The best books for aspiring women leaders

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for leadership and aspiring women leaders comes from my own leadership experiences and working with women and men executives and aspiring executives, every day. I had to make some difficult work choices in my 20s and 30s (with four young children) and was wonderfully supported by some wise women. Many of my choices were different from my peers and we continue to have to make more difficult choices than our male colleagues. We need to help each other, every day. I lead a blended life co-leading an executive search and leadership advisory firm, while also being a mother, grandmother, wife, mentor, friend, and lover of good music, theatre, food, wine, and curious people. 


I wrote...

The Agile Executive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards

By Marianne Broadbent,

Book cover of The Agile Executive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards

What is my book about?

As an executive search partner and leadership advisor, I work every day with women and men making career decisions and life choices. I too have made many of the choices and the trade-offs in leading a ‘blended life’ over many years – managing multiple careers, personal relationships, family responsibilities, aspirations, and many highs and lows. The Agile Executive provides personal and professional insights about how to lead yourself, how to lead others, how to work effectively in organizations and on the home front. I share my personal experiences of taking career risks, making multiple choices, and managing a ‘blended life’ where careers are no longer linear. I complement my experiences with valuable insights and experiences willingly shared with me from over 20 other empowering female leaders.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything

Marianne Broadbent Why did I love this book?

Covey’s book unlocks the nature of Trust and its critical value in life and leadership.

He explains that trust is about confidence in a person or relationship. To be trusted we need to be credible and he illuminates the four cores of credibility in two categories – our confidence in someone’s Character and our confidence in their Competence. The two core attributes of Character are Integrity and Intent. The two core attributes of Competence are Results and Credibility.

This clear explanation, and some of Covey’s diagnostics, have been very helpful to me in really understanding the notion of Trust and then working with executive to enable them to build greater trust and vulnerability with each other. Trust is the bedrock of great teams and great relationships. 

By Stephen M. R. Covey, Rebecca R. Merrill,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Speed of Trust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Stephen R. Covey's eldest son come a revolutionary book, now in handy B-format, that will guide business leaders, public figures and their organizations towards unprecedented productivity and satisfaction. Trust, says Stephen M. R. Covey, is the very basis of the 21st century's global economy, but its power is generally overlooked and misunderstood. Covey shows you how to inspire immediate trust in everyone you encounter - colleagues, constituents, the marketplace - allowing you to forego the time-killing and energy-draining check and balance bureaucracies that are so often relied upon in lieu of actual trust.


Book cover of Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz

Marianne Broadbent Why did I love this book?

Early in my varied career I had musical training in piano and sang in choirs, including with orchestras.

The notion of a leader as an orchestra conductor, never appealed, as orchestras usually play set music. Leadership is usually not like that: situations are unpredictable, crises occur, and we take people in new directions.

Having observed one of my jazz-playing sons, I started using jazz groups and improvisation as a better analogy: a group of people who have a common goal, each have their own talents and want to explore musical journeys differently. They allow each other to ‘shine’ in a supportive and trusted environment.

The journey is greater than the individual parts. Barrett’s book then validated my messy thinking, and articulated these leadership lessons very well.  

By Frank J. Barrett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yes to the Mess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What Duke Ellington and Miles Davis teach us about leadership How do you cope when faced with complexity and constant change at work? Here's what the world's best leaders and teams do: they improvise. They invent novel responses and take calculated risks without a scripted plan or a safety net that guarantees specific outcomes. They negotiate with each other as they proceed, and they don't dwell on mistakes or stifle each other's ideas. In short, they say "yes to the mess" that is today's hurried, harried, yet enormously innovative and fertile world of work. This is exactly what great jazz…


Book cover of The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business

Marianne Broadbent Why did I love this book?

The Advantage lays out a compelling case that if an organization has strong organizational health it is well placed to succeed in its goals and in its industry.

Good organizational health embraces great teamwork, clear and consistent company culture and goals, and how to have effective meetings. Lencioni brings together many pragmatic and practical perspectives through many years of working with executive teams.

