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Eight Inspiring Books from 2018

It seems like every time I turn on the TV in the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve, I see some type of a list. The best athlete of 2018, the finest foods, or the biggest scandals of the past year fill all kinds of air time. To keep up with this trend, I have compiled a list of eight books that I thoroughly enjoyed in 2018. You will notice that most of the books from this list are related to leadership. I try to read a book per month dedicated to personal growth and have captured six of these below. The other two are children's books that I have come to appreciate in my role as an elementary school principal. Someone very wise once shared with me that readers are leaders and leaders are readers. I would love to hear your thoughts about my selections and books that you would recommend to me.


This Is Day One by Drew Dudley

I was first exposed to Drew Dudley and some of his beliefs more than five years ago after watching his TED Talk entitled, "Everyday Leadership." I was hooked from the start, as he shared a story about a young man, a young woman, a lollipop, and how all of this related to leadership. If you are interested in viewing this six minute video, you can find it here. When it was shared with me that Drew had written a book, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. Drew emphasizes that true leadership is not about titles, positions, or power; rather, it is about the values, beliefs, and behaviors of everyday people. He claims most of the leadership on the planet comes from people who don't see themselves as leaders. We all have something amazing to contribute to the world. Dudley pushes the reader to rethink leadership and get rid of the ideology that it is an illustrious concept reserved for a select few. Everyone has the ability to lead and Dudley guides the reader through a clear process to make this a reality.


Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Brene Brown is a rock star and when you think of vulnerability, you have to think about this name. I have not read any of her other books except, Rising Strong, which I did not finish because of my schedule at the time. Dare to Lead is phenomenal and has motivated me to read more of Brown's work. Within this selection, she writes about having the courage to lead from the heart while tackling difficult tasks. There are so many quotes that I highlighted and underlined while reading. One of my favorites is: "A brave leader is someone who says I see you. I hear you. I don't have all the answers, but I'm going to keep listening and asking questions. We all have the capacity to do that. We all have the ability to foster empathy." Dare to Lead resonated with me so much because it struck a chord about being courageous on a daily basis while pushing me to clearly articulate my values. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in leadership.


Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

This is a great story about the power of a teacher and the belief he has in a struggling student. Ally is a sixth grader who has faked her way through school up to this point. She has a really difficult time reading which causes a number of behavioral issues and an inability to fit in with the popular crowd. Ally's long-term substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels, takes an interest in her and discovers through a series of assessments that she is dyslexic. The connection that Ally forms with Mr. Daniels is inspiring and demonstrates the power of relationships. I am currently reading this book with a group of twenty-eight fourth grade students at my school, as part of our annual principal book study. Fish in a Tree ranks right up there with Wonder for outstanding pieces of children's literature, as far as I am concerned.


Help for Billy by Heather Forbes

The school district in which I work has focused on

developing trauma-responsive environments while enhancing a relationship-driven culture. As our team began to learn about this approach, Help for Billy was a highly recommended resource. Heather Forbes does an exceptional job of explaining how children from traumatic backgrounds experience the world. It is much more than a behavioral issue; it is a biological and brain issue that impacts so many facets of a person's life. The brain drives behavior. Forbes refers to children who have experienced trauma in their lives as Billy and those who have experienced an upbringing free of trauma as Andy. Billy has significantly different needs than Andy. Billy's window of tolerance to handle stressful situations is much smaller than Andy's, based on his past experiences. There is a significant amount of research cited in this book; however, it is written in a way that is clear and understandable. If you are interested in learning more about trauma-responsive environments, this book is a must.


Contagious Culture Anese Cavanaugh

I had the opportunity to attend a professional learning session in early December focused on this book and the Intentional Energetic Presence (IEP) framework that Cavanaugh has developed. Immediately after I got home from the workshop, I started reading and could not get enough of this book. The IEP framework is about showing up and being aware of our presence. Cavanaugh communicates very clearly that we have a choice in how we show up and our behavior is contagious. We all bring vibrational energy to the classroom, the boardroom, or our living room. That vibe can be life-giving or soul-sucking; the choice is ours. She walks the reader through the IEP process and provides tools to show up more effectively. The theme I really enjoyed from this book was about taking care of ourselves first so we can take care of others.


The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt

One of the luxuries of being an elementary school

principal is having the opportunity to read books to kids. Each month, I visit every classroom in my school and share a favorite picture book. Most of the selections I make have a lesson related to growth mindset, integrity, struggle, perseverance, or empathy. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors has some of these lessons embedded within the text, but mostly it is funny and entertaining for kids. I had a great time reading this book to our preschool-fourth grade students and would highly recommend it to anyone who reads to kids.


The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle is masterful in defining the elements of successful cultures within this book. He breaks culture down into three parts or skills: Build Safety, Share Vulnerability, and Establish Purpose. Coyle studied the inner workings of the San Antonio Spurs and the innovative leadership of Greg Popovich, the intense practices of the Navy SEALs, the successful processes of New York restaurateur, Danny Meyer, among many others. Coyle identifies what these highly successful people and groups are able to do better than the rest while arguing that group culture is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. Often times, culture is seen as something that is there, but we are not able to clearly define or identify it. Coyle changes that by clearly explaining the behaviors that support healthy and thriving cultures.


The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

I have read the three books that the Heath Brothers have written prior to this one (Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive) and believe this one is the best. In The Power of Moments, they explain why certain experiences have extraordinary impact and how defining moments are created. Chip and Dan argue that defining moments shape our lives, but we don't have to wait for them to happen. We can be the authors and create defining moments for ourselves and the people we serve. The Heath Brothers examine the anatomy of defining moments and identify the traits they have in common. They also walk the reader through a process to create defining moments while tapping into the power of emotion. This book provoked a great deal of thought and reflection while also leaving me inspired to create positive change.


It is my hope that you found this post useful and possibly inspired you to read some of these selections. What did I miss? What would you add to this list of must reads? Add your thoughts in the comments; I am very interested in what you have to say. I am always searching for great books to push me personally and professionally. Readers are leaders and leaders are readers.

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