While so many professionals count on their time in the air to check things off their to-do list without distractions or interruptions, I recently challenged myself to go tech-free while en route to London for a conference. As hard as it was to resist connecting to Wi-Fi, I opted for one of the business books piling up on my desk that I've been promising myself to read for the past few months (or is it years?).
The result? I can honestly say that I am never going back to airline Wi-Fi. Dedicating time to invest in new knowledge and business practices as a leader is an essential part of the gig, but far too often we feel guilty for prioritizing personal development over the day's pressing tasks.
That's why setting aside a few hours on a business trip to invest in professional learning is so beneficial. Here are three leadership books that I have found particularly enlightening over the last few months (and air miles).
1. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
With the recent announcement of Iger's retirement as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, now is a great time to take a look back at all the lessons he has learned during his 15-year reign over one of the most powerful companies of all time.
While not every CEO biography is worth the read, the proof of Iger's leadership success is unquestionable: during the time Iger was in charge, the company's value grew nearly five times, acquiring massive IPOs like Marvel Entertainment and launching a brand-new streaming platform in Disney+ (among other milestone accomplishments, including introducing Baby Yoda to the world).
Exploring everything from the principles and pillars necessary for true leadership to stories from the ground floor of Disney's HQ, this is an easy read that will quickly leave you feeling inspired to carve out time for creativity, channel your optimism in the workplace, and have the courage not to let the fear of failure hold you back from your team's next great idea.
2. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
Struggling with a double-page resume with a mish-mash of experience? Scared to take the leap into a brand new career you know very little about? According to David's Epstein's book, generalists are primed to excel as today's top leaders.
Examining the world's most successful people, Epstein dives into the theory that generalists, not specialists, make the best business leaders, as they are generally more creative, agile, and are able to make connections their specialized peers can't see. All it takes is a few chapters to rediscover the hidden perks of being a jack of all trades -- and perhaps even change your hiring preferences in the process.
3. Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
Every time we show up in the office we encounter the same nine lies. Think your employees crave feedback? Think again. Convinced your organization's culture is the key to its success? Sorry, you are sadly mistaken.
Written by Marcus Buckingham and Cisco's Ashley Goodall, this provocative read challenges you to become a freethinking leader and dispels a handful of workplace myths that are holding you and your team back, causing dysfunction and frustration. With personal anecdotes coupled by incisive analysis, this pointed non-fiction is packed with "aha" moments and is a must-read for anyone looking to shake up their leadership style in a big way.
I understand that going off the grid for even three hours can give you anxiety. The thought of your phone notifications going off one by one as you connect back online can give any leader a sense of dread. But here's something I remind myself: if you have a team you trust, not being available for a day shouldn't change things. You're really not as important as you think you are -- and that's an incredibly freeing feeling, especially 30,000 feet in the air. So go ahead: kick back, relax, and enjoy the flight.