When someone asked me in March what educational leadership books I’m currently reading, I had to laugh a little. The idea that I would have any time to read a book during the school year is ludicrous. But now summer is here, and I can finally find time (during work hours!) to read leadership books that can make me a better principal and leader. Here is a list of five books to read this summer that will make you a better leader by the time school starts next fall.
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1. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
School leaders have a difficult time slowing down, even during the summer months. This book is all about lessening the work load and yet accomplishing more. With chapter titles like “Nap, Stop, and Sleep,” it’s hard to believe that reading this book can make you more productive. But that is why it’s so brilliant. For far too long, school leaders have believed that the answer to getting more accomplished has been to try and find more time. However, they actually should have been attempting to work less. While this approach seems counterintuitive after reading Pang’s book, you might come to agree that working more does not always mean producing more.
2. Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Like Pang, Newport believes that we can accomplish more in less time. He argues that we have become so distracted that we waste more time than we realize. We have lost the ability to stay focused for even short periods of time. Newport blames social media and our addiction to it for our increased distractibility, making tasks that could be completed in one hour often take three. The fact that I stopped more than ten times while writing this article makes me think that he may be right. Deep Work is a relatively short read that will cause you to take a closer look at how you work. From there, you can learn how to work more efficiently.
3. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
For thousands of years, leaders have looked to the ancient Stoics for guidance and inspiration. Holiday and Hanselman provide easily digestible chunks of ancient Stoic wisdom that are a great way to start each day. Each meditation from a Stoic philosopher is followed by a brief explanation from the authors explaining how the meditation can be applied. The beauty of this book lies in its simplicity. Even at our busiest, we can find time to read a page from this book and apply its wisdom.
4. Cage-Busting Leadership by Frederick Hess
Many school leaders feel as if their hands are tied by various mandates, policies, and procedures that we must follow. We often feel like they limit the amount of progress we can make in our schools. Rick Hess’ book proves otherwise. In his book, Hess convinces leaders that they can innovate and make changes. He also provides case studies showing how it can be accomplished despite constraints and obstacles.
5. Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will help you THRIVE as an Educator by Aaron Hogan
The number of teachers experiencing high levels of stress seems to be increasing each year. As school leaders, it is our job to try and help relieve, reduce, and eliminate as much stress as we can. This is a great read for school leaders because it provides them with the tools necessary to help their teachers. Oftentimes, we can be the ones responsible for much of the stress that many of our teachers experience. After reading Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth, leaders will be better equipped to help their teachers feel better about themselves and stop thinking they have to be perfect. As a result, teachers can do their jobs better because they are relieved of that burden.
Summer is a time to reflect on the work we do as administrators and discover new ways to improve. Carve out time this summer to read new thoughts and ideas about leadership. Then you can decide which of these ideas you will bring with you to the fall.