up: From Kim Scott, author of the revolutionary New York Times bestseller Radical Candor, comes Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast and Fair – how we can recognize, attack and eliminate workplace injustice – and transform our careers and organizations in the process.

We – all of us – consistently exclude, underestimate and under-utilize huge numbers of people in the workforce even as we include, overestimate and promote others, often beyond their level of competence. Just Work reveals a practical framework for both respecting everyone’s individuality and collaborating effectively. The book is an essential guide leaders and their employees need to create more just workplaces and establish new norms of collaboration and respect.

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2. Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Lifeby Joann S. Lublin (February 16, 2021)

Why pick it up: For the first time in American history, a significant number of mothers are heading major corporations, including General Motors, Ulta Beauty, and Best Buy. Yet these “Power Moms” still struggle with balancing their management responsibilities with raising children. Author Joann S. Lublin draws on the experiences of two generations of these successful women to measure how far we’ve come—and how far we still need to go.

Power Moms provides lessons and advice to help today’s professional women, their families, and their employers navigate this challenging terrain. Lublin looks at the trade-offs mothers are too often forced to make between work and family and the root causes, including the dearth of large-scale paid parental leave and other family-friendly policies. While it celebrates the gains women have made, Power Moms makes clear how much more must be done to make being a working mother easier.

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3. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Raceby Walter Isaacson (March 9, 2021)

What it’s about: When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she sped through the pages, and became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

Doudna and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions. The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution.

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.

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4. This America: The Case For the Nation by Jill Lepore (May 18, 2019)

What it’s about: Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, Jill Lepore, repudiates nationalism in America by explaining its long history―and the history of the idea of the nation itself―while calling for a “new Americanism”: a generous patriotism that requires an honest reckoning with the country’s past.

Lepore begins her argument with a primer on the origins of nations, explaining how liberalism, the nation-state, and liberal nationalism, developed together. Illiberal nationalism, however, emerged in the United States after the Civil War―resulting in the failure of Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the restriction of immigration. Much of American history, Lepore argues, has been a battle between these two forms of nationalism, liberal and illiberal, all the way down to the nation’s latest, bitter struggles over immigration.

A manifesto for a better nation, and a call for a “new Americanism,” This America examines the path to the nation’s future by reclaiming its past.

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5. Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changesby Elizabeth Lesser (September 15, 2020)

What it’s about: What story would Eve have told about picking the apple? Why is Pandora blamed for opening the box? And what about the fate of Cassandra who was blessed with knowing the future but cursed so that no one believed her? What if women had been the storytellers?

Cassandra Speaks is about the stories we tell and how those stories become ingrained in our culture. Stories written mostly by men with lessons and laws for all of humanity. We have outgrown so many of them, and still they endure. This book is about what happens when women are the storytellers too—when we speak from our authentic voices, when we flex our values, when we become protagonists in the tales we tell about what it means to be human.

Cassandra Speaks is a beautifully balanced synthesis of storytelling, memoir, and cultural observation. Women, men and all people will find themselves in the pages of this book, and will come away strengthened, opened, and ready to work together to create a better world for all people.

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6. Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manualby Luvvie Ajayi Jones (March 2, 2021)

What it’s about: Luvvie Ajayi Jones is known for her trademark wit, warmth, and perpetual truth-telling. But even she’s been challenged by the enemy of progress known as fear. She was once afraid to call herself a writer, and nearly skipped out on doing a TED talk that changed her life because of imposter syndrome. As she shares in Professional Troublemaker, she’s not alone.

With humor and honesty, and guided by the influence of her professional troublemaking Nigerian grandmother, Funmilayo Faloyin, Luvvie walks us through what we must get right within ourselves before we can do the things that scare us; how to use our voice for a greater good; and how to put movement to the voice we’ve been silencing—because truth-telling is a muscle.

The point is not to be fearless, but to know we are afraid and charge forward regardless. It is to recognize that the things we must do are more significant than our fears. This book is about how to live boldly in spite of all the reasons we have to cower

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7. Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson (January 26, 2021, two days before Ms. Tyson’s death)

What it’s about: The iconic actress who shattered many glass ceilings in her nine-plus decades chronicles and celebrates a groundbreaking career in this fascinating autobiography. From single teen mother to model and actress—and, yes, her marriage to Miles Davis—Tyson’s book illustrates how she again and again refused to let obstacles get in her way. This grand tale of her immense talent and desire to live out loud will resonate with anyone who has a dream. 

