Top leadership-inspired books for Read A Book Day 2017

At SCEL, we love a great read – with hints of leadership themes running through the pages for good measure! As today marks #ReadABookDay 2017 we wanted to seize this opportunity to share some of our favourite leadership books (some classics texts and some that are a little more outside the box!) that have shaped our own leadership practice:


Anne Munro, Lead Specialist @anne_scel

Good to Great by Jim Collins

This is not a traditional educational leadership text – it is a book with a clear business approach. It challenges business leaders to consider how good or mediocre companies achieve lasting greatness. Good to Great is based on research conducted with 28 companies over a period of five years and focuses on the type of leadership required to achieve success. This is described as Level Five Leadership. I was given a signed copy of the book by the Depute CEO of a hugely successful company I did my SQH placement with. As a new head teacher, I was heavily influenced by this book and it challenged me to reflect on the ways in which I could apply Collins’ findings to a school leadership context. How I could move the school from good to great by focusing on a set of core values that would guide and inspire people throughout our school community; ensuring that we had great teachers who shared an unwavering belief that we could become a great school by putting our young people at the heart of everything we do.

If you haven’t come across this book yet, I would urge you to read it and I hope that you too can be inspired by it.


Gillian Hamilton, Chief Executive @CEOScel

What’s Worth Fighting for in Headship by Michael Fullan

I read this book as a head teacher – it has a great focus on what is important as a head teacher, and what’s not!


The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

This one is a bit different – leadership and life advice through the eyes of Winnie the Pooh. The author cleverly introduces Winnie the Pooh a “Western Taoist” and uses the bear to introduce the Eastern philosophical principles of Taoism!


Uplifting Leadership Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle, Alma Harris

I read this book just as I took up post at SCEL – we brought Andy and Alma to Scotland for a Leadership conference in partnership with ADES, and the book stretched my thinking about establishing and growing a new organisation. One of the authors, Alan Boyle wrote on my copy ‘I hope this provides some encouragement as you lift yourself once again in your quest for new horizons’.


Lesley Whelan, Depute Chief Executive/ Director of Programmes  @lesley_scel

Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley

This book and author both opened my mind to other ways of working, thinking and doing. The way she writes shows her passion for people, and seeing people and relationships as what really matter. It also helped me to understand change and to see it as a natural process and something to be embraced.


Kathleen Kerrigan, Development Officer @kathleen_scel

Leading in a Culture of Change by Michael Fullan

My favourite leadership book is an oldie but goodie. Published in 2001, I didn’t get the opportunity to read it until at least a decade later! I found it very accessible and the chapters about moral purpose resonated strongly with my own beliefs, so it was sort of a ‘eureka’ experience! In my view, the principles that Fullan espouses are now reflected in the GTCS Standards for Leadership and Management which were written in 2012.


Fearghal Kelly, Lead Specialist @fearghal_scel

Teacher Learning and Leadership: Of, By, and For Teachers by Ann Lieberman, Carol Campbell, Anna Yashkina

This book puts forward the idea that teachers should be put at the centre of creating, developing, organising, implementing, and sharing their own ideas for school change rather than being passive recipients of knowledge from the outside – there is tremendous potential for the good of young people and the teaching profession when teachers work together collaboratively to develop their own professional knowledge and practices.


Louise Henderson, Digital Manager @louise_scