Independent Study for Female Leaders

Books NAESP’s Center for Women in Leadership recommends for improving practice and determination.

Topics: Women in Leadership

NAESP’s Center for Women in Leadership is committed to the advancement of women through continuous networking, communication, and professional learning. One of the initiatives successful in supporting that goal is the center’s national book study, through which women in leadership facilitate study groups of a selected book.

Once a month, we meet with all facilitators across the country to discuss each chapter of the book. Facilitators leave these meetings feeling renewed, empowered, and ready to discuss the book’s contents with their groups in terms of new learning and impact on women as leaders.

Through national book studies, the center has been able to build awareness of how female leaders face and overcome gender-related issues that impact their leadership, as well as the leadership traits female leaders use in the process.

Book studies offer a platform for dialogue among women leaders locally and nationally, and have helped create a strong network of what we call “sister circles.” By networking through sister circles, women in leadership have helped elevate each other as they pursue leadership and career opportunities.

Since launch, we’ve studied books such as Leading While Female: A Culturally Proficient Response to Gender Equity and The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know. The most recent book study launched on Sept. 6, focusing on the book She Leads: The Women’s Guide to a Career in Educational Leadership.

Although the center focuses on a select book each year, it also provides a recommendation list that includes these titles and others to women in leadership, as detailed below:

Leading While Female: A Culturally Proficient Response to Gender Equity
By Trudy Arriaga, Stacie Stanley, and Delores Lindsey

Leading While Female brings to light a comprehensive assessment of gender-related issues that women in leadership encounter. Exploring the cultural continuum through an equity lens, the authors tackle gender-​related inequalities and share ways to address them at an institutional level. The book also illuminates intersectionalities and how they factor into leadership.

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know
By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

To no fault of our own, many women in leadership struggle with confidence. This book sheds light on that problem, walking readers through an improved understanding of the nuances of confidence, the factors that drive lack of confidence, and ways women can mitigate those factors.

She Leads: The Women’s Guide to a Career in Educational Leadership
By Rachael George and Majalise Tolan

This book addresses how one’s leadership style and the power of emotions factor into leadership. Featuring personal stories from a diverse group of educational leaders, the book illuminates the lessons they learned and offers guidance on ways women can bring their authentic selves to their leadership roles.

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World
By Melinda French Gates

In this memoir, the author tells how she came to the realization that empowering women requires a comprehensive approach. When women are empowered and uplifted, they can connect and make an impact on society, Gates says; just listening to other women gave her own life focus and urgency. When you lift others up, you are lifted up.

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job
By Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

Have you ever wondered why, as women, we hold ourselves to a different standard, constantly second-guessing our abilities and achievements? In this book, Helgesen and Goldsmith help us understand the source of these unfulfilling habits and behaviors, the impact they have on our ability to rise, and strategies we can use to triumph over these habits. Highly recommended for women who find themselves struggling with self-doubt, seeking validation, striving for perfection, or feeling apprehensive about cracking the glass ceiling.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

By Brené Brown

If you lead from a position of self-protection in which you wear several psychological “armors,” Brené Brown’s book will dare you to instead lead from a place of courage. The book equips readers with four skill sets of courageous leadership: rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise.

Lead With Grace: Leaning Into the Soft Skills of Leadership
By Jessica Cabeen

Being prepared to take the reins of leadership requires preparation, but formal preparation doesn’t include the soft skills. Cabeen describes what it takes to lead with empathy, integrity, and grace, while pushing through unapologetically.

Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
By Brené Brown

To understand how to form deeper connections with people, you must understand emotions beyond happiness, sadness, and anger, Brené Brown says. Atlas of the Heart explores multiple emotions to determine whether they can be attributed to others, events, or yourself. It’s a must-read for deepening your understanding of self that helps readers determine if their feelings are based on a state or a trait.

Andrea Thompson is a Maryland State Department of Education expert reviewer and a Delaware education associate for school leadership.

Jessica Gomez is a principal in the Colton Joint Unified School District in Southern California and a fellow with NAESP’s Center for Women in Leadership.