The best (practical) books to help you thrive not just survive as a leader

Who am I?

I’m an Executive who started life as an Occupational Therapist. As an undergrad, I had an innate curiosity around mental health, and what makes people thrive not just survive. This fascination sent me to university multiple times, and, as a self-confessed book nerd (my teams tell me one of my most common sayings is ‘There is a book you could read..’), constantly testing book theories at work. As an executive, I mentor up-and-coming leaders. This compilation of books represents the most common books I recommend to people to help them thrive at work as a leader. I hope you find them as useful as I have.  


I wrote...

Mentally at Work: Optimising health and business performance through connection

By Genevieve Hawkins,

Book cover of Mentally at Work: Optimising health and business performance through connection

What is my book about?

Mentally at Work is about understanding the science behind why connection matters, and the practical strategies to build your mental health, the mental health of the team, and the strength of connection that delivers results. This book is written by a senior manager, for senior managers. It pushes away the jargon and ‘fluff’ to give you insights into why you can’t afford to ignore the tsunami hitting the developed world. Your health, your business performance, and your future leadership depend upon it. And it all starts with making pies….

The books I picked & why

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Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work

By Marie G. McIntyre,

Book cover of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work

Why this book?

I remember vividly the moment, while researching change, when I read an article by Jeffrey Pfeffer on power in organisations. It was an ah-ha moment for me in making sense of some of the behaviours I was witnessing at work. Marie McIntyre, who studied with Pfeffer, wrote Secrets to Winning at Office Politics and writes in a much more accessible and practical way on understanding and working with these politics, while maintaining your own integrity. Many a mentee has said to me, ‘I’m not interested in the politics, I just want to do my job.' And my response to that is that if you want to be successful in your career, then you need to not just understand but work with the politics. But there are ways to do this, while still being you. And this book helps with how.

Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work

By Marie G. McIntyre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Secrets to Winning at Office Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Office politics are a fact of corporate life. From new hire to experienced executive, everyone needs to learn how to effectively play the game to win. From sizing up the political climate in the office, to building positive relationships to increasing political power, SECRETS TO WINNING AT OFFICE POLITICS is the handbook for achieving on-the-job success. Marie McIntyre, organizational psychologist and corporate coach, reveals proven strategies to: - Turn adversaries into allies - Counter colleagues' powerplays - Develop an influence strategy - Cope with quirky bosses and annoying co-workers - Achieve personal and professional goals.


Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

By Susan David,

Book cover of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

Why this book?

I met Susan while doing an Exec Leadership Program with McKinsey and her talk and this book have been pivotal in helping me navigate how I respond to challenges within the workplace. Despite our best intentions, sometimes things go awry, and our emotions can flood us in these moments rendering us ineffective. This book helped me to learn that our emotions are data not direction, and the practical techniques to use to not just learn to live with these emotions, but rather to learn from them. It has made me more resilient as a leader, buffering the challenges by learning my emotions. 

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

By Susan David,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perfect for lovers of Quiet and The Power of Now, Emotional Agility shares a new way of relating to yourself and the world around you

Every day we speak around 16,000 words - but inside minds we create tens of thousands more.

Thoughts such as 'I'm not spending enough time with my children' or 'I'm not good enough to present my work' can seem to be unshakeable facts. In reality, they're the judgemental opinions of our inner voice.

Drawing on more than twenty years of academic research and her own experiences, Susan David PhD, a psychologist and faculty member at…


Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It

By Ethan Kross,

Book cover of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It

Why this book?

Like most people, my brain can let me down at times with the endless chatter or ‘classroom inside my head’ as I like to call it. There was an amazing moment on a McKinsey course I did, where we all had to share our deepest darkest secret internal chatter about ourselves, and it was all versions of ‘I am inadequate.’ I love this book for how it normalises that chatter, but also provides practical, relatable strategies to use to help harness it. It explores what we can do ourselves, how we can change our environment to help us, what we can ask of our ‘board of advisors,’ and also how we can return the favour in helping others, when that voice of doubt gets too loud. 

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It

By Ethan Kross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • An award-winning psychologist reveals the hidden power of our inner voice and shows how to harness it to combat anxiety, improve physical and mental health, and deepen our relationships with others.

LONGLISTED FOR THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • “A masterpiece.”—Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit • Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel H. Pink’s Next Big Idea Club Winter 2021 Winning Selection

One of the best new books of the year—The Washington Post, BBC, USA Today, CNN Underscored, Shape, Behavioral Scientist, PopSugar • Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Shelf Awareness starred reviews

Tell a…


Stories for Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling

By Gabrielle Dolan,

Book cover of Stories for Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling

Why this book?

While we would love to think we are always rational, we are hard-wired for story not the rational data (albeit key data can be a strong anchor in a story). I started my career far more in the assumption of rational data trumps all, but recognised, through bumps and bruises, how stories can overtake decision-making. When I learned how to tell a better story, I learned how to get the results I needed. Gabrielle is such a down-to-earth, energising speaker and writer, and this book provided me with such a practical, relatable framework for always having a good story or two in my back pocket.  

Stories for Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling

By Gabrielle Dolan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stories for Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Learn the science and master the art of telling a great story

Stories for Work walks you through the science of storytelling, revealing the secrets behind great storytellers and showing you how to master the art of storytelling in business. Stories hold a unique place in our psyche, and the right story at the right time can be a game-changer in business; whether tragedy, triumph, tension or transition, a good story can captivate the listener and help you achieve your goals. In this book, author Gabrielle Dolan draws from a decade of training business leaders in storytelling to show you…


The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

By Michael D. Watkins,

Book cover of The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

Why this book?

This book was recommended to me just as I accepted a big Executive role. I had the benefit of a two-week break between the two jobs and spent time on Hamilton Island with my feet up, processing its content and developing from that a clear but simple approach to how I was going to have the most impact in that next role. It worked. And it set up my career from there. I keep going back to this book each time I take on a new role, and while I don’t read it end to end anymore, the prompts within it are always useful practical reminders to help anchor my focus before starting a new senior role so I can have effective impact fast. 

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

By Michael D. Watkins,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The First 90 Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors The world's most trusted guide for leaders in transition Transitions are a critical time for leaders. In fact, most agree that moving into a new role is the biggest challenge a manager will face. While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make needed changes in an organization, they also place leaders in a position of acute vulnerability. Missteps made during the crucial first three months in a new role can jeopardize or even derail your success. In this updated and expanded version…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in storytelling, school, and success in life?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about storytelling, school, and success in life.

Storytelling Explore 60 books about storytelling
School Explore 186 books about school
Success In Life Explore 155 books about success in life

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like What Color Is Your Parachute? 2022, The Proximity Principle, and Up Is Not the Only Way if you like this list.