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Get Purposeful in 2018: 20 Books That Inspired Us

January 12, 2018 Sarah Breigle

We’re naturally curious about people—and how leading purposefully can help each of us create lasting impact on our teams, in our organizations and in the communities around us. Stop any member of our team in the hallway, and chances are good that they are reading something focused on helping each of us move forward in our own journey to greatness. We’re eager to keep challenging ourselves so that we can guide the thousands of leaders we work with each year, like you, on your leadership journey.

So as we enter 2018, we wanted to share some of the books that we read in the last 12 months that have impacted us in meaningful ways and challenged us to think about the world of leadership differently. This year’s list covers a variety of topics—from managing change and driving results to self-awareness, belonging, and emotional well-being, to name a few.


From Briana Goldman, Senior Consultant:

Be MoreBe More by Todd Putman and Lori Sparger

Knowing who we are and how we are poised in the world allows us to truly answer the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This marvelous book walks readers through a step-by-step process of identifying five core skills, four values, and one passion that combine together uniquely to author a Story of Difference. By helping us articulate our personal point of distinction, the authors help us gain the clarity we need to establish a personal vision for success.


From Sam Lam, President, Linkage Asia:

The One ThingThe ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

I read this book twice in two sittings in 2017. It helped me immensely with focused drive—the ability to pay attention to the one thing that is important for your life and work.




PrinciplesPrinciples by Ray Dalio

This is a tough book on business performance and how to get results and live the business life. If Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon, Arianna Huffington and Michael Bloomberg all endorse it, it’s a must-read.




On Becoming A LeaderOn Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

I still think that this is the best book on the “Be” element of leadership. This book and the principles it outlines are a fine combination of doing it right and doing the right things.




From Susan Brady, EVP, Global Programing Strategy & Development:

I reread On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis. It grounded me again in some basics, and helped me to get clear about how I wanted to contribute to the RIGHT NOW dialogue on “becoming” and how I want to be sure to lead—purposefully. Warren believed that only three things matter to followers. They want: 1) direction, 2) trust, and 3) hope.


From Dana Yonchak, EVP of Marketing:

JoyThe Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Doug Abrams

Despite the great and very real suffering these men have each been through, they have found ways to transcend these experiences; not in the way of avoidance, but in the purposeful choices they have made for managing their mindsets to create and live in states of joy. Reading this book helped me get more clarity on how the choices we make—about our mindsets, our reactions, the voices in our heads, etc.—shape so much of what we create as external realities—and that we can make purposeful decisions on how we engage and respond to people and situations that allows us to be at greater peace and feel greater joy, each day.


Braving the WildernessBraving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

My perception of the content of this book before I read it, and the reality of it once I read it, was strikingly different. I picked up a book I perceived to be about building community and “belonging” with others when, in fact, the twist is Brown’s theory is that we can’t actually create community and true belonging with others until we “belong” to ourselves entirely. This speaks to self-awareness, clarity and truth, and in our Purposeful Leadership language, the idea of “becoming” a purposeful leader is about the ongoing, never-ending learning journey, awareness and honest appraisal of the self as both individual and leader.



From Mark Hannum, SVP of Research & Development and Danielle Lucido, Linkage Network Director:

Radical CandorRadical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

Mark: This is a fun book to read—the pages practically turn themselves. The stories in the book are painfully accurate and unfortunately, universal. And the book pulls it all together with a great framework for becoming a better leader, a better teammate, and a better conversationalist.

Danielle: My favorite book this year deals with purposeful feedback via the Radical Candor way. The author is Kim Scott, who has held executive leadership roles at Google and Apple. I strongly identified with her advice to both “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly,” though it might seem like a paradox, and have personally struggled at times with the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” concept. But that mentality can actually backfire for leaders, both by fostering superficial culture that falls short of bringing truth to the forefront, and hindering the growth and development of your individual team members.


From Reed Parker, SVP, Business Development:

Managing TransitionsManaging Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges

Change is constant. It is always good to review and understand how people experience the destabilizing impact of change and what one, as a leader and a manager, can do to help people navigate change.




From Rick Pumfrey, EVP, COO & Principal Consultant:

Knowledge IlusionThe Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach

The message of this book centers around improving team efficiency. It is an elegant reminder that it takes a village, not just a villager, to do great things. Also near and dear to my heart are a lot of great (albeit hidden) messages in this book about efficiency, productivity, decision making, and harnessing great talent.




From Richard Leider, GILD co-chair and author:

Nameless KingThe Nameless King by Artemios Miropoulos

The Nameless King should be standard reading for all aspiring leaders, and can serve as an inspiration to those searching for a life of purpose and meaning. Artemios Miropoulos shows how a powerful story is the path to purposeful leadership.





