Feeding the mind is no less important than any other essential need that keeps a human alive. Throughout the past 9 years, after completing my MA degree requirements about Education Management & Leadership, I was passionate to learn more about relationships, life & work, and entrepreneurship. Fortunately, “leadership” connects the dots between these domains.

Being in a leading position requires a person to take care of others as well as oneself. This can definitely be acquired and happens while continuously pursuing the necessary knowledge and self-education. It is my utmost pleasure to share my top picks for books that inspire me to reconstruct my thoughts and constantly reflect on my actions and decisions, as well as helping me grow professionally and personally. As we approach summer, we might find enough time during our daily messy schedules to grab a book and dive into a plethora of amazing insights, advice, and information.

  • Turn The Ship Around: A True Story Of Building Leaders By Breaking The Rules By David Marquet. It is a book which is hard to put down. From the world of Navy and submarines, one learns a lot about leading during critical situations, and in stressful environment. The author is an experienced Navy officer who was appointed to lead a nuclear-powered submarine, USS Santa-Fe, which had notoriously poor performance, and the worst crew retention rate of any craft ever. It was the worst in the fleet. Brittle incidents along with careless crew behaviors changed Marquet’s perception about leadership and drove him to adopt the leader-leader approach, which motivated, engaged, empowered, and awakened the crew’s full potentials to improve their rank and help them reach “excellent” levels. Marquet nurtured leaders who were promoted to latter on take over submarine commands, attaining lots of awards. Because “leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers”, it is certain that leader-leader approach lasts for long and truly builds a culture of self-motivation. Regardless of our positions or fields of expertise, we can all turn our ships around! It is a good read and highly recommended for leaders who are willing to turn the ship.
  • Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. It is a captivating book that brims with life-changing insights. The book busts myths, changes the way we live our lives, and how we see the world. It also resets our expectations of what it means to: be creative, question defaults, and break the status quo. From an “Original” perspective, the book addresses the challenge of improving the world. Using surprising studies and stories from the fields of business, politics, sports, in addition to other fields, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up with confidence rejecting silence, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent. Grant suggests flipping the old idea of déjà vu- where we encounter something new but feel like we have experienced it before- to a new approach vuja de. Vuja de “is the reverse—we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insight from old problems.” The book is a gem for readers surprising them with new insights every time the book is read again.
  • The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. A guru in leadership, one cannot but read, learn, and listen to Simon’s insights, deep understandings, and experiences in the field. This book (published in 2019) is a rich read that satisfies my leadership appetite. Simon encourages the reader, specifically leaders, to recognize the game that they are in and think with an infinite mindset. Life is not about winning or losing, it is not about personal achievements. It is about continuity, inviting others to your “Just Cause”, and thinking generationally. It is about “building trusting teams” and “studying worthy rivals”. It is also about preparing for existential flexibility, demonstrating the courage to lead, and getting back on course when one strays. Every day, we wake up to make proper decisions of how, as finite players, we want to play in this infinite game of life! A must read.
  • Find Your Why by Simon SinekAnother book for Simon Sinek of a well-structured practical guide that helps individuals and organizations understand their “Golden Circle”: Why- How-What. Driven by the Why, try to find balance which guarantees authenticity and success. This book helps people to craft their “one” Why. Trainers, coaches, and leaders will get plenty from this book.
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org. In a book rife with contradictions, Sandberg tends to bring different conflicting feelings out of a reader. This short book shares ideas that help women lead confidently. Despite not being a fan of gender-related books that highlight gender strengths, I liked Sandberg’s sheer honesty as she generally shared her stories about leadership and success.
  • Pursuing Professional Development: The Self as Resource by Kathleen Bailey, Andy Curtis, David Nunan. This book is dedicated to educators- as leaders- who are in full charge of their own professional development. The authors elaborate on reflective practices in the education field, particularly teaching, and they guide educators to critically examine their own practices.
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Kerry Patterson. Major decisions in our daily lives are made as a result of crucial conversations. These conversations shape our behaviors, attitudes, relationships, and define our critical moments. They also affect people around us. This tiny book is The New York Times and Washington Post bestseller that changed the way millions communicate. It focuses on techniques and outlines a process which leads to successful outcomes when holding critical conversations. The book provides tools to prepare for high-stakes situations, run powerful dialogues, talk openly, and be persuasive. 
  • The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman and Paul White. In a workplace, some leaders forget to and some even do not care to appreciate their team’s work and efforts. In such cases, various types of loss threaten both the place and people. In this light book, Chapman and White identify 5 languages of appreciation driven by love and care. As such, improvements in different areas happen, for instance: job satisfaction increases, bonds amongst managers and employees tighten, burnout cases decrease, and manager communication with teams becomes genuine, trustful, and well-heard.
  • Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away by Spike Cook. This handbook (one of Corwin Connected Educators Series) is essential for any 21st century leader. Primarily addressed to school leaders, Cook believes in the power of connectivity encouraging leaders to abandon their isolated ivory towers and join people in the real world, improve professional practices, and celebrate collective transformation.
  • The Ride of a Lifetime:  Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Allen Iger. Robert was assigned as the CEO of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, leading the company for 15 years till early 2020. In this memoir (published in 2019), Iger pulls out readers’ excitement while reading his story about leading and overseeing Disney. Iger points out five main principles to be an effective leader: optimism, courage, determination, and fairness. Iger concludes the book with an inspiring perceptive list of “lessons to lead by”.
  • Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong by Kristen Hadeed. After reading her book, I was curious to have direct contact with Kristen. And, I did. I attended one of her online face-to-face interactive courses during COVID-19 quarantine period. In June 2020, I joined “How to Deliver and Accept Feedback”. Her words touched my thoughts and made sense of what I had previously read by her. In her book, Hadeed tells the story of how she built her cleaning company Student Maid, widely known for its culture of trust and accountability, whereby her team feels happy, empowered, and productive. This book debunks the myth that leaders and organizations should seek perfectionism. She calls for embracing mistakes and failures to be better leaders and change agents in this world. And who of us is impeccable?!

Alaa H. Katerji is the School Principal for Al-Hayat International School (Lebanon). She holds B.S. degree in Biochemistry and M.A. in Education Management and Leadership. She is also a certified Concept- Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainer.