NextGen Know-How: 5 Books Every Leader Should Read This Year

young African American businesswoman reading a book while sitting on window sill
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence LLC

3 minutes

These great books can help change your perspective, build self-awareness and spark personal and professional growth.

A great book can change your perspective, open up possibilities, build self-awareness and spark personal growth and change. There is one author whose work has had a big impact on my life over the past few years. I believe Ryan Holiday is one of the greatest authors of our time, and his books are personally and professionally transformational.

Holiday combines philosophy, stoicism and relevant stories and applies them to the modern world and our current challenges. Reading the below books this year will cultivate personal and professional self-awareness, change and growth. Every leader can benefit from the wisdom and principles in these books. (And I promise that Ryan did not pay me for my endorsement!)

  1. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumphs by Ryan Holiday. Most of us respond to obstacles with fear, frustration, confusion, helplessness, depression or anger. Holiday writes that great individuals transform weakness into strength and use obstacles as a way to improve. He shares several practices and skills to navigate tough times. This is a great book for increasing emotional intelligence.
  2. Ego Is the Enemy. Beyond the typical ego discussion, Holiday delves into important elements of leadership: taking tough feedback, managing emotions, focusing on others and their success, and staying level-headed when you’ve achieved success. He provides stories and examples of great leaders as well as leaders who have let ego get in the way. Defensiveness, escalating emotions and the constant pursuit of more are all acts of the ego.
  3. Stillness Is the Key. Just the title of this book drew me to it. Who doesn’t crave more stillness in their life? In the preface, Holiday defines “stillness” as being steady while the world spins around you. In our hyper-connected world, we are constantly distracted and distracting ourselves—doing, scrolling, talking, worrying, hoping. The ability to filter the essential from the nonessential is imperative for successful leadership, as is reflection, presence and perspective. Cultivating stillness both personally and into your leadership will help you be more intentional.
  4. Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self Control. In a world of temptation and excess, discipline is more important than ever. Managing your workload, cultivating focus, overcoming perfectionism, controlling your emotions, delegating, and working with others are covered in this book and are all elements of successful leadership. I believe the ability to control our focus and energy in our complex world are two of the most important skills for leadership today. This book will leave you inspired to be your best and commit to continuously evolving.
  5. Courage Is Calling: Fortune Favors the Brave. We are all battling against fear. Holiday states that “there is no one who has achieved greatness without wrestling with their own doubts, anxieties, limitations, and demons.” Fear is the real enemy, and we have to have the courage act—to not stay in the status quo. In this beautifully written book, Holiday shares the most common fears that hold us back and how to have the courage to rise above them. “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” If you ever feel self-doubt (who hasn’t?) or feel like you want to work toward your purpose and potential, this is a must read.

Effective leaders are always learning, developing and evolving to ensure they are keeping up with our constantly changing world. Employee expectations and needs are consistently shifting, and the best leaders seek out development and resources to evolve with the times. Reading these five books this year will set you on a path of self-reflection and growth that will elevate your leadership and your life.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or

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