August 3, 2022

Leaders Matter Summer Reading, Listening, Watching Recommendations

Books, podcasts, and a documentary, recommended by Leaders Matter readers and Bridgespan colleagues.

Leaders Matter is back after taking a short summer break—and just in time to share some summer reading for those of you getting ready to take yours. Thank you to everyone for sharing your recommended reads and podcasts earlier this summer. We have a bit of everything, from books that can help you become a more mindful leader and explore what it means to be human, to podcasts that share time management advice and call us to lead.

Below you’ll find a list of recommendations from our readers and Bridgespan colleagues. We’ve shared short descriptions from their websites, related content you might find interesting, and readers’ comments, where they were offered. We hope you enjoy this list.


The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

(Riverhead Books, 2018)
By Priya Parker

From the website: "In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive—which they don't have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play."

Reader comment: "A helpful book for anyone who thinks about bringing folks together.... Also Priya Parker has a podcast 'Together Apart' where she’s offering suggestions re: gathering in this context… which I believe is on most leaders' minds…"

Fixer Upper: How to Repair America's Broken Housing Systems

(Brookings Institution Press, 2022)
By Jenny Schuetz

From the website: "Fixer Upper is the first book assessing how the broad set of local, state, and national housing policies affect people and communities. It does more than describe how yesterday's policies led to today's problems. It proposes practical policy changes than can make stable, decent-quality housing more available and affordable for all Americans in all communities.

"Fixing systemic problems that arose over decades won’t be easy, in large part because millions of middle-class Americans benefit from the current system and feel threatened by potential changes. But Fixer-Upper suggests ideas for building political coalitions among diverse groups that share common interests in putting better housing within reach for more Americans, building a more equitable and healthy country."

Reader comment: "Housing market failure underlies many crises that harm low-income and BIPOC Americans, not to mention our cities. Schuetz provides evidence of the problem and suggests concrete solutions to housing production, racial discrimination, wealth disparities and much more."

Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation

(AK Press, 2021)
By adrienne maree brown

From the website: "Holding Change is about attending to coordination, to conflict, to being humans in right relationship with each other, not as a constant ongoing state, but rather as a magnificent, mysterious, ever-evolving dynamic in which we must involve ourselves, shape ourselves and each other. The majority of the book is sourced from brown’s twenty-plus years of facilitation and mediation work with movement groups."

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

(Haymarket Books, March 15, 2016)
By Rebecca Solnit

From the website: "... Hope in the Dark was written to counter the despair of radicals at a moment when they were focused on their losses and had turned their back to the victories behind them—and the unimaginable changes soon to come. In it, she makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argued that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next. Now, with a moving new introduction explaining how the book came about and a new afterword that helps teach us how to hope and act in our unnerving world, she brings a new illumination to the darkness of 2016 in an unforgettable new edition of this classic book."

Reader comment: "She's super prolific and probably has written more recent things, but this is one that I go back to time and again for perspective on the long arc of change."

Read Rebecca Solnit’s column in The Guardian.

Humankind: A Hopeful History

(Little, Brown and Company, 2021)
By Rutger Bregman

From the website: "If there is one belief that has united the left and the right, psychologists and philosophers, ancient thinkers and modern ones, it is the tacit assumption that humans are bad. It's a notion that drives newspaper headlines and guides the laws that shape our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Pinker, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought. Human beings, we're taught, are by nature selfish and governed primarily by self-interest.

"But what if it isn't true? International bestseller Rutger Bregman provides new perspective on the past 200,000 years of human history, setting out to prove that we are hardwired for kindness, geared toward cooperation rather than competition, and more inclined to trust rather than distrust one another."

Reader comment: "It is a great read that restores faith in the goodness of human beings with facts, practical advice, and some really interesting counterintuitive truths!"

Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to Build a Kick-Ass Culture of Inclusivity

(St. Martin’s Press, 2021)
By Kim Scott

From the website:Just Work is Kim Scott’s new book, revealing a practical framework for both respecting everyone’s individuality and collaborating effectively. This is the essential guide leaders and their employees need to create more just workplaces and establish new norms of collaboration and respect.”

