That’s What She Wrote: Powerful Leadership Books for Women
19 Empowering leadership books by women, for women
In 2022, we’ve seen a considerable amount of rising in women in the workplace. However, in the S&P 500, women represent only 5% of CEOs, 26% of executives or senior-level managers, and 37% of mid-level managers. Despite these daunting numbers, women have been working to overcome workplace inequality by contributing unique skills and perspectives that positively impact organizations.
Collato is happy to present 19 diverse leadership books for women that aim to answer your most pressing questions about women in the workplace and how to become an even better leader. Each book has a short description, a star rating based on reader reviews, a selected quote, and a podcast recommendation accompanying the author or topic.
How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life
By Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, Geoffrey Lewis
How Remarkable Women Lead has a memorable take on the “right stuff” of leadership, raising questions about if feminine leadership traits are compatible in a fast-changing and hyper-competitive work environment. Based on propriety research and personal anecdotes, Barsh et al. propose the five elements of Centered Leadership that are guaranteed to drive and sustain successful women leaders.
“It takes time to find your strengths, and it takes even more time to turn them into capabilities.”
If this concept interests you’d rather listen to a podcast, listen to Joanna Barsh’s interview on Purse Strings. It’s available here on Spotify.
How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job
By Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
How Women Rise has a unique origin story. Goldsmith published a bestseller, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, and while the book was written for all genders, he realized that many of the ideas he put forth are more applicable to men. Teaming up with Helgeson to create a version specifically for women, How Women Rise is a handbook that helps women identify specific behaviors that keep them from realizing their full potential, no matter what stage they are in their career.
“Women are most likely to be evaluated based on their contributions, while men are most likely to be evaluated based on their potential—nebulous criteria that can result in a less qualified man getting the job.”
Listen to Sally Helgesen on The Top 1% Podcast, available here.
By Brené Brown
Brown is known for her revolutionary research on shame, vulnerability, and leadership. In Rising Strong, she beautifully speaks on the characteristics of a good leader. Her book finds that leadership isn’t about knowing all the answers but being willing to find the answers with the right people.
“When you judge yourself for needing help, you judge those you are helping. When you attach value to giving help, you attach value to needing help. The danger of tying your self-worth to being a helper is feeling shame when you have to ask for help. Offering help is courageous and compassionate, but so is asking for help.”
QuickRead Podcast has a complete summary here.
The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed As You Are
By Alicia Menendez
Studies show that the more women succeed, the less likable they become. This discovery is closely intertwined with race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and parental status. The Likability Trap doesn’t suggest ways to become more pleasant in the workplace but offers solutions for navigating cultural patterns that hold women back.
“If women kept opting out of the game because the game is rigged, are we forever conceding the realms of math, science, tech, business, politics, and so much more to men? Beyond the consequences at work, there are consequences for the women themselves.”
Dan Harris from the Ten Percent Happier podcast discusses The Likability Trap with Alicia Menendez here.
That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them)
By Joanne Lipman
More managers are trying to make men and women work better together. But despite the good intentions, male leaders usually lack the tools and knowledge to make real change. That’s exactly what That’s What She Said aims to illustrate. Which personal experiences and new research, Lipman solves the respect gap, unconscious bias, the motherhood penalty, and much more.
“Social scientists have calculated that a woman must be two and a half times more competent than a man to be viewed as his equal… In part that’s because men get promoted on the basis of their potential, but women are promoted only if they’ve proven themselves with past performance.”
Listen to this conversation between Lipman and Dr. Will Cole on Job Stress, She-cessions, and Workplace Wellness.
The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women
By Elaine Meryl Brown and Marsha Haygood
Elaine Meryl is the former vice president of creative services at HBO. She wrote The Little Black Book of Success to iterate the building blocks of the most important aspects of leadership; self-confidence, effective communication, collaboration, and courage. Together, these aspects display leadership qualities and deal with stereotypes that typically hold women, especially black women, back from making it to the top.
“To become a leader you must have a positive mental attitude, which you can achieve with positive self-talk and looking at what is right with people instead of what is wrong with them.”
