When we advocate for change at every level—we mean every level. From small organizations to national governments, leaders in positions of influence who are looking toward the future need the right books to get the job done.
Today, improving the world has become something more than noble; it’s a priority for organizations. Consumers and future generations emerging into consumer markets demand the companies they buy from be socially conscious. Employees want to make a difference. The rise of B Corps is rooted in the idea that companies have a greater responsibility to the people and the world they serve.
A driver of this responsibility is great leadership. Developing a leadership style is a continual practice—effective and progressive leaders always find room for improvement. Moreover, outstanding leaders impact the lives of those who follow them and identify opportunities for growth, which in turn can translate to broader changes and improvements beyond the organization.
These four Berrett-Koehler titles are perfect for leaders who are chasing lofty goals. Small adjustments to how you lead can turn into big impacts, and the advice offered in these top books can give you the tools to build a strong leadership foundation.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
By The Arbinger Institute
No matter how good your intentions are, changing the world is impossible if your worldview is limited by a “me”-centric attitude and you can’t see outside of yourself. Leadership and Self-Deception describes this shortcoming as being “in the box.” Many leaders are held back by their misguided perception of situations and others, which inevitably interferes with collective goals and priorities. After all, how can you make the world a better place for others if you think, even inadvertently, it revolves around you?
Leadership and Self-Deception is told as a fictional narrative but delivers practical advice similar to what you would find in any other leadership book. It goes into detail about self-betrayal and how that affects one’s personal outlook:ou can’t see outside of yourself. Leadership and Self-Deception describes this shortcoming as being “in the box.” Many leaders are held back by their misguided perception of situations and others, which inevitably interferes with collective goals and priorities. After all, how can you make the world a better place for others if you think, even inadvertently, it revolves around you?
- An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal.”
- When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.
- When I see the world in a self-justifying way, my view of reality becomes distorted.
The authors argue that this distortion traps leaders in the box, from which effecting real change becomes difficult. The book delves into ways leaders can escape this box and see the world—starting with those closest to them—a different way.
The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves
By The Arbinger Institute
The Outward Mindset follows a similar philosophy to Leadership and Self-Deception in that it challenges people to expand their personal focus to consider others. The authors write, “The way we use the term, mindset is more than a belief about oneself. It refers to the way people see and regard the world—how they see others, circumstances, challenges, opportunities, and obligations. Their behaviors are always a function of how they see their situations and possibilities.”
From this point of reflection, an inward mindset attempts to force behavioral change in others, but an outward mindset creates an environment in which that change is naturally and fluidly inspired. You can think of it as the next building block for your leadership style foundation. Once you’ve gotten out of the box and confronted your own self-deception, moving from an inward to an outward mindset will challenge you to practice creating an environment in which those around you can flourish, as effective leaders ought to do. The Arbinger Institute’s book details how to make this transition, which can make all the difference when your goals for the world are big.
Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust
By Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein
The world is filled with leadership experts, but their expertise doesn’t always translate to real, positive change. For leaders committed to positive change in their teams and in the world, a conscious consideration of context and process is critical. Edgar Schein, who developed the concept of humble inquiry and has been named the father of organizational development, and his son Peter Schein, reimagine leadership in the context of emerging trends of relationship building, complex group work, diverse workforces, and cultures in which everyone feels psychologically safe. They call this leadership style “humble leadership.”
The authors write, “It’s not up to you alone to solve the problem, to lead to greatness, to change the world. It is up to you to create a learning environment in which you and your group can cooperate in identifying and fixing the processes that solve problems, and maybe then can change the world.” A humble approach drives leaders to be more focused on the people they lead rather than themselves, to provide rather than expect, and to listen rather than bark out orders.
Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity
By Margaret Wheatley
The workplace can seem like a microcosm for the world: Both are chaotic and unpredictable, and you’re often working alongside people who are different from yourself or in circumstances different from your personal life. Yet creating meaningful change where you are can blossom out into the community and eventually the world at large. Wheatley’s book details how leaders can use their positions to transform local organizations and promote the greater good.
Wheatley writes, “So much is possible if we consciously and wisely choose how best to step forward as leaders for this time.” The best leaders handle the chaos, reassure those they lead, and discover potential and excellence in the midst of a crisis with intentional choices.
Wheatley also writes, “Now it’s our turn.” For today’s leaders eager to make a difference, it truly is.