Over the summer break, I’ve managed to get through a good number of books. The topics cover leadership, organisational culture, the future of work, identity and purpose – all things I’m thinking about right now. I reckon these books are all useful, thought-provoking reads for any leader, change-maker or restless go-getter who’s searching for inspiration and practical ways to be more effective, more adaptable, and more real.

Here’s my take on some of the core ideas from each book. They’re not exhaustive. Just a few brief snippets and quotes, designed to pique your interest and get you thinking. You can click on each link for more details.

Books are great mentors. Enjoy your time with these six:


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)  

An excellent read on the power of adopting a systematic discipline to apply every time you’re faced with a decision. Cut through to what’s most
and get more of the right stuff done. 

  • Develop the ability to discern what really matters, and focus on that.
  • People are more effective when they say no more often.
  • Courage is key to the process of elimination.

It’s also worth listening to Tim Ferriss interviewing Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, on a very similar theme.


Acid for the Children: A Memoir (Flea, bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers)

An engaging, thought-provoking memoir of Flea’s formative years and his insights about human nature. 

  • A band needs to be more than good at playing music. It needs to tap a source, to awaken a feeling that lies dormant in people, a freedom and a beauty that is normally eclipsed by the shadows of everyday life, a feeling we didn’t even know we had. Kind of like leadership I reckon, and especially leadership teams.


Chiefing Your Tribe: How to Become a Leader Worth Following (Michael Henderson)

A practical, punchy read on how leaders can be more effective at leading organisational culture.

  • To truly lead people, you must know the people and identify as one of them.
  • You don’t need everyone on board to transform an underperforming culture into a high-performing culture. You just need enough ‘dry wood’ (positive and aligned people in your culture) to start the fire.
  • Where language goes a culture follows. Change the language…to change the culture.


Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder (Chip Conley) 

An insightful book on how individuals and organisations can embrace the wisdom and experience that comes with mid-life. 

  • The fastest growing demographic in the workplace is age 50 and above. Prepare for this reality.
  • Myth busting: older workers are better synthesisers of information, better learners, less likely to quit, and are highly engaged. 
  • To stay relevant: marry wisdom with curiosity. Adopt a ‘mentern’ mindset: part mentor, part intern. Be a ‘perennial’: someone who’s ever-blooming, knows what’s happening in the world, current with technology and has friends of all ages.


Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity (David Whyte)

For anyone who wants a deeper connection to purpose in their work, or wants to cultivate a more purposeful, authentic work culture. 

  • The core act of leadership must be the act of making conversations real. 
  • Speed by itself has never been associated with good work by those who have achieved mastery in any given field
  • Develop ‘Negative Capability’: the ability to be in uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts without any irritable reaching after facts or reason… 


Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Parker J Palmer)

A counter-intuitive exploration of what it means to discover a sense of vocation in your work.

  • Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.
  • The deepest vocational question is not “What ought I to do with my life?” It is the more elemental and demanding “Who am I? What is my nature?”


I’d love to know: what ideas here pique your interest? And what might you want to learn more about? Let me know. I’m up for a chat.


Photo Credit: Digby Scott

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