Non-Business Books for Business Leaders

It’s lonely at the top. You entrepreneurs and business leaders face a unique set of challenges. Through my experience, having worked with over 3,000 global business leaders, I know the stress and pressure that work creates is exponential. I also know that leadership starts with the self. The better a leader knows herself, the better that leader is. If she’s done deep work on herself, she’ll be a better leader.

The unstated law at work is to check your whole self at the door. In many business cultures, you’re not supposed to bring your humanity to work. Leaders especially are expected to have all the answers, to keep it all together, to be perfect.

But you know that’s impossible. (as a quote you can fuse: “The unstated law at work is to check your whole self at the door… But you know that’s impossible.”)

You bring all of ourselves to work, even if you aren’t aware of it, don’t express it or share it all. The things that shaped your upbringing, the realms where your beliefs were formed and the level to which you’ve re-parented yourself all show up in the leadership realm. Becoming a good leader is directly connected to becoming a good adult. Your personal growth is tightly tethered to your leadership potential. A dysfunctional person in a leadership position will create a dysfunctional culture.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung

When you enhance your understanding of who you are, and what you believe, you consciously apply these knowings to all that you do. When you are living and working an integrated life, you are more able to face the bottomless uncertainty that paints your vocational landscape. When you enhance your life with a resounding why, you are able to face the uncertainty in the wide array of how’s.

Leading organizations and teams can become a place for you to learn about your blind spots, shortcomings, talents, and gifts. The work of your personal evolution can illuminate your potential as whole humans at work and elsewhere.

There is a shortage of leadership books that focus on evolving the whole person.

While it’s certainly lonely at the top, you’re not alone. All leaders are in the same boat as you—going about your work at work and going about your life as you live it. Growth happens with intention, insight, hard work, and introspection. And, there’s some great thinkers and writers to help guide you.

As such, there are a series of books I recommend to leaders that can bolster your own personal growth that is ultimately applied to your leadership prowess. By no means is this a complete list, and I’d love to hear from you on what books you recommend or have read that helped you on your journey as an evolved leader.

  1. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer
  2. The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, by David Brooks
  3. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
  4. Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brene Brown
  5. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brene Brown
  6. Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, by David Whyte
  7. The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship, by David Whyte
  8. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, by Mark Nepo
  9. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, by Dan Siegal
  10. Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio
  11. Ego is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday
  12. Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, by John O’Donohue
  13. Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom,by John O’Donohue
  14. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr
  15. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert


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