I’ve been listening to the Farnam Street podcast, The Knowledge Project, recently and enjoying the guests that have talked about The Personal MBA or Relationships vs Transactions. But I noticed a pattern. I realized that the guests were largely telling stories about men, mentioning books by men, and I didn’t see myself in these conversations. When I went to dig deeper into the recommended reading, I found more of the same.
I’m not trying to pick on Farnam Street, but the institutional blindness of having a slogan: “Our Content Helps You Succeed In Work and Life” without examining who is behind that “You” is real. So I dashed off a quick tweet about my frustration, and gosh did the Twitterverse deliver.
You can read the full replies to that tweet if you want to see all the attributed recommendations, but I’ve gathered them here in a loose structure. If you want the unstructured list, check out this published Google doc compilation I created.
Managing and Leading People
- Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter?
- Resilient Management
- The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You
- 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know
- The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change
- Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
- Mary Parker Follett Prophet of Management
- Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett
Leading an Organization
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
- Unmanageable: Leadership Lessons from an Impossible Year
- How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership
- Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smart
- How Boards Work: And How They Can Work Better in a Chaotic World
- Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader
- Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make It to the Top
- Own It: Leadership Lessons from Women Who Do
- Leadership Chronicles of a Corporate Sage: Five Keys to Becoming a More Effective Leader
- Changing on the Job: Developing leaders for a complex world
- Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
- Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work
- Rocking the Boat: How Tempered Radicals Effect Change Without Making Trouble
- When Giants Learn To Dance
- Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win
- Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You
- From Start-Up to Grown-Up: Grow Your Leadership to Grow Your Business
Founding and Building a Business
- Changing Tides: Powerful Strategies for Female Founders
- Reboot: Probably More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about Starting a Global Business
- Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations
- Mentoring Programs That Work
- The Web of Inclusion: A New Architecture for Building Great Organizations
- The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth
- The Better Allies Approach to Hiring (written by a recommender)
- What Works: Gender Equality by Design
- Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business
- The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits
- The Southwest Airlines Way
- Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills, and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation
- Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
- The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business
- Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It
- The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence
- Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation
Work more efficiently or productively
- Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results
- Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow
- No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work
- How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job
- New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together
- The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
- Thriving in 24/7: Six Strategies for Taming the New World of Work
- Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact (written by a recommender)
- Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces (written by a recommender)
- The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data
- Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life
- Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace
- Acting with Power: Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe
- Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change
- Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage
- Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
- Roots and Wings: Inspiring Stories of Indian Women in Engineering (written by a recommender)
- Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)
- Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less
- Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace
- Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career
- The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
- Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products
Growing Yourself (At Work, Maybe)
- Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive
- Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace
- Demystifying Public Speaking
- Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well
- ‘The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table
- Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms
- Disrupt Yourself: Master Relentless Change and Speed Up Your Learning Curve
- Creative Acts for Curious People
- Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World
- Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking
- The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
- Insight: The Surprising Truth about How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think
- How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices
Widen Your Perspective
- Thinking in Systems
- Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed
- Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen
- The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World
- The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World
- We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice
- The Real World of Technology
- Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas
- The Nature of Economies
- Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future
- Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World
- Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
- Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism
- In The Age Of The Smart Machine: The Future Of Work And Power
- The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
- The Great Mental Models (3 book series) (by Farnam Street!)
I also recommend using the Library Extension to automatically search your local library catalog for these books.
Thanks to the recommenders
Many thanks to Better Allies, Kim Moir, David Ryan, Alice MacGillivray, Jillian Kozyra, Margaret Fero, Laura Glu, Liz Wiseman, Linda van der Pal, Sophie Weston, Mariposa Leadership, Richard Hughes-Jones, Katherine Collins, Arie Goldshlager, Michele Zanini, Bob Sutton, James Addison, Davis Liu, MD, Suva Chattopadhyay, Anna-Lisa Leefers, Neil Hodgson, Mindy Howard, leverup, Jo Miller, and Jeff Tetz for recommending these books, and to everyone that retweeted my request as well.
Inc. published a similar list that you likely want to check out as well: 60 Great Business and Leadership Books, All Written by Women. Thanks to Shantha R. Mohan, Ph.D., DTM for the pointer!
One last thought
I asked for recommendations of business, management, and leadership books by and about women, and I got so many more than I expected! As I dug through the list of recommendations, noticed a new pattern—most of the authors look like me, a white cis woman.
Many of the authors have degrees and/or positions at Ivy League universities. Some of these books seem to espouse a kind of “Lean In feminism”, where if you work hard enough in the existing system, or change yourself to work with the system, you’ll succeed. That doesn’t work for everyone, and can even work against people.
There’s an innate bias to who gets published, and it’s worth considering whose voices we might not be listening to in the room, who doesn’t feel comfortable enough to talk in the room, and who isn’t even in the room. (In this case, the room is a list of crowdsourced book recommendations).
Despite publishing this list of book recommendations, you might not need a book.
As Don Jones (yet another dude) interviewed on the Tech Lead Journal podcast put it, “Define what success means to you” and go after it. And bring others up with you.
And while we’re at it, let’s build a new system where everyone is empowered and supported to find their own success—beyond mere survival.