From Maureen Graney, Director, Strategic Accounts:

Never SplitNever Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

Lots of hard-won (yes, people’s lives were at stake and mistakes were sometimes made), contrarian advice about psychology and moving forward with difficult negotiations and situations. I listened to the audiobook and now want to go back to annotate my hard copy of this valuable, insightful book. The stories of hostage situations are gripping and the negotiators (sometimes) found brilliant solutions.




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From Mariya Paliy, Fractional HR and Performance Coaching:

BuddhaBeing Buddha at Work by Franz Metcalf and BJ Gallagher

This book looks at how to handle 108 situations in the corporate world from Buddha perspective. It is unique because it combines spirituality with best practices in leadership to solve work-related situations all can relate to.





From Jill Hauwiller, Principal Coach/Consultant, Leadership Refinery:

Power of MomentsThe Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

First of all, I love everything these clever brothers write (Switch, Made to Stick, Decisive). Their latest book is as entertaining as it is powerful. Through stories and research, they make a compelling case for everyone to create more extraordinary moments in our life and work.





WillpowerThe Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

This is an amazing book about self-control—behavior, emotions, and attention—and how it influences our personal and professional lives. The stories the author shares are taken from experiments and examples from her very popular class at Stanford University, “The Science of Willpower.” There is something in this book for everyone who understands the neuroscience of self-control and has a desire to make improvements in their own lives.




From Allison Wilkinson, Principal, MetaView Consulting & Coaching:

Art of PossibilityThe Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander

This book is an opus of hope for me. It was written by an expert in personal fulfillment and positive psychology, Rosamund Zander, and her husband Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. By connecting their perspectives as leaders, communicators and passionate performers, they share inspiring and actionable practices for inviting more possibility into our worlds. They teach that when humans radiate positive purpose and meaning, they create powerful ripples of opportunity, compassion and imagination across all aspects of their lives. You will feel uplifted after reading this book.



Power of PresenceThe Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others by Kristi Hedges

As a leadership coach, I am often asked to decode leadership presence with my clients, and I hand them this book. Kristi Hedges takes us on a journey to communicate with increased impact and intention, showing us how anyone can build a strong and inspiring presence. In a departure from a typical book on improving communication, she connects the powers of language, emotion and actions and paves a clear path to becoming a more authentic and confident leader.




From Tara Padua, Associate Director, Executive MBA Career Management, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell:

GutGut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders

So much of our physical, emotional and mental well-being is dictated by the microbiome of our gut, such as a simple thing like more emotional resilience to ask for that promotion or raise. It’s also the key to weight maintenance, depression and the ability to focus. My work is all about unlocking human potential, and it’s impossible to address a behavioral or performance issue when there is an underlying medical condition. The book also has cool, fun drawings by her sister and is written in a charming and humorous way.



Good Night StoriesGood Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

This is so inspiring. All girls, young and grown, need role models, and to be reminded that we have been great all along.





From Julie N. Jakopic, President & CEO, iLead Strategies:

Being LateThank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas Friedman

A colleague described 2015 as a year in which the world moved faster than ever before, and slower than it ever will again. 2017 has upped the pace in almost every area of life—media, health care, government, technology. This fast pace requires different leadership skills. In this book, Friedman looks at disruption in technology, climate change and globalization to provide helpful insights and frameworks for understanding and managing change in this turbulent environment. I am a people person, but sat on a plane when I should have been disembarking to finish a chapter on technology. Totally worth your time.



From Suzanne Wilkins, Principal, Frazier Wilkins Associates:

Letters to GarrettLetters to Garrett: Stories of Change, Power and Possibility by Robert E. Quinn

Robert Quinn’s healthy, popular, well-rounded son went off to college and fell into a deep depression.  Realizing that he could not ride in on his white horse to rescue him, Quinn proposed that they write a book together based on an exchange of letters. Their letters address finding purpose, living with greater meaning and power, clarifying our core values, and the idea that human progress begins when individuals choose to transform themselves.




Heart ArousedThe Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte

“If work is all about doing, then the soul is all about being: the indiscriminate enjoyer of everything that comes our way. If work is the world, then the soul is our home. The Heart Aroused explores the possibility of being at home in the world, melding soul life with work life, the inner ocean of longing and belonging with the outer ground of strategy and organizational control. ” —Taken from




From Mary Beth Zick, Chief People Officer, Gordon Food Service:

Jesus CEOJesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership by Laurie Beth Jones

I read this book every year because it helps me to think about who I am as a leader and how I want to shape that path going forward. The book asks strong, thought-provoking questions that lead me to new insights based on the last year’s events in my leadership journey.




What books have helped shape your journey as a leader? Share with us below.


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