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7 Leadership Books Every Female CEO Should Read

There’s a well-known saying about leadership that rings true for any female CEO: “It’s lonely at the top.”

And while a record number of women now hold leadership positions in the Fortune 500, it’s still only 23 out of 500. And with more than 2.4 million women dropping out of the workforce in response to the crushing demand of caretaking, working, and living during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pipeline of future women leaders is drying up, too.

It’s up to you to help change that.

As we look toward the future of work, it’s time to think about the next iteration of what leadership means, for all of us. These seven business books for women can help you crystallize your vision and think more deeply about building a career and work environment that lifts you up instead of grinds you down.

Whether you’re hoping to help your team through new challenges (Rising Strong) or looking for a confidence boost (The Confidence Code), these leadership books for women can help make you a better female CEO:

1. Rising Strong:
The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution
by Brené Brown

Brené Brown’s research focuses on aspects of the heart: Vulnerability, shame, worthiness, and resilience. She combines data-driven analysis with stories from her life and running her business to illustrate how we can work together on a more empathetic, human level.

If you haven’t yet read her work, start with her first book, Daring Greatly. But her 2015 entry, Rising Strong, feels more of the moment — giving you a playbook to push through any challenge that comes your way, and how to cultivate an organizational culture that supports your team no matter what they’re going through

2. Radical Candor:
Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
by Kim Malone Scott

Everyone, leader or not, should read this book by Kim Malone Scott. The best leaders are effective communicators. But many organizational cultures praise an aggressive, short-tempered style of management because it helps “get things done.” It doesn’t have to be that way — in fact, Scott argues it shouldn’t.

With Radical Candor, you’ll see a path toward embracing an honest, open, transparent communication style that puts people and relationships first.

3. Burnout:
The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

Raise your hand if you’ve experienced burnout this year. This book focuses on how women experience the phenomenon of burnout differently from men in a world where they’re asked to give 110% all the time.

More importantly, this book offers insight into how burnout manifests physically and emotionally, what signs to watch out for when it’s time to ask for help, and how to move forward when it’s impossible to loosen the demands upon your time as a leader.

4. In the Company of Women:
Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

by Grace Bonney

Covered in stunning photography, this book by Grace Bonney highlights incredible women entrepreneurs from around the world. You’ll get their advice on everything from everyday rituals to how they achieved their own success. It’s proof that there’s no one “right” way to be a great leader.

Sometimes, just knowing you’re not alone can be enough inspiration to push through a challenging day at the office.

5. The Confidence Code:
The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know

by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Breaking into an established culture — especially in a world where only 8% of the Fortune 500 CEOs identify as women — means fighting an uphill battle to be seen and heard. More than anything, you need confidence that you belong in the room and that what you have to offer matters. This book, grounded in research, offers inspiration and advice to beat imposter syndrome for good.

6. Essentialism:
The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

by Greg McKeown

This book shows exactly the damage that “more, more, more” does to you and your organization. As a leader, you have to be able to make quick decisions and prioritize the most important growth levers for your business.

If you’ve ever written a 15-point plan or felt stretched to the breaking point with so many demands on your time, this book is for you. McKeown walks through how to disengage from the cycle of “more” to become a more focused, disciplined leader that can easily sort what’s important from what’s not.

7. Making Big Happen
by Mark Moses, Craig Coleman, Christopher Larkins, Don Schiavone

One last recommendation: Order WSJ Bestseller Making BIG Happen by our very own Mark Moses, Craig Coleman, Christopher Larkins, and Don Schiavone. You’ll learn CEO Coaching International’s proven system that helps CEOs and their businesses succeed. From executive coaching to entrepreneur coaching, CEO Coaching International has the tools and resources that can help you make big happen.

More for women leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs

For more insights on what it takes to be a great female CEO, check out this interview with 4 of our women CEO coaches.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

Learn more about executive coaching | Meet our world-class coaches

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