The journey to becoming a great leader never ends. Through my career progression, I’ve learned that the pathway to being a successful and inspiring success within others is, ironically, a deep focus on myself. This doesn’t mean being selfish, being self-centered, or lacking empathy for others; rather, it’s about being and acting in a healthy, centered, confident, knowledgeable, and secure way. It’s about knowing who you are, what you believe, what your vision is, and that you can achieve it. Only when that is accomplished are people around you inspired, confident, and motivated to be led by you.
Getting to that central point requires inner work and starts with your relationship with yourself. Below are 9 books that set a great foundation for this work, as well as books that provide some tactical tools to help lead in action.
Books To Maximize Your Physical Health
Many corporate cultures (and society in general) glorify workaholism. Retail behemoth Amazon is notorious for its toxic workplace culture. The Japanese language has a word, “karoshi,” which means “death by overwork or job-related exhaustion.” Suicides by young investment bankers are not uncommon due to the high stress, long work hours, and lack of sleep demanded by the elite firms.
As leaders, we must change the mindset within our teams, our company, and our industry that overwork and exhaustion are badges of honor necessary for climbing the corporate ladder. Instead, it is our responsibility to advocate for excellence and high standards, yes, but not at the expense of our physical health. If you need more convincing, these game-changing books scientifically prove, in astounding ways, how our physical behaviors directly impact our health in both vastly detrimental and optimal ways most people are unaware of.
1. Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker:
If everyone knew just how important it is to get 8 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep every night, everyone would! This book proves that sleep deprivation directly and negatively impacts memory, productivity, efficacy, weight loss, youthful appearance, energy levels, testosterone, immune system, and a myriad of other health benefits. Sleep is literally the prescription-free, cost-free way to immediately become healthier in all aspects. (I recommend getting a readable version of the book vs the audiobook. The author’s voice puts you to sleep - on purpose!)
2. Brain Maker, by David Perlmutter:
“You are what you eat.” This book focuses on the importance of gut-bacteria, linking poor bacterial health to severe disorders such as Autism, ADHD, ADD, and more. It also gives dietary suggestions and recipes on how to cultivate a healthy bacterial colony in your gut.
Intermittent fasting is rapidly becoming a trend for weight loss. However, fasting isn’t a fad nor just for weight loss. It is actually an evolutionary necessity from our hunter-gatherer ancestors that increases mental acuity and focus, promotes skin cell turnover, increases energy levels, optimizes productivity, and more. Also, the time you save preparing and eating your meals will give you more time to focus on work and maximize efficiency.
Books to Maximize Your Mental and Emotional Health
Leaders often are cut from the same cloth - Type A, highly intense, intellectual, overthinking, and goal-oriented individuals with a never-give-up and win-at-all-costs attitude. While admirable, overuse of these traits lead to worry, anxiety, fear, impostor syndrome, depression, and insecurity, particularly when the stakes of leading a company and thousands of employees are so high. This can take a huge toll on executives’ mental health. While many tools can be used to manage these negative emotions (meditation, yoga, therapy, exercise, etc), I start at the root of it all: my mindset. Here are 3 books I regularly revisit to train and maintain my healthy self-talk, which centers me and gives me a clear head to tackle business challenges and lead effectively.
This is a simple yet effective read advocating for people to live their lives based on seven simple principles: potentiality, giving, karma, ease, intentionality, detachment, and purpose. The Laws of Least Effort and Detachment are the most game-changing mindsets to adopt for leaders, as we think we must work exponentially harder for our goals with which we’re highly attached. However, Chopra advocates being guided by nature, peace, and harmony as the easiest and surest path to “fulfill our desires.”
5. The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor:
Another easy read, this Harvard professor explains in a straightforward manner why Happiness is life’s competitive advantage, making happy people more successful in work, life, and relationships.
6. Feeling Good, by David Burns, MD:
How does one get and stay happy, as Mr. Achor recommends? It starts with the mind. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has long been used as a highly effective means to train minds to think more positively, and this book does a great job in describing common traps of thinking we all fall into, as well as outlining tactical, actionable tools to overcome negative thinking.
Books for Tactical Leadership
I believe that consistently conquering your physical, mental, and emotional health is 90% of what it takes to be a great leader. The other 10% comes from technical execution achieved through experience. These books are great reads that help enhance that execution.
7. Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss:
As leaders, we negotiate everyday - with our team, with partners, with our executives, governments, organizations, and more. The FBI’s former international negotiator discusses negotiation tactics he uses in high stakes hostage situations where the cost of failed negotiations could lead to death.
8. The 4 Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss:
The master of automation and delegation, Tim gives tons of concrete ideas and resources on how to seriously maximize your efficiency. You’ll be shocked at how much free time you end up with!
9. Nine Lies About Work, by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall:
Many companies do things just because that’s how they’ve always been done. This book is based on quantitative research that dispels why long-held workplace practices are actually counterintuitive to improving employee engagement and workplace productivity.
I hope these books stimulate a new way of thinking and leading, and more importantly - inspire you to be your best self so you can inspire and lead others. Happy reading!
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