Personal Development

Great books for women in leadership

leadership books for women

Leadership books for women or by women are now firm fixtures on bestsellers lists, and with good reason. Every business leader appreciates gleaning lessons from others’ hard-won successes. When those lessons are told from the perspective of women who have balanced career, family, wage disparities and inherent bias to rise to the top, the results can be particularly inspiring. From new works to trusted times, these books by women leaders and researchers are among the most highly recommended by members of the Vistage small and midsize business community.

CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest by Carolyn Dewar

book cover CEO Excellence

A New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling “manual for excellence” features in-depth conversations with some of the world’s most successful corporate leaders. The authors, including Carolyn Dewar, estimate that two-thirds of CEOs are struggling: “Approaching these responsibilities with a mindset of being bold, treating the soft stuff as the hard stuff, solving for the team’s psychology, helping directors help the business, starting with ‘why?’ and doing what only they can do will continue to stand CEOs in good stead navigating whatever seas lie ahead.”

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

Co-founder of nFormation Deepa Purushothaman pens a call to action for women of color to advocate for more inclusive companies. The author examines the structural and cultural dynamics of what women of color are experiencing in the workplace, how women can get comfortable sitting in positions of power and why it’s important to shift away from an “inadequacy” mindset to allow more women of color a seat at the table. “…Together, we can remake power, success, and leadership,” she says.

The Unicorn Within: How Companies Can Create Game-Changing Ventures at Startup Speed by Linda Yates

A Forbes 2022 Top 10 business book, Linda Yates lays out a 12-week program for finding one’s “inner unicorn” such as sourcing venture ideas, identifying customer pain points, creating products or services, developing a rigorous business and execution plan, and accelerating each funded venture. “Her book is a highly practical guide to help you drive growth for your company, your shareholders, your customers, your people, your community, and — given her strong ethos that you can do well by doing good — the world,” writes Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Anna: The Biography by Amy Odell

The biography of publishing and fashion icon Anna Wintour follows the climb of an ambitious young woman who would become one of the most powerful journalists in the world. “Some saw critiques of her controlling nature as something that men with power don’t have to endure,” biographer Amy Odell writes. Odell weaves personal and professional stories together in the book to inspire any executive who desires to have it all and be true to one’s authentic self.

Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World by Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty recalls her path from a challenging childhood to becoming the CEO of IBM. Rometty demonstrates how her concept of “good power” evolved as she grew from a first-time manager to a being known as a transformative CEO. During Rometty’s tenure, she used that power to initiate effective workforce development programs to recruit people of diverse backgrounds and education levels to participate in the digital economy. “Someone once told me growth and comfort do not co-exist,” Rometty says. Expected publication for the book is March 7, 2023.

My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future by Indra Nooyi

My Life in Full Indra Nooyi

Being known as one of the world’s most admired CEOs took a combination of a relentless pursuit of excellence, a clear vision and often, tremendous sacrifice. The former PepsiCo CEO and Chairman candidly recounts becoming the first immigrant and woman of color to lead a Fortune 50 company alongside a growing family. “I see how my life is full of this type of duality — competing forces that have pushed and pulled me from one chapter to the next,” she writes.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Weisman and Greg McKeown


Leadership expert Liz Wiseman and management consultant Greg McKeown share insights gleaned from 150 executives from around the world to explore the impact of two leadership styles — multipliers and diminishers. “Multipliers are genius makers … they make everyone around them smarter and more capable,” she writes. “Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius — innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence.”

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

leadership books for women brown

This is the work that inspired a movement. Culled from more than 12 years of research, Brown’s groundbreaking work challenged the very definition of leadership. The social scientist champions vulnerability and turns the erstwhile flaw into an undeniable reservoir of strength. “We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen,” she writes. “This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.” A must-read for any leader.


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

leadership books for women duckworth

While some books take a 10,000-foot view of success, Duckworth explores it on a molecular level. People aren’t born with grit, they learn it, absorbing it into their bloodstream. From the West Point cadets to the National Spelling Bee champions who populate her research, Duckworth derives a deep understanding of drive and determination, and she shares suggestions for developing tenacity in oneself and for cultivating it in others.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington had fallen on her face. Literally. Driven to exhaustion from long days supporting her media enterprise, Huffington fell and broke her cheekbone. It was then she realized there is more to success than money and power. The “third metric” by which we should judge success is “our well-being … and our capacity for compassion and giving.” Engaging and persuasive, Huffington makes the case for a new paradigm of work and society.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D

Stanford University psychologist Dweck spent a decade studying the power of people’s beliefs and relays those findings in a book that has become a dog-eared mainstay on many C-suite shelves. The very concept of “fixed mindsets” and “growth mindsets” stemmed from this book. With updated information and suggestions, Mindset is the little engine that could transform whole companies.

RELATED CONTENT: Fixed vs. growth mindset: Which brings success?

How Remarkable Women Lead by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston

Through real stories of triumphs and challenges, Barsh and Cranston introduce readers to the five dimensions of Centered Leadership: meaning, framing, connecting, engaging and energizing. This book often tops “best of” lists for a reason. The actionable ideas and in-the-field insights make for a remarkable read.

More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by Elaine Welteroth

This instant New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2020 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work is a moving reflection on confidence, leadership and destiny. The former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief’s memoir digs deep into a life of struggle and barrier-breaking to strike a well of inspiration. An insightful book for people of all ages, particularly new and emerging leaders.

Know Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski

In this prequel to Grow Your Value, NBC personality Mika Brzezinski explores our nation’s persistent gender wage gap and provides women with important tools to achieve the boardroom recognition and compensation they’ve earned. Filled with valuable advice from bold-name stars, this book is a fun and at times hilarious read.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The prolific and celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert demystifies the creative process and guides readers toward addressing any challenge — whether it’s writing a book or navigating a company through turbulent times. Mixing the spiritual with the pragmatic, Gilbert encourages readers to get out of their own way and tap into the creativity within.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

A paean to quiet sung out loud, Cain’s well-researched book makes the case for introverted thinkers in a culture that worships extroverted salespeople. The bestselling author culls neuroscience research and case studies to advocate for solitude in our collaborative culture. Thought-provoking and beautifully written, Cain’s book dares leaders to shake the foundations of business by speaking quietly.

Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work by Liz Wiseman


Sometimes seeing things through a “fresh pair of eyes” can make all the difference. In this book, Wiseman suggests that that fresh pair of eyes might be yours, even if you’ve been at the helm for decades. Revealing four “rookie mindsets” that lead to success, Wiseman guides readers to ask questions and feed their curiosity. In doing so, she promotes a way of leading that values learning, striving and seeking over status quo. A bold book for these uncertain times.

RELATED CONTENT: How to think like a rookie CEO


Related Resources

Women In Leadership Resource Center

How can CEOs change the hiring landscape? Focus on re-enrolling women

7 lessons from exception women leaders, inspired by indra Nooyi

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

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