Viola Davis writes, “This book is Ms. Tyson’s abundant treasure to each of us: her life, in her words, just as she is. She shares truths usually whispered between close friends in the dim light of a back bedroom, those candid declarations not often spoken aloud. And she tells her story the way only a black woman can: in all of its dazzling authenticity, heels off and voice undulating, shifting between anguish and exuberance. The art of acting is the art of exposing, an emotional unveiling before others. Ms. Tyson is as revelatory on these pages as she has been on the stage.” 

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8. Girlhoodby Melissa Febos (March 31, 2021)

What it’s about: In this powerful follow-up to 2017’s Abandon Me, the fierce essayist dispels the myths that young women grow up hearing about their bodies and their selves, most especially and insidiously the myth that we are not masters of our own physical and emotional domains. This is a book you’ll wish you had in your youth, but one you’ll be glad to have now.

Blending investigative reporting, memoir, and scholarship, Febos charts how she and others like her have reimagined relationships and made room for the anger, grief, power, and pleasure women have long been taught to deny. Written with Febos’ characteristic precision, lyricism, and insight, Girlhood is a philosophical treatise, an anthem for women, and a searing study of the transitions into and away from girlhood, toward a chosen self.

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9. While Justice Sleepsby Stacey Abrams (May 11, 2021)

What it’s about: From celebrated national leader and bestselling author Stacey Abrams’ While Justice Sleeps is a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Drawing on her experience in politics and law, this intricate puzzle of a novel has its protagonist, Avery, coming into her own as she pieces together the conundrum of what her boss—a controversial Justice who’s fallen into a coma—had been investigating, and where it will lead her.

Question: Which of these new titles will be on your reading list this year?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

7 of Our Favorite TED Talks in Honor of Women’s History Month

7 of Our Favorite TED Talks in Honor of Women’s History Month

Since 1987, March has been designated as Women’s History Month. This year, we are sharing some of the top TED Talks given by women leaders from a gamut of backgrounds. These women use humor, vulnerability, and wisdom to claim permission to step into power, validate women’s experiences, and change the world with their stories.

Here’s a look at seven of our favorite TED Talks from remarkable women around the globe.

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1. Africa is a Sleeping Giant – I’m Trying to Wake it UpbyAdeola Fayehun

About the speaker: Adeola Fayehun is a Nigerian journalist and political satirist who focuses on geopolitical, social and economic issues affecting Africans. She hosts a satirical news show on YouTube called Keeping It Real with Adeola, produced and published on the “Adeola Fayehun” YouTube channel. Previously, she worked for  SaharaTV.

What her talk is about: Follow along as she roasts corrupt African officials and shows why the continent already has all it needs to take its rightful place on the world stage — if only leaders would start taking responsibility.

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2. How to Fix a Broken School? Lead fearlessly. Love hard.by Linda Cliatt-Wayman

About the speaker: Linda Cliatt-Wayman is a renowned education leader with an unwavering belief in the potential of all children. Cliatt-Wayman grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia, where she experienced firsthand the injustice perpetuated against poor students in their education. She vowed to dedicate her life to helping as many children escape poverty through education as she could.

What her talk is about: On her first day as principal at a failing high school in North Philadelphia, Cliatt-Wayman was determined to lay down the law. But she soon realized the job was more complex than she thought. With palpable passion, she shares the three principles that helped her turn around three schools labeled “low-performing and persistently dangerous.” Her fearless determination to lead — and to love the students, no matter what — is a model for leaders in all fields.

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3. Three Ideas. Three Contradictions. Or Not?by Hannah Gadsby

About the speaker: Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby skewers the straight world’s dismissal and outright hostility toward the LGBTQ community in her stand-up sets, stage performances and television shows.

What her talk is about: Her groundbreaking Netflix special “Nanette” broke comedy. In a talk about truth and purpose, she shares three ideas and three contradictions. Or not.

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4. The Legacy of Matriarchs in the Yukon First Nationsby Kluane Adamek

About the speaker: Kluane Adamek, she/her/hers (traditional name is “Aagé”), has served as the Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief since January 2018. She is a proud northerner and citizen of Kluane First Nation. Regional Chief Adamek belongs to the Dakl’aweidi (Killerwhale) Clan and comes from a diverse background with Tlingit, Southern Tutchone, German and Irish origins.

What her talk is about: In the Yukon First Nations, women lead. Generations of matriarchs have guided and directed the community by forging trade agreements, creating marriage alliances and ensuring business for all. Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek urges others to follow in the legacy of her people by putting more women at the table and encouraging them to seek spaces where their perspectives can create the biggest impact for a better tomorrow.

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5. The Lady Stripped Bareby Tracey Spicer

About the speaker: Tracey Spicer is a multiple award winning Australian author, journalist and broadcaster. In 2019 she was named the NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year, accepted the Sydney Peace Prize alongside Tarana Burke for the Me Too movement, and won the national award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership through Women & Leadership Australia.

