The best books for women done with leaning in

Why am I passionate about this?

On Jan 30, 2013, I was sacked for "insubordination." No notice, no severance. My bosses threatened the other employees with dismissal if they talked to me. I'd been at the company for decades, rising from entry level to the executive team; after years of striving, it was a devastating blow. Once I picked myself up, I realized I’d leaned in so far, I’d toppled over. So I set off on a new path. Today, I have a master’s degree in Eastern classics, four leadership books, and one historical novel, and I’m committed to helping high achievers—women, especially—find their own paths to happy success: paths beyond “lean in.”


I wrote...

Insubordinate: 12 New Archetypes for Women Who Lead

By Jocelyn Davis,

Book cover of Insubordinate: 12 New Archetypes for Women Who Lead

What is my book about?

Women! Forget “lean in.” Instead, grow big and break free. Here are twelve powerful archetypes—Empress, Amazon, Snow Queen, Mesmerist, Witch, and more—reclaimed from patriarchal stereotypes, newly illuminated with literary and real-world examples. Jocelyn Davis, bestselling author of The Art of Quiet Influence, presents this twelvefold pantheon of women, their stories drawn from legend and the modern world, who fought, cajoled, commanded, schemed, or blasted their way free of the chains that bound them. Each story alone presents a distinctly powerful approach to work and life. Taken together, they show us women’s full range of possibilities, providing practical guidance and heartfelt inspiration for becoming our biggest, finest selves.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Happier Being: Your Path to Optimizing Habits, Health & Happiness

Jocelyn Davis Why did I love this book?

If you want to be happy, the first thing you need to do is put happiness first.

“But what if I’m a type-A achiever who wants a big title and salary?” you ask. That’s great! People find happiness in all sorts of things, and maybe a corner office is your jam. The point, says Dr. Tal Leead, is to prioritize the purposes, activities, and relationships that bring joy to your life.

We can’t always avoid doing stuff we don’t enjoy, but we can make a mental shift to create our unique, soul-deep definition of happiness—and pursue it. This simple shift to a Happier Being mindset has helped me more than all the to-do lists, success seminars, and exhortations to “lean in.”

Book cover of Agile Unemployment: Your Guide to Thriving While Out of Work

Jocelyn Davis Why did I love this book?

It may seem strange to include a jobseeker’s guide in a list of leadership books, but Agile Unemployment is the resource for anyone faced with the hardest leadership task of all: leading yourself through a time of trial.

Sabina Sulat has been there—on both sides of the HR desk for “that conversation”—and she offers her well-earned wisdom with deep candor, much-needed encouragement, and straight-shooting practicality. In my early career days, I always found the “What color is your parachute” genre pretty useless, not to mention incredibly depressing. I wish I’d had Sulat’s sound guidance back then; it would have helped me lean in, out, up, down, and sideways with far more grace and optimism.

By Sabina Sulat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lost your job? Struggling to figure the future out?

Agile Unemployment is the book for you. Losing your job can be harrowing, but it is a temporary state and does not define you. Cast aside your doubts and develop a new mindset to carry you through those down moments and rebuild your life how YOU see fit. Agile Unemployment is your guide to working through the job searching process and learning how to pivot your mindset to build resilience as you develop confidence and find the job of your dreams.

Turn losing your job into a moment of opportunity. Agile…


Book cover of The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears into Your Leadership Superpower

Jocelyn Davis Why did I love this book?

I am an anxious achiever. In fact, I’m an overachiever with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.

The great thing about this book is that, while it’s no substitute for the medications and therapy we anxiety sufferers may need, it helps us see that we’re not alone; moreover, that we can succeed not just despite our anxious personality, but because of it.

Good things happen, says Morra Aarons-Mele, “when we learn to manage anxiety and take advantage of its hidden gifts.” In other words, we can lean in (to our fear) and conquer. If you’re like me, well versed in the ways of an edgy brain, skip straight to Part Two, which offers a powerful toolset for managing anxiety at work.

