WCL Reading Recommendations

With summer and its distractions winding down, maybe you’re looking to switch your reading list from the relaxation of paperback fiction to something a bit more challenging, to take you into autumn.

If so, have a look at the titles here, all recommended by WCL Board Members and staff. You’ll find books that take a new look at ideas on a range of leadership, management, and personal development topics.

Let us know if you have other reading suggestions that you’d like to share with the WCL community, or let us know how you get on with one of these titles. Share your thoughts—we love to hear from you!

Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders by Alice Eagly and Linda L. Carli
Recommended by WCL President Emeritus, Sharon Buckmaster

This is a very important book, which help us understand in a much deeper way, the fundamental issues and processes that contribute to the continuing imbalance of women at the highest levels of leadership. It suggests why the glass ceiling metaphor is misleading, offering the new metaphor of the labyrinth as a more accurate picture of today’s situation for women pursuing leadership paths. As the authors point out, labyrinths are ultimately solvable, but they are not solved with a direct or straight path.

The authors consider issues of role identity, the psychology of prejudice towards female leaders, and how both men and women visualize and perceive leadership. They elaborate on the double bind women frequently confront where certain key attributes are associated with how leaders should act but if a woman takes on those attributes, she is considered aggressive and domineering, and if she doesn’t, she is viewed as not being leadership material.

Both of the authors are long-time researchers in the field of gender and leadership. I thought of this book in part because of how often they are cited in many of the new articles referring to women and leadership appearing in magazines such as HBR (Harvard Business Review). It isn’t the juiciest book I have ever read but it isn’t an academic tome either.

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Recommended by WCL Communications Director, Kimberlie Parker

In the midst of a very busy time in my life, I found this book in an airport and the title immediately appealed to me.  When I noticed it was a New York Times Bestseller, I was sold.  There is a quiz included to help determine where one falls on the introvert/extrovert scale, which I had my husband take with me.  Although I’m not an introvert myself (he is), I have learned through the years that many of the best ideas ultimately come from the quietest person in the room.

In my industry, the idea of brainstorming is very popular. I’ve realized through participating and running dozens of brainstorming sessions myself, that although fun to participate in for me, the end result is not always as effective as one might think.  Some of the best ideas actually come in the days following, as people with more introverted tendencies have time to thoughtfully formulate ideas they couldn’t communicate in a larger, fast-talking setting.  In many cases, introverts have a hard time communicating because the extroverts have taken over without realizing it.

Susan Cain’s research and knowledge on this subject is thorough and thoughtful.  She traces the timeline in history when the U.S. began to place more value on extroversion, and illustrates the damage that can result from this.  She provides insight into viewing our most important relationships differently: as partners, parents, co-workers, friends, and leaders/managers.  I found the book to be well written, informative, and I immediately began to practice some of the techniques it shares.  I recommend it to anyone interested in getting the most from personal and professional relationships, including the one with yourself.

Gracious & Ruthless—Surprising Strategies for Business Success
by Susan Sokol Blosser
Recommended by WCL President, Michelle Sosinski

This beautifully written story is about a woman who found and followed her destiny.  She had a vision and chartered a path in Oregon’s wine industry—a true Oregon pioneer.  The learnings she shares in this concise book are of managing and building the business (through good and difficult times), building a team … and growing as an individual. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate leader, I believe you’ll find Susan Sokol Blosser’s leadership tips (and her wisdom) inspiring.  This book will stay on my desktop!

The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
Recommended by WCL Project Coordinator, Clare Matthias

While useful and applicable to broader areas of our lives, I also found this book helpful for new approaches to navigating the many professional decisions that one is faced with. Sometimes the little ones we confront on a daily basis, but also the bigger issues that come up in planning, strategy, and especially in managing teams or collaborating with colleagues.

Iyengar (a professor at the Columbia Business School and Department of Psychology) helps us see decision making as part art, part science, and gives the reader new tools for working through both aspects of their own decision making dilemmas.

The 2R Manager: When to Relate, When to Require, and How to Do Both Effectively by Peter E. Friedes
Recommended by WCL President Emeritus, Sharon Buckmaster

The 2R Manager is a really practical book. It can help managers at any level become more effective. It offers specific advice tailored to each individual’s current management style. You will take some self-surveys, see the results, and learn the impact you now have on those you manage. You’ll learn what changes you must make and how to make them.

According to this author, managers naturally lean towards either a Relating or a Requiring style. Those who naturally require are weaker at relating—sometimes much weaker—and vice versa. The best managers possess the ability to do both well and know when to choose one over the other. Most managers miss opportunities. Some try to be their employees’ friend when they need to be setting priorities and deadlines. Others, thinking they have the answers, miss getting new ideas and destroy their employees’ motivation. Having the ability to relate and require is fundamental for effective managing at any and every level of an organization.

I’ve shared this book with a number of coaching clients and their feedback to me is that they have found it to be very useful. It was recommended to me by another coach who has used it for years.