What her talk is about: Tracey strips away her pulled-together look on stage as she strips back her daily routine and challenges us all to use our time more productively.

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6. How I Stopped the Taliban from Shutting Down My Schoolby Sakena Yacoobi

About the speaker: Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), which she founded in 1995 in response to the lack of education and health care that the Afghan people were facing after decades of war and strife. Since its founding, AIL has either directly or indirectly impacted the lives of millions of Afghans. 

What her talk is about: When the Taliban closed all the girls’ schools in Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi set up new schools, in secret, educating thousands of women and men. In this fierce, funny talk, she tells the jaw-dropping story of two times when she was threatened to stop teaching — and shares her vision for rebuilding her beloved country.

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7. It’s Time for Women to Run for Officeby Halla Tómasdóttir

About the speaker: Tómasdóttir co-founded Audur Capital, one of few financial companies in Iceland to survive the financial meltdown in 2007. In 2016, responding to popular demand, she ran for president of Iceland. She was an unlikely candidate, with polls predicting one percent of the vote only 45 days before the election. A few weeks later, against all odds, she came in second, supported by 28% of Icelanders.

What her talk is about: With warmth and wit, Halla Tómasdóttir shares how she overcame media bias, changed the tone of the political debate and surprised her entire nation when she ran for president of Iceland — inspiring the next generation of leaders along the way. “What we see, we can be,” she says. “It matters that women run.” 

Question: Which of these remarkable women from around the world inspire you to be a better leader from where you are?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

3 Reasons Why I Haven’t Written List Blogs Lately

3 Reasons Why I Haven’t Written List Blogs Lately

Our VP of Client Engagement prepares quarterly reports on the impact of our marketing efforts. She starts with an At A Glance summary of our website performance, email subscriptions, and social media impact. Next, she drills down into each category to compare quarter-over-quarter growth and what content gained the most impact and why. She wraps the reports up with recommendations about what we should start, continue, and stop doing. One of the recommendations she made while reviewing the Q4 2020 report was to write more posts of lists, such as the wildly popular “13 Rules of Leadership by Colin Powell”.

Her reasoning was perfectly valid. Lists bring order to chaos. They help us better recall content. They’re easy to scan and less taxing on the brain. “Plus,” she added, “Google’s algorithms promote lists, and that makes it more likely that your posts will be promoted by Google.” I have mad respect for my colleague, but as I reflected on her feedback, I thought about why I’d been writing more reflective posts recently. Here’s my attempt to come up with three reasons why I haven’t written more list posts lately.

1. Lists limit nuance. During a time sharply divided by ideology, it is easier to embrace absolutes over nuances. But absolutes like lists feed into our divided ideology, and I don’t want to contribute to that division right now. Instead, I want to invite differences of opinion, differences in experience, and differences in views to work to heal our divisions.

2. Lists signal conclusion. We’re still in the midst of a period that has stress tested everything we once took as immutable. Our branches of government, security forces, medical and education systems, socio-economic disparity, racial inequity, even the weather patterns are so much more complicated today. We need to keep these issues open and deal with them honestly rather than wait for the inconvenient truths to blow over.

I don’t actually have a third reason or a tidy ending. I would typically write something like “I invite you to take advantage of 2021 with me to appreciate the nuance, invite opposing points of view, and be open to gaining new insight.” While that’s true, I’d prefer to try to leave this here and walk away without the need to oversimplify the beautifully complex state that we are in.

Question: How long can you stay comfortable when life is open-ended?

Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

Black History Month: Stories of 5 Trailblazers You May Have Never Heard Of

Black History Month: Stories of 5 Trailblazers You May Have Never Heard Of

When you think of pioneers in African American history, who comes to mind? For most of us, it’s leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and James Baldwin – and rightfully so. But, if names like Bayard Rustin, Bessie Coleman, and Jane Bolin don’t ring a bell, you’re not alone. In honor of Black History Month, here’s an opportunity to learn about lesser-known activists, adventurers, and educators who enriched the American culture by following their calling – often breaking barriers for those who rose to fame in more recent history.

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1. Bayard Rustin, a Minority Within a Minority. Dr. King is usually credited for the March on Washington in August 1963. But it was Rustin who organized and strategized in the shadows. As a gay man who had controversial ties to communism, he was considered too much of a liability to be on the front lines of the movement. Nonetheless, he was one of the most brilliant minds, and served his community tirelessly while pushing for more jobs and better wages.

Learn more: Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (Amazon Books)

We are all one – and if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.