The key element for me is his articulation of the ‘five dysfunctions of teams’ and then how to address these. That one chart has been pivotal to my facilitation of many challenging executive discussions with clients, particularly when paired with Covey’s approach to trust and trust building.

Modelling Trust is the first step in building effective executive teams. 

By Patrick M. Lencioni,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Advantage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other. Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, New York Times best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are. In this book, Lencioni brings together his vast experience and many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books and delivers a first: a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage organizational health provides. Simply put,…


Book cover of Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons

Marianne Broadbent Why did I love this book?

Gillard and Okonjo-Iweala both have stellar careers in political and community leadership in their own countries and now globally.

They share their experience and that of other amazing and high-profile leaders they interviewed, such as Jacinda Ardern, Hillary Clinton, and Christine Lagarde. They share their passion for gender equality and their concerns that we ‘aren’t there yet’. The authors introduce themselves and the eight other leaders and their ‘pathways to power’.

They posit a series of hypotheses and lessons in a very relatable and accessible way. It is both educative and informative to realize that no matter how resilient they seem, high-profile women leaders have faced many of the same issues – and often more – as the rest of us females. Learn how to deal with it and turn it to your advantage!  

By Julia Gillard, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women and Leadership as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful call-to-action for gender equity that offers 10 key lessons for women aspiring to a leadership role—be it in politics, business, law, or their local community.

Featuring words of wisdom from female leaders like Hillary Clinton and Theresa May, this empowering study reads like a You Are a Badass volume on world leadership.

Women make up fewer than 10% of national leaders worldwide. Behind this eye-opening statistic lies a pattern of unequal access to power. Through conversations with some of the world’s most powerful and interesting women—including Jacinda Ardern, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Michelle Bachelet, and Theresa May—Women…


Book cover of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Marianne Broadbent Why did I love this book?

For me, Sandberg’s book remains a major and critical contribution to how women lead, how we are perceived, and how we can improve as leaders.

It is also one of the most misquoted and maligned books which I find disappointing. Those who are overly critical probably have not read the book or are biased because of Sandberg’s employer. When I read Lean In, I thought, ‘Great, I don’t need to do all that research as it has been done.'

It inspired me instead to share my own story and that of others who inspire me every day. Sandberg reminds us that so much that is in our hands, to not be dissuaded, but to ‘lean in’ and create our own agendas at work, home, and everywhere.  

By Sheryl Sandberg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lean In as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In is a massive cultural phenomenon and its title has become an instant catchphrase for empowering women. The book soared to the top of bestseller lists internationally, igniting global conversations about women and ambition. Sandberg packed theatres, dominated opinion pages, appeared on every major television show and on the cover of Time magazine, and sparked ferocious debate about women and leadership.

Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they'd feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or…


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Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

Book cover of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Snow lover Fish out of water Traveller

Sam's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house, but what was meant as a pitstop becomes life-changing when he decides to stay. Along the way, he meets a colourful cross-section of Slovene society: from dormouse hunters, moonshine makers, beekeepers, and bitcoin miners, to a man who swam the Amazon, and a hilltop matriarch who teaches him the meaning of being 'priden'.

Struggling with Slovene, a language with grammar so complex it can cause brain damage, and battling bureaucracy, he explores the culture and characters of this underappreciated ex-Yugoslav republic, its wild beauty, and its wild animals.

A love letter to Slovenia, this rare, adventurous account follows a foreigner trying to build a new life — and rebuild an old house — in a young country still finding its own place in the world.

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

What is this book about?

'Charming, funny, insightful, and moving. The perfect book for any Slovenophile' - Noah Charney, BBC presenter

'A rollicking and very affectionate tour' - Steve Fallon, author of Lonely Planet Slovenia

'Delivers discovery and adventure...captivating!' - Bartosz Stefaniak, editor, 3 Seas Europe

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house but what was meant as…


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