Education Opinion

The Top 12 Leadership Reads of 2016

By Megan M. Allen — December 30, 2016 5 min read
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If you are like me, your social media fees are filled with “top lists from 2016.” So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and use it as a way to compile my favorite leadership reads, reflect on them, and then set my leadership New Year’s resolutions (which are coming in next week’s post). Note: These are not all published in 2016, but this was the year that I stumbled upon them and realized many of them had been missing from my life.

So below, my top leadership reads of 2016:

  1. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. There’s a reason I’m listing this beauty first: It’s fresh, different, applicable, and important. This book is written in “fable” style, which is different from most brain-laden nonfiction pieces I find myself reading. It’s penned in fictional first-person, from the voice of a female CEO who is a new addition to a powerful--yet nonfunctioning--team. It’s a shorter read, it comes with exercises and PDFs available online, and it had me reflecting on how even our team at home--our family with four kids--could be working better together. I really appreciated this one, and even though it was published first in 2002, it’s at the top of my 2016 must-reads list.
  2. The Ghost Ships That Didn’t Carry Us by Dear Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed). I find myself coming back to this piece time and time again, anytime I feel a pang of guilt about changing what my classroom looks like. I think that anyone who grapples with pathways taken or not taken can find solice in this brief essay. If you’ve been at a life intersection, made a decision, then looked back from time to time and questioned those alternative pathways that are behind you, this is the piece for you. Leadership to life, this ship is one to hop aboard.
  3. What Do Women Leaders Have in Common by Sharmilla Ganesan, published in The Atlantic. I am slightly obsessed with learning about the nuances of leadership development, and this article pushes on the idea that the development in men and women may look different. I won’t give the biggest “aha” away, but let’s just say there is further evidence of the importance of family dinners. As a person who works in leadership development with mostly women in education, this was enlightening and insightful.
  4. Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. This one I come back to time and time again as a leadership self-exploration and team building 101. Through a quiz and further reading based on quiz results, it helps teams of people learn more about themselves, their colleagues, and how to approach situations based on their combined strengths. This book has helped me work with teams to plan out advocacy strategies, webinars, and even grouping. It’s a must read.
  5. Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. From trying to give up caffeine and make changes in your personal life to analyzing the pushback to systemic educational changes, this book digs into the brain research about why change is so darn hard. It examines several case studies and breaks down the change process by looking at the the constant battle between the rational brain and the emotional brain. I apply this book to so many parts of my life-including parenting. I start every cohort in our Master’s program with this book as our common read, which is the lens for two years of teacher leadership work. Bonus: You’ll find yourself analyzing and trying strategies out on your significant other as well.
  6. The Conversation I’mTired of Not Having/The 13th/The New Jim Crow combo pack. My colleague Nate Bowling’s thoughtful blog piece, Michelle Alexander’s expertise and research captured in book form, and the Netflix documentary on the history of incarceration and inequity should be a must read/watch for EVERY person, regardless of profession or place in life. Just do it. You won’t be sorry.
  7. Dare to Go First by one of my sheroes, educator and 2016 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples. She highlights the complexities of being a change agent and how she and a group of her colleagues took the plunge. This is a perfect teacher leadership 101 piece that I love using to get teachers to begin thinking about their role in impacting education. And it’s so honest and accessible, I love rereading it every time. Every. Time.
  8. Multipliers by the Wisemen Group. Preface: This book can dive heavy into the research so it reads a bit drier, but I really dig it. The Wisemen Group look into the research behind why some leaders seem to multiple the effectiveness of those around them, while others seem to diminish intelligence. What are they doing? What characteristics do they have? A great read to find out what to work on to amplify the leadership of those around you, from the classroom to the teacher’s lounge.
  9. Why So Many Smart People Aren’t Happy published by the Atlantic, which is an interview by Joe Pinsker of Raj Raghunathan about his book, If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy. This is a great read for any who are struggling for the ideal of happiness and may find it is just within reach. I found this to be a powerful read for teachers and leaders who are trying to pin down their “What next,” working to identify what their passion is as they are considering impact beyond the classroom.
  10. The three main take aways from this interview are:

    1. You need to have social interactions (which can be difficult in an isolating profession and with isolating work),
    2. You need to be spending your days doing what you are good at, and
    3. Autonomony matters.
  11. How the Most Emotionally Intelligent CEO’s Handle Their Power by Annie McKee. From learning about culture to the power of relationships, this contains some great insights from the successes and failures of business leaders. Pay close attention to the part about how you can’t separate professional growth from personal growth.
  12. The 7 Leadership Mistakes You Are Probably Making by Nicole Fallen Taylor of Business News Daily (and yes, this is a 2015 post-I’m late to the party). A good reflective piece and light read for anyone who is looking to set a leadership New Year’s resolution.
  13. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. In the words of one of my grad students, this book “opened up my soul and filled it with happiness.” If that’s not a glowing book review from a teacher, I don’t know what is. I’ll honestly say that I’m not finished with this read, but it quickly became a favorite. If you are needing a little push to try some safe risks with leadership or life, or are needing a reminder about finding the courage to follow your passion, this book is for you. Big Magic is doing big things for leaders who need a soul-filling.

So here’s my call to action:

Reflect. What are your top teaching or leadership reads? How might they shape your professional New Year’s resolution? A helpful hint: I had to check my notebook (I carry this in my purse) and my Twitter feed to reconnect with some of these reads from the past year.

Share your top reads below, and then let’s start drafting our teaching and/or leadership New Year’s resolutions for next week. I can’t wait to engage in discussion!

Photos courtesy of HartwigHKD and BeckyF.

The opinions expressed in An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.