Leading Below the Surface: How to Build Real (and Psychologically Safe) Relationships with People Who Are Different from You

(PYP Academy Press, 2021)
By LaTonya Wilkins

From the website: "Leading Below the Surface is a prolific compass for the forward-thinking leader. Inspired by organizational culture research, social psychology, neuroscience, and the real-life experiences of culture leader LaTonya Wilkins, this book disrupts the way we think about traditional leadership to achieve truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures of belonging in the workplace. No matter what level of an organization you are in, you will gain something valuable for your career in this book."

Reader comment: "The author gives us an incredibly clear and nuanced take on the skills leaders need to be effective during this time."

Listen to an interview with the LaTonya Wilkins.

Narrative Economics

(Princeton University Press, 2019)
By Robert J. Shiller

From the website: “In this groundbreaking book, Nobel Prize–winning economist and New York Times bestselling author Robert Shiller offers a new way to think about the economy and economic change. Using a rich array of historical examples and data, Shiller argues that studying popular stories that affect individual and collective economic behavior—what he calls 'narrative economics'—has the potential to vastly improve our ability to predict, prepare for, and lessen the damage of financial crises, recessions, depressions, and other major economic events.”

Reader comment: “Interesting to think about in regard to the role of narratives in social change.”

Philanthropy Revolution: How to inspire donors, build relationships, and make a difference

(HarperCollins, September 8, 2020)
By Lisa Greer and Larissa Kostoff

From the website: "Businesswoman and philanthropist Lisa Greer lifts the lid on our charitable sector, with an authentic account that describes exactly how outdated the sector has become and why it’s at risk of collapse… Lisa showcases the latest research, as well as dozens of interviews with donors, nonprofit professionals, and leading academics in the field."

Read Alliance magazine’s review of the book.

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

(One World, 2021)
By Heather McGhee

From the website: "Heather McGhee's specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

"McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others."

Reader comment: "I find this such a clear, strong compelling narrative and argument for how we are all in this together."

Read the New York Times book review.

The Tech that Comes Next: How Changemakers, Philanthropists, and Technologists Can Build an Equitable World

(Wiley, 2022)
By Amy Sample Ward and Afua Bruce

From the website: “This book connects ideas and conversations across sectors from artificial intelligence to data collection, community centered design to collaborative funding, and social media to digital divides. Technology and equity are inextricably connected, and The Tech That Comes Next helps you accelerate change for the better.”


Finding Our Way

With Prentiss Hemphill

From the website: [Finding Our Way] is an exploration into ourselves, and the skills we need to create and embody the world we want.”

Reader comment: “[This podcast] focuses on healing, somatics, and movement work in ways that I find insightful and rewarding.”

Hidden Brain: What Makes Relationships Thrive episode

From the website: "Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. But psychologist Harry Reis says there's another ingredient to successful relationships that’s every bit as important as love."

Reader comment: "[Describes the] importance of understanding and fostering authentic, trusting relationships."

IDR (Indian Development Review): Failures Files

From the website:Failure Files is a show where social entrepreneurs and leaders talk about their failures and lessons learned. In every episode, hear people at the frontlines of social change reflect upon their own experiences with failing, and how those setbacks made them better leaders.”

On Being: Time Management for Mortals episode

With Krista Tippet and Oliver Burkeman

From the website: “Journalist Oliver Burkeman has made a delightful and important philosophical, spiritual, and practical investigation of all that is truly at stake in what we blithely refer to as 'time management.' … He invites us into a new relationship with time, our technologies, and the power of limits — and thus with our mortality and with life itself.”

Reader comment: “[This episode offers a] humanizing perspective on 'time management.'”


The Call to Courage

(Netflix, 2019)
Directed by Sandra Restepo
Starring Brené Brown

From the website: “With humor and empathy, Brené Brown discusses what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty.”

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