The best leadership books for nerdy introverts

Jocelyn Davis Author Of The Art of Quiet Influence: Timeless Wisdom for Leading Without Authority
By Jocelyn Davis

Who am I?

I’m a history-philosophy-literature nerd who at a young age stumbled into a job at a global corporate training firm, where I learned a lot about leadership as I rose over two decades to become head of R&D. Then I was fired for insubordination, which just goes to show that introverts get into trouble, too. Having authored one book under company auspices, I decided to write another one on my own, one that combined my expertise in leadership development with my love for great stories and ideas. Now I’m up to five books, and they’re all the kind that a nerdy introverted troublemaker would want to read. 


I wrote...

Book cover of The Art of Quiet Influence: Timeless Wisdom for Leading Without Authority

What is my book about?

Influence means getting things done without coercion, wielding strength without force. Master influencers talk softly and have no need of a big stick, yet collective success hinges on their words and deeds, and when their work is done (says Laozi) the people all say, “We did it ourselves.”

Anyone can be a quiet influencer, but not everyone knows how. The Art of Quiet Influence weaves together timeless wisdom of the great sages of India, China, Japan, and the Islamic world—from Confucius to the Buddha, Rumi to Gandhi—with research and insights from modern-day experts. Featuring 12 quiet influence practices and packed with compelling stories and examples, this unique leadership book offers profound and practical advice for creating trust-based collaborations with lasting impact.

The books I picked & why

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

By Susan Cain,

Book cover of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Why this book?

If you’re a strong, silent type who wants to feel understood, affirmed, and—most important—capable of leadership, you can’t do better than Quiet. With a psychologist’s insight into human character and a storyteller’s panache, Susan Cain demonstrates just how (quietly) effective we introverts can be. I loved her opening story of a reserved young lawyer who wins the day in a fierce negotiation; also her debunking of myths about this oft-overlooked third of the population. Weak? Antisocial? Timid followers? No way. Introverts rule.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

By Susan Cain,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Quiet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SUSAN CAIN'S NEW BOOK, BITTERSWEET, IS AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW

A SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE HOW YOU SEE INTROVERTS - AND YOURSELF - FOREVER.

Our lives are driven by a fact that most of us can't name and don't understand. It defines who our friends and lovers are, which careers we choose, and whether we blush when we're embarrassed.

That fact is whether we're an introvert or an extrovert.

The most fundamental dimension of personality, at least a third of us are introverts, and yet shyness, sensitivity and seriousness are often seen as…


Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

By Jim Collins,

Book cover of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

Why this book?

The rigorous depth of Jim Collins’s research is impressive. What’s even more impressive is how he makes his research findings so interesting. I recommend this book mainly because of Collins’s concept of the Level 5 Leader: the self-effacing yet courageous captain with “personal humility and professional will,” who prioritizes results over ego. The story of Darwin Smith, mild-mannered CEO of Kimberly-Clark who led the transformation of that hidebound paper company from merely good to truly great, is both inspiring and instructive.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

By Jim Collins,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Good to Great as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

________________________________
Can a good company become a great one? If so, how?

After a five-year research project, Jim Collins concludes that good to great can and does happen. In this book, he uncovers the underlying variables that enable any type of organisation to make the leap from good to great while other organisations remain only good. Rigorously supported by evidence, his findings are surprising - at times even shocking - to the modern mind.

Good to Great achieves a rare distinction: a management book full of vital ideas that reads as well as a fast-paced novel. It is widely regarded…


The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

By David Whyte,

Book cover of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

Why this book?

I was skeptical when a former boss of mine recommended this book (sounded kind of woo-woo), but I was won over by Whyte’s perceptive, off-beat takes on great epic poems and their application to our quests in today’s corporate world. From Beowulf’s fight with Grendel to Dante’s journey through the Inferno, from Cassandra’s foretelling of the sack of Troy to Fionn’s eating of the Salmon of Knowledge, I was enthralled—and emboldened to explore the dark, creative, messy side of leadership in my own life.

The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

By David Whyte,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“With this insightful book, David Whyte offers people in corporate life an opportunity to reach into the forgotten and ignored creative life (their own and the corporation’s) and literally water their souls with it. The result is a very well written book that can truly heal.”—Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PH.D., author of Women Who Run With the Wolves and The Gift of Story
 
Find professional and personal fulfilment through the poetry of both classic and modern masters—now revised and updated
 
Has your work lost its meaning? Have you forgotten the goals you hoped to achieve when you began your career? Are…


Hind Swaraj Or Indian Home Rule

By Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,

Book cover of Hind Swaraj Or Indian Home Rule

Why this book?

“Lead yourself first” has become a consultant’s cliché, but it wasn’t a cliché in November 1909 when fledgling barrister and political organizer Mohandas K. Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj on a sea voyage returning from London. Swaraj can be translated in two ways: “home rule” or “self-rule.” Gandhi plays on the two meanings to construct a brilliant analysis of India’s situation that amazed me with its pertinence to the present day. His core advice to would-be leaders: Stop trying to master other people; instead, master yourself.

Hind Swaraj Or Indian Home Rule

By Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hind Swaraj Or Indian Home Rule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The doctrine of violence is more widely believed in than is generally realised. The votaries of violence can be divided into two classes. Some, a small and dwindling class, believe in it and are prepared to act according to their faith. Others, a very large class always, and now, after bitter experiences of the failure of constitutional agitation, larger than ever, believe in violence, but that belief does not lead them to action. It disables them from work on any basis other than force. The belief in violence serves to dissuade them from all other kinds of work or sacrifice.…


Leadership Presence

By Belle Linda Halpern, Kathy Lubar,

Book cover of Leadership Presence

Why this book?

I read this book while on a terrifyingly turbulent flight home from a business trip. Maybe that’s why it has stuck with me, but its memorability is also due to the assurance it offered that I, a fundamentally shy person who finds public speaking almost as terrifying as a bumpy plane ride, could not only speak to audiences but also connect with them in an authentic, passionate way. Leaders are frequently on stage; this book teaches us how to shine (softly) in the spotlight.

Leadership Presence

By Belle Linda Halpern, Kathy Lubar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

BRING THE TECHNIQUES OF THE STAGE TO THE BOARDROOM.

For more than a decade, Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar have applied the lessons and expertise they have learned as performing artists to the work of their company, The Ariel Group. Halpern and Lubar have helped tens of thousands of executives at major companies around the country and the globe, including General Electric, Mobil Oil, Capital One, and Deloitte. In Leadership Presence, they make their time-tested strategies available to everyone, from high-profile CEOs to young professionals seeking promotion. Their practical, proven approach will enable you to develop the skills necessary…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in extraversion and introversion, leadership, and Mahatma Gandhi?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about extraversion and introversion, leadership, and Mahatma Gandhi.

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