9 must read books for aspiring female leaders

By Robert Half on 5th March 2020

March 8th marks a special day where women around the world celebrated International Women's Day. In honour of this year's theme #EachforEqual, a few female members of our senior leadership team at Robert Half have compiled a list of their must-read books. So if you are an aspiring leader, wondering how you can achieve a work-life balance, or considering what qualities or characteristics you would like to include on our career development plan this year, there should be a book for you.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth

Recommended by Kristen McNamara, Senior Director of Staff Development and Talent Acquisition, International Zone

This book is inspirational regardless of one's background.  Grit, to me, is mutually inclusive to being successful. Angle Duckworth’s book outlines the four key elements to gritty successful people; interest, practice, purpose, hope.

What I Told My Daughter

by Nina Tassler

Recommended by Katy Tanner, Director of Leadership Development

Whether you’re a mother yourself, considering becoming a mother or a daughter, this book has lessons for women of all ages. The advice and counsel shared in this book from a diverse group of women builds a strong narrative for what it means to empower the future generation. The stories shared reflect character-building moments between parent and child. For me this is a strong reminder that developing strong female leaders doesn’t only happen at work, but throughout a woman’s life. Developing the ability to be true to yourself requires a range of qualities such as courage, connection, respect, and the understanding that “resilience is more important than perfection.”

Lioness: Golda Meir & The Nation of Israel

by Francine Klagsbrun

Recommended by Rachel Stockell, Senior Manager in London

She became the fourth and the only woman Prime Minister of Israel on 17 March 1969 after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister. She was said to be the "Iron Lady" of Israel's politics years before that name became synonymous with our British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Her biography demonstrates not only the rise of a woman in politics in the late 60s when it was definitely a man’s world, but also her iron will. She bought about changes in a country she lead which at the time was surrounded by war and adversity. As Prime Minister, Golda negotiated arms agreements with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, and had dozens of clandestine meetings with Jordan’s King Hussein in the unsuccessful pursuit of a land-for-peace agreement with Israel’s neighbour. However, she is remembered as a Lioness in politics and a trail blazer of her time.

Miracle In The Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

By Nando Parrado

Recommended by Victoria Sprott, Director for Staff Development and Talent Management

Quite simply, this is a heartbreaking and inspiring true story that on the surface may not seem like the standard recommendation for aspiring women. At the heart of it, this is a story of grim determination, teamwork, critical decision-making and survival all key qualities for women in leadership today.

A Nose for Success

by Jo Malone

Recommended by Kristen McNamara, Senior Director of Staff Development and Talent Acquisition, International Zone

Jo Malone is such an inspiration as a woman who never let life’s circumstances or difficult situations hold her back from being her best self. This book gives us a peek into her life, and I am grateful for the insights she is willing to share. 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

By Sheryl Sandberg

Recommended by Katy Tanner, Director of Leadership Development

No list of must read books would be complete without Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. In a nutshell, her point is that excuses and justifications won’t get us anywhere. But instead, we all need self-belief, give it your all, “lean in” and “don’t leave before you leave”. A point that I like if that we shouldn’t doubt our ability to combine work and family. If w edge ourselves out of possible assignments before we even have a baby, we end up in a virtuous circle. Just assume you can juggle work and family, step forward to succeed so that you are in a better position to ask for what you need.

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness

by Prof Steve Peters

Recommended by Beth Turner, Staff Development and Training Manager

The Chimp Paradox is a book that helps you to understand why you and others react to certain situations in certain ways. It has a pseudo-scientific approach which makes it easy to understand and pictures to illustrate the points too!

It leaves you with quite a powerful image which reminds you that your initial response may have more layers – if you are angry or having an emotional reaction to something you end up visualising the chimp in you and then start thinking about what is really driving this reaction – is it the whole you or is your inner chimp feeling under pressure and therefore having a bad reaction? This can help to guide you to the full solution, not an impulsive one.

It is a great read for any stage of your career as it makes you think about how you respond to all situations – for example, you weren’t offered a promotion? Your gut reaction may be paranoia that they think you aren’t capable, but if you calm down you will hear what they like about you, what your prospects are and maybe they outlined some fair development areas for you to focus on. If you keep calm and focus on these, the promotion could soon be yours.

Other reasons to read it…..I know someone who said that reading the book cured their road rage!

How Remarkable Women Lead

by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston

Recommended by Katy Tanner, Director of Leadership Development

This book provides a practical plan for making a difference at work and in life – something that both women and men can benefit from. Filled with personal stories and insight, you can easily translate the impact of the five elements of Centered Leadership–meaning, framing, connecting, engaging, and energising– and put them into action.

Shoe Dog – A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

by Phil Knight

Recommended by Kristen McNamara, Senior Director of Staff Development and Talent Acquisition, International Zone

A book about a person who simply loves what he does, where passion and commitment win overall. This book is for all those entrepreneurs at heart out there. Fail, fail and fail again, until you succeed!

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