As you plan your summer reading list, I hope you are including some of the great books about leadership that have been published recently. Here are two that I have just finished. I recommend them both, and I see some interesting connections between them.
“The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You” by Robin Fisher Roffer (2009, John Wiley & Sons) is a wonderful summary of the value of authenticity, of figuring out those characteristics that are uniquely yours, and of building on those traits. Robin argues for being true to your values and to using those core tenets as a basis for exploring new experiences. Her book is filled with stories from her own adventures, as well as those of friends and colleagues, and these provide great illustrations of the power of understanding yourself as a springboard to success.
Those of you who participated in Southern Polytechnic State University’s 2012 Women’s Leadership Initiative may recognize Robin’s name. Her earlier book, “Make a Name for Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand of Strategy for Success” (2002, Crown Business), was on that group’s recommended list of “Leadership Books for Women.”
I also recommend Jennifer Kahnweiler’s “Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference” (2013, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.). Jennifer highlights the powerful skills that enable introverts to be highly successful leaders and change agents. This book is about much more than helping introverts succeed in an extroverted world; Jennifer makes a strong case for how developing “introverted strengths” can benefit everyone. Indeed, extroverts may find particular value in focusing on enhancing their skills in preparation, engaged listening, focused conversations, writing, and the thoughtful use of social media. Like Robin, Jennifer uses real-life examples that illustrate her points. This new publication builds on Jennifer’s previous book, “The Introverted Leader” (originally published in 2009 and re-released in 2013, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.); I know a number of participants in SPSU’s Women’s Leadership Initiative have already read that book.
At their centers, both Robin’s and Jennifer’s books begin with the importance of understanding yourself in order to be a strong and effective leader. Knowing your motivations, values, strengths, and blind spots is a critical first step in leading others to accomplish great things. Personal authenticity is vital to leadership – and to helping others be their authentic selves.
I encourage you to add Robin’s and Jennifer’s books to your summer reading list. What else is on your list?