By Morra Aarons-Mele,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A timely and compelling guide to managing the anxiety that comes with succeeding and leading-from entrepreneur, mental health advocate, and top-rated podcaster Morra Aarons-Mele.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the world. But in our workplaces, anxiety has been a hidden problem-there in plain sight but ignored. Until now.

The Anxious Achiever is a book with a mission: to normalize anxiety and leadership. As leadership expert and self-proclaimed anxious achiever Morra Aarons-Mele argues, anxiety is built into the very nature of leadership. It can-and should-be harnessed into a force for good.

Inspired by the popular podcast of…


Book cover of Bottom of the Food Chain: A Fresh Perspective on How Your Career Impact Goes Beyond Your Job Title

Jocelyn Davis Why did I love this book?

LaPora Lindsey's key message, that we can make a profound positive impact no matter how little formal authority we have, is the leadership message for our time.

And her key metaphor—"life at the bottom of the food chain," whence all energy originates—is a brilliant way to express it. I’ve come to realize that this perspective on careers isn’t just for entry-level youngsters; it’s also for us oldsters with top jobs and/or years of experience.

We imagine it’s our bird’s-eye strategies and top-down direction that count, but oftentimes, it’s our earth-bound energy and support that make the biggest difference. When we say, “Yes, good idea, I’ll get behind that. Here’s how I’ll help,” we gain more power than we know. 

Book cover of The Adversity Hack: Get Out of Your Own Way, Shift Your Thinking, and Change Your World

Jocelyn Davis Why did I love this book?

I’m an old corporate-training pro who wrestled for decades with one problem: how to get folks to apply the skills and mindsets we taught, actually altering their behavior on the job.

“Just do it” does not work, for as soon as learners encounter any sort of adversity—an irate customer, difficult conversation, project setback, or plain old lack of time—good intentions fly out the window, entrenched habits fly back in, and the air goes out of the intended change.

Meg Poag’s The Adversity Hack offers a solution. No "mindfulness" platitudes here; just a simple yet effective method for getting out of our own way and leaning into our best selves, especially when the path is rough. (And honestly, when is it not?)

By Meg Poag,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Adversity Hack as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What if you could experience more joy in your life and work through your challenges, so you wouldn’t have to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again? In The Adversity Hack, CEO and leadership coach Meg Poag shares a powerful and effective personal development tool to help you shed the old beliefs that are holding you back and learn how to work to create real and positive change in your life. The system she introduces, called The Adversity Cycle, shows you how to begin to look at your circumstances with a fresh perspective and find a new way…


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The Boldly Inclusive Leader: Transform Your Workplace (and the World) by Valuing the Differences Within

By Minette Norman,

Book cover of The Boldly Inclusive Leader: Transform Your Workplace (and the World) by Valuing the Differences Within

Minette Norman Author Of The Boldly Inclusive Leader: Transform Your Workplace (and the World) by Valuing the Differences Within

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent 20 years leading global teams in Silicon Valley, and I had few role models for empathetic, human, and inclusive leadership. I was committed to being the leader I wished I’d had all those years. I had a lot of success, a big VP-level job, and I loved my work. Then, I got a new manager who bullied, undermined, and silenced me. I decided I wanted to help leaders do better. I became an author, speaker, and consultant focused on inspiring leaders to create an environment where everyone is heard, seen, and respected.

Minette's book list on amazing leader, listener, and human being

What is my book about?

To create innovative, collaborative, and high-performing organizations, we need a new leadership model.

Speaker, consultant, and former Silicon Valley executive Minette Norman is committed to inspiring leaders by sharing some of the most important things she learned over the decades she spent in the corporate world, such as: every human being needs to feel they belong; teams thrive when everyone can share their unique ideas and experiences; innovation is a group activity; empathy and compassion are leadership superpowers; and, leaders set the tone by what they say, do, reward, and tolerate.

This is not a book about quick fixes or…

The Boldly Inclusive Leader: Transform Your Workplace (and the World) by Valuing the Differences Within

By Minette Norman,


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