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self Assurance, What Women Should Know
By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Despite the increase of qualified and educated women in the workforce, men still dominate the corporate world. Kay and Shipman argue that the reason lies in the lack of confidence in women. The Confidence Code offers a practical guide to mastering confidence at work, so women can achieve their full potential and the success they deserve.
“The appeal of faking it, if only for a while, is that it offers a crutch --a way to begin. Here's a better way to reframe the premise for a quick confidence jump start: Don't pretend to be anything or anyone -- simply take action. Do one small brave thing, and then the next one will be easier, and soon confidence will flow. We know -- fake it till you make it sounds catchier -- but this actually works.”
Loss of confidence starts at a young age. If you want to dive deeper on this topic, listen to Kay discuss when girls lose their confidence on Cat&Nat Unfiltered (you’ll be shocked!).
Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World
By Stephanie Schriock and Christina Reynolds
It’s no secret that men dominate the political and business world. But how do we get more women into these leadership positions? Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World helps answer that question. Schriock and Reynolds deliver lessons on how to build a team and the strategies to make work run smoothly. Although politics-heavy, the message can apply to any woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated field.
“...whether you already have all the qualifications [for a job] is the wrong question. The right question is whether you are ready and willing to learn on the job. To make the decision to run and take that jump, the first step is to convince yourself that you can do it. You have so much to bring to the table, and you can learn the rest.”
Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change
By Stacey Abrams
Self-described as a handbook for outsides, Lead from the Outside is written with a focus on the obstacles that impede women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community from making workplace change. Abrams provides exercises to realize and appreciate your ambition and talents, so you can be an active ally to all “outsiders.”
“The best allies own their privilege not as a badge of honor but as a reminder to be constantly listening and learning to become better at offering support to others.”
In this podcast episode, Abrams shares what she learned from her impressive career in politics, business, and the non-profit sector and what needs to be done to make real change.
Power Moves: How Women Can Pivot, Reboot, and Build a Career of Purpose
By Lauren McGoodwin
Power Moves helps young women feel understood so they can surpass perfectionism and work directly on evolving. An intriguing topic in McGoodwin’s book is embracing your inner questioner, quester, and inner-quitter. It offers a unique perspective on feelings that every female in the workplace experiences.
“Expectations become delusional friends who keep your brain on a constant loop at night and make you believe that if you’re not getting what you want it’s because you’re not trying hard enough, and this mindset teaches you to attach self-worth to unattainable definitions of success.”
Lauren McGoodwin has a podcast that acts as a resource hub for women feeling stuck or unfulfilled at work. It combines advice, learning tools, and deep conversations on how to create a meaningful career on your terms. Listen here or visit her website Career Contessa.
Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader
By Herminia Ibarra
As a professor at London Business School, Ibarra is an expert on professional and leadership development. In Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, Ibarra gives advice on job refinement to make more strategic contributions and diversifying networks to learn more and become better leaders.
“The paradox of change is that the only way to alter the way we think is by doing the very things our habitual thinking keeps us from doing.”
Listen instead on the Matt Brown Show. Here, Ibarra clarifies how outsight will help change how you think as a leader. She also provides practical advice on how to tackle pressing leadership challenges.
By Amy Wamback
For the leaders and sports fanatics out there, Wolfpack is the perfect read for you. As a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup Champion, Wamback advocates for strong female leaders and team-bound focus. Her rules of the wolfpack help females lead, transform, and demand to form an environment that creates a better tomorrow.
“Leadership is taking care of yourself and empowering others to do the same. Leadership is not a position to earn, it’s an inherent power to claim. Leadership is the blood that runs through your veins—it’s born in you. It’s not the privilege of a few, it is the right and responsibility of all. A Leader is not a title that the world gives to you—it’s an offering that you give to the world.”
To see more of Wamback, her website features short videos on her leadership journey.
Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
By Arianna Huffington
In this deeply personal book, Huffington tells her story of burnout and how it affected her physical and mental health. She begins to question why money and a corner office define success and suggests that we need a third metric for a better work-life balance. Thrive concentrates on “the third leg,” which includes well-being, intuition, and inner wisdom to truly thrive.
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”
To learn more, Huffington is featured in the podcast On Purpose with Jay Shetty. They discuss a key theme from Thrive; why sleep is crucial to success. Listen to the episode here.
Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual
By Luvvie Ajayi
Fear, imposter syndrome, and the unknown often prevent women from reaching their full potential. Ajayi writes honestly about what we need to know about ourselves before we can do the things that scare us. She speaks on the importance of becoming a professional troublemaker: one who doesn’t let fear talk them out of the things they need to do or say to establish themselves. Professional Troublemaker helps tackle the monsters in your head, both in your personal and professional life.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
Luvvie Ajayi has a podcast called Professional Troublemaker, where she helps listeners create a life that is authentic, bold, and purposeful. It’s a good listen for women who need an extra dose of confidence.
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You
By Julie Zhuo
Zhuo has a lesson to share: Great managers are made, not born. The Making of a Manager gives valuable insights on navigating the difficult tasks expected of managers, from the interview and hiring process to building trust with your teammates. Regardless if you’re a newbie or a seasoned manager, any leader can learn from Zhuo’s book.
“The first big part of your job as a manager is to ensure that your team knows what success looks like and cares about achieving it.”
Check out the podcast Lenny’s Podcast on product, growth, and career, where he talked with Zhuo about her background, working experiences, and writing Making a Manager. Find it here.
She Thinks Like a Boss: 9 Essential Skills for New Female Leaders in Business and the Workplace
By Jemma Roedel
Think Like A Boss investigates what it means to be a woman in leadership and what hurdles they need to overcome to get there - shyness, lack of confidence, and overly apologetic tendencies. Find your rightful place at the office by implementing Roedel’s 9 skills into your everyday workday.
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family
By Anne-Marie Slaughter
After Slaughter got a high-profile job as the first female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, she realized that women still can’t have it all. Her refreshing book Unfinished Business articulates what true equality between men and women means and how we can get there. Slaughter proposes a plan for equality between women, men, work, and family that leaders can help implement in the workplace.
“The first half-truth is that the issue of work-life balance is a “women’s problem.” If we define it that way, then it is up to women to find or at least implement the solution. The second is that employers can make room for caregiving by offering flextime and part-time arrangements.”
Listen to the podcast episode called “Anne-Marie Slaughter on the value of caregiving, co-parenting and why we need to do less.” It’s an important topic from Unfinished Business.
How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking
By Viv Groslop
An important skill of any leader is speaking with style to encourage and motivate. In How to Own the Room, Groslop looks at speeches presented by women, from politicians to writers, to comedians, and analyzes their delivery so that readers can implement the skills themselves. It’s an inspiring read for those who want to gain confidence in speaking in public or at work.
“There are fewer women in senior roles in most professions and it’s in those roles that we are most likely to see and hear women speak.”
How to Own the Room has a podcast where Groslop shares all the tips and tricks that will get you the attention you deserve. Find your favorite episode here.
The Diversity Gap: Where Good Intentions Meet True Cultural Change
By Bethaney Wilkinson
The Diversity Gap is a guide to enable leaders to surpass the barriers that are causing diversity efforts to fall short. Wilkinson presents a replicable structure to foster your organization's diverse culture of belonging. The book requires a lot of reflection, but it’s also practical in taking immediate action toward change.
“The impact of your organizational culture on people of color is more important than your good intentions. Prioritize hearing, believing, and following people of color.”
Rather listen? Wilkinson hosts a podcast also called The Diversity Gap. Every episode is guaranteed to equip you with the skills to create the work culture that you say you want. You can find it on Spotify.
Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers
Lois P. Frankel
In her research, Dr. Lois Frankel questioned why some women boom ahead in their careers while others stagnate. She noticed a unique set of behaviors that girls learn in their childhood that sabotage them as adults. In Nice Girls Don’t Get Corner Offices, Frankel coaches readers on how they can bypass these behaviors to become leaders and occupy the corner offices.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Stop consenting. Stop colluding. Stop being that nice little girl you were taught to be in childhood!”
Need a summary? Listen to the book on the QuickRead Podcast, find it here.
That’s all she wrote
To Woman Up means to bring your full value to the table. Women have unique personal and professional experiences that have the potential to create great leaders. The next step is to elevate women to leadership positions so they can break down barriers, serve as role models, and advance their own careers. Reading leadership books for women, by women, is a great way to start the process.