The best books to understand the need for DEI and workplace inclusion from the leader and employee perspectives

Who am I?

I have been an organizational psychologist and executive coach for more than two decades, advising high-level executives, including Fortune 500 leaders, to build workplace cultures in which all employees can flourish. Yet, for many employees of color, the workplace is so challenging that many feel professionally stifled. I realized many years ago that to accomplish my own goals; I needed to take control of my career and not depend upon the vagaries of individual leaders. I needed to set goals, take a long game view, be honest with myself and my leaders, and help leaders understand how changing some habits could help them and me succeed in a disrupted world. 


I wrote...

Leading Inclusion: Drive Change Your Employees Can See and Feel

By Gena Cox,

Book cover of Leading Inclusion: Drive Change Your Employees Can See and Feel

What is my book about?

In this well-researched book, organizational psychologist and executive coach Gena Cox delivers the message that although human variation is normal, true inclusion that embraces these variations remains elusive in the workplace. She argues that this state of affairs will continue until executives lead inclusion from the top of their organizations. Drawing on psychological science, interviews with corporate leaders, the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) experts, and her own experience in corporate America, Gena goes beyond the “business case” and answers the clarion call for human-centered organizational leadership.

Leading Inclusion is not a “how-to” book; it is a “how-to-be” book that educates, challenges, and empowers you and your c-suite and board colleagues to change your organization—and America—one employee at a time. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America

By Deepa Purushothaman,

Book cover of The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America

Why this book?

The First, The Few, The Only is the first book I have read that accurately captures the angst of my day-to-day experience as a high-achieving woman of color in corporate America. I love that the book also proposes empowering systemic and individual actions to enhance those experiences.


Leadership Reckoning: Can Higher Education Develop the Leaders We Need?

By Thomas Kolditz, Libby Gill, Ryan P. Brown

Book cover of Leadership Reckoning: Can Higher Education Develop the Leaders We Need?

Why this book?

The message of Leadership Reckoning is that we need do a better job of developing human-centered business leaders who can meet the challenges of a disrupted world. I believe the approach in this book will also achieve the goal of building more inclusive organizational cultures in which all employees can thrive, regardless of their variations.


The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World

By Dorie Clark,

Book cover of The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World

Why this book?

Dorie Clark has a way of identifying the challenges that derail careers and then proposing clear, nail-on-the-head solutions that can be executed. The Long Game clarifies that we can achieve our goals if we define our goals and then are purposeful in taking a long-game view and creating the environment that can support those goals. We need to focus, persist, and make space for thinking. I have followed the guidance in this book to help me achieve some very specific goals that were previously vague ideas.


Think Big: Take Small Steps and Build the Future You Want

By Grace Lordan,

Book cover of Think Big: Take Small Steps and Build the Future You Want

Why this book?

Think Big is a science-based roadmap to help a reader achieve their wildest dreams, by taking small and big steps that move you incrementally toward the goal. Sometimes the steps require doing things you have not done before but sometimes they require stopping or reducing or changing your current patterns of dealing with the realities of life.


Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms

By Shellye Archambeau,

Book cover of Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms

Why this book?

Shellye Archambeau is one of the most successful tech business leaders in America. And this book shows you how she did it and how you can, too. The secrets include clearly defining the goal as early in life as possible; don’t wait. This book will let you know when to say “yes,” and which enticing offers deserve a hard “no.”


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in career development, quality of life, and higher education?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about career development, quality of life, and higher education.

Career Development Explore 13 books about career development
Quality Of Life Explore 13 books about quality of life
Higher Education Explore 10 books about higher education

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Big Magic, and Start Finishing if you like this list.