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2. Bessie Coleman, First African American Licensed Pilot. Despite being the first licensed Black pilot in the world, Coleman wasn’t recognized as a pioneer in aviation until after her death. Though history has favored Amelia Earhart or the Wright brothers, Coleman—who went to flight school in France in 1919—paved the way for a new generation of diverse fliers like the Tuskegee airmen, Blackbirds, and Flying Hobos.

Learn more: The Legend: The Bessie Coleman Story (Amazon Prime)

It’s when we forget ourselves that we accomplish tasks that are most likely to be remembered.

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3. Gordon Parks, One of the Greatest Photographers of the 20th Century and Deeply Committed Humanitarian. Parks was the first African American on the staff of LIFE magazine, and later he would be responsible for some of the most beautiful imagery in the pages of Vogue. He also was the first Black director of a major film,Shaft, helping to shape the blaxploitation era in the 1970s. 

Learn more: Half Passed Autumn: Life and Times of Gordon Parks (Vimeo)

I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.

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4. Judge Jane Bolin, First Black Woman to Attend Yale Law School and Outspoken Public Figure before the Civil Rights Movement. A pioneer in law, Jane Bolin was the first Black woman to attend Yale Law School in 1931. In 1939, she became the first Black female judge in the United States, where she served for 10 years. One of her significant contributions was working with private employers to hire people based on their skills, as opposed to discriminating against them because of their race. She also served on the boards of the NAACP, Child Welfare League of America, and the Neighborhood Children’s Center. 

Learn more: Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin (Amazon Books)

I am always impatient with those who say, ‘You women have come a long way.’ Since I am no gradualist I think to myself that 150 years is too long a time to come ‘a long way’ in that those gains we have made were never graciously and generously granted.

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5. Marsha P. Johnson, Trans Activist and Pioneer Who Was a Force Behind the Stonewall Riots. Marsha (Pay It No Mind) Johnson was an activist, a sex worker, a drag performer, and a model for Andy Warhol. She was at the forefront of pivotal moments in modern history. She established one of America’s first safe spaces for transgender and homeless youth, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). She tirelessly advocated on behalf of sex workers, prisoners, and people with HIV/AIDS.

Learn more: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Netflix)

How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race?

If you’d like to hear more stories to celebrate Black History Month, listen to this beautiful StoryCorps collection featuring Black voices in conversation.

Question: What stories would you want to see elevated in the narrative of American history?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!

Leadership by Lincoln: 15 Steps To Lead in Turbulent Times

Leadership by Lincoln: 15 Steps To Lead in Turbulent Times

It’s been nearly eight months since George Floyd called out for his mother as his life was callously drained away by a white police officer in broad daylight on a Minneapolis street. Mr. Floyd’s death ignited a powder keg in America that spread around the world. Images of his murder, followed by buildings in flames, followed by national guard troops positioned on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial show the worst of what can happen when we lack the kind of leadership that helps us navigate the path between chaos and control.

Before sitting down to write this dispatch, I picked up my copy of Leadership in Turbulent Times, to find inspiration and historical perspective. In the book, author Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.

Goodwin compared and contrasted the four presidents, and noted how their lives were marked by crucibles that shaped their leadership style. This time, I opened the book to Chapter 9, Transformational Leadership. The chapter opens on March 4, 1861, the first day Abraham Lincoln took office.

Goodwin writes, “the house was not merely divided; the house was on fire. Seven southern states had passed resolutions to secede from the Union in the four months between Lincoln’s election and his inauguration.”

It was against this backdrop that Lincoln helped the nation navigate the path between chaos and control. “His temperament was stamped with melancholy,” Goodwin writes, “but devoid of pessimism and brightened by wit.”

Here are 15 steps that Lincoln took to lead our divided country:

1.    Acknowledge when failed policies demand a change in direction

2.    Gather firsthand information, ask questions

3.    Find time and space in which to think

4.    Exhaust all possibility of compromise before imposing unilateral executive power

5.    Anticipate contending viewpoints

6.    Assume full responsibility for a pivotal decision

7.    Understand the emotional needs of each member of the team

8.    Refuse to let past resentments fester; transcend personal vendettas

9.    Set a standard of mutual respect and dignity; control anger

10. Shield colleagues from blame

11. Maintain perspective in the face of both accolades and abuse

12. Find ways to cope with pressure, maintain balance, replenish energy

13. Keep your word

14. Know when to hold back, when to move forward

15. Combine transactional and transformational leadership

My temperament since the death of George Floyd, too, has been marked by melancholy. But, I find inspiration anew each day as I see people at all levels in our society guiding the way through leadership that seeks to unify.

Question: Which of these 15 leadership skills from Lincoln’s playbook can you use today?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News!