Last week I was asked if I could recommend some authors or titles to increase personal capabilities as a leader and educator. I really loved the question. It got me thinking about the best leadership books for educators I have read over the past twenty-five years. To be clear, these are leadership books that apply across any field. They are not specific to education, but have leadership and personal development concepts that are pertinent for educators.
These books have made my top five because they had relevant lessons that I applied to my work at the time I read them. I also find myself still sharing messages with others and referencing these texts. My wish is that they are inspiring for you too.
I read the book, watched the TED Talk and even did the online course. You’ll also find some other great stuff on Simon Sinek’s website. Start with this book to get a better understanding of why it is important to know what you stand for and what drives you. He has a follow up book, “Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team”.
Simon Sinek also wrote “Leaders Eat Last”. This one is on my Want to Read list. It has great ratings and reviews.
This book is the quintessential self-improvement text. I recommend it as a leadership text because the hardest part about being a leader is the work you do internally on yourself, not externally with others. I first read this book in the mid 90s and had light bulb moments. I re-read it again late last year (more than 20 years later and with a whole lot more life and leadership experience) and I took more lessons from it.
Your local library will have this book, but I suggest you get a copy you can keep in your personal collection. You may be fortunate to find a copy in a second hand book shop.
Two words – A Classic. I bought this book early in my career when I was struggling to have difficult conversations with people I was supervising. I had to address growing issues, but wanted to maintain a positive relationship. This book had what I was looking for. Keep in mind it was published in 1936, so you’ll find the language rather formal, but it’s full of sage advice.
You might find a copy in your second hand bookstore, local library or google search for a free PDF if you are not fussed on formatting.
As a taster, here is “The Best Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People” on the Farnham Street blog.
Don’t be put off by the big American corporations that are the foundation of Jim Collins’ research for this book. I have applied many of the ideas in leading schools. I’ve also heard other presenters reference theories from this text, so chances are you have too. The flywheel effect, hedgehog concept, and getting the right people on the bus all originated from “Good to Great”. Jim Collins advocates for a ‘Stop Doing List’. My version is the Stuff Hijacking Important Time list (Note the acronym). For the record, I still aspire to Level 5 Leadership and wish a lot of other educators did too.
I’ve just started to listen to “Dare to Lead” as an audiobook. I like to think Brene Brown is reading this to me, personally as I exercise. One chapter in, and it’s brilliant. I have made notes in the audio app but I need to acquire a hard copy. There will be pencil notes in the margins and sticky notes hanging out the sides when I am done. There may also be quotes converted to social media graphics… here’s one to get started…
“What we can do, and what we are ethically called to do, is create a space in our schools and classrooms where all students can walk in and for that day or hour, take off the crushing weight of their armour, hang it on a rack and open their hearts to truly being seen. We must be guardians of a space that allows students to breathe, and be curious, and explore the world, and be how they are without suffocation. They deserve one place where they can rumble with vulnerability and their hearts can exhale. And what I know from the research is that we should never underestimate the benefit to a child of having a place to belong, even one where they can take off that armour. It can, and often does change the trajectory of their life.” – Brene Brown, “Dare to Lead”