Earlier this year, I pledged to read 100 books in 2019. I also pledged to be more thoughtful about reading books by authors from underrepresented minorities. So it's fitting that March is not only National Reading Month but also Women's History Month, and I just finished reading Michelle Obama's Becoming.
While being a bookworm comes pretty naturally to me, reading has a wide variety of benefits no matter where you are in your career. From increased intellectual curiosity, to gaining confidence in challenging the status quo, to learning to lead with empathy, reading is truly invaluable. But it's an underappreciated essential component to any career journey. Research shows that despite high literacy rates globally, leisure reading is at an all-time low, falling by more than 30 percent since 2004.
Here at HubSpot, books like W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne's Blue Ocean Strategy, which is about competing in today's marketplace, have a huge impact on our company. That's why employees can request a book anytime through the Free Books Program to learn new business skills and get advice. No library card or approval required. Beyond our own reading lists, we have book clubs throughout the organization -- from our Women@HubSpot group reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists to the Implementation team's summer book club featuring Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard. These book clubs spark great discussion on topics ranging from leadership, to solving for the customer, to diversity and inclusion, and have been a catalyst for growth across the organization.
For first-time managers, the promotion to leadership can bring on a slew of emotions -- from excitement and pride, to self-doubting questions and imposter syndrome. Being a manager requires a distinct set of skills, and one way to be successful is through reading. And I don't mean your everyday business book. Here are five books by female authors that I recommend to any first-time manager:
1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
It's important to not only set a growth mindset on your team, but also for yourself as a leader. As a manager, you need to reinvent your role constantly and create an appetite for adaptation on your team. In Carol Dweck's book, she reminds us that feedback and growth are part of everyone's jobs and roles, and that we should lead and grow by example and make time for that as a manager.
2. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
The second you get promoted, there's a visceral reaction to appear more "in control" in your leadership approach. With others now turning to you, it can be hard to lead with a level of vulnerability. In her book, the thoughtful and insightful Brené Brown describes vulnerability not as a weakness but as rather brave. When leaders lean into vulnerability, they build trust and create a space for people to connect and share differences of thought, challenges, and more.
3. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
Giving and receiving feedback is one of the single most important aspects of being a manager, and I really admire the framework of how to do it, thanks to Kim Scott. While the term itself has recently been somewhat glorified to describe any direct feedback, one of the reasons I love Kim Scott's book is that it brings back the original intention behind that level of candor, to care deeply for employees in the first place to give solid and truthful feedback.
4. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy Edmonson
Psychological safety is the belief that the context is safe for interpersonal risk taking or, as Amy Edmonson calls it in her book, a "permission for candor." Understanding the real meaning of psychological safety -- that it isn't a personality factor or just another way to say trust -- helps to frame the belief that it's not only vital to the success of any team and any organization, but that leaders must create that environment through facilitation. For all leaders -- whether seasoned or brand new -- the tactics to creating that environment will create continuous team learning and growth.
5. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Managers set the tone on their teams for building and growing diverse organizations, and doing so requires the ability to talk about privilege and create space for people to be more human. What I like about Ijeoma Oluo's book is it really pushes you to frame conversations around race in a productive, thoughtful, and self-aware manner. There are so many quotes I often think about in her book, but my favorite is "Conversations about racism should never be about winning. This battle is too important to be so simplified. You are in this to share, and to learn. You are in this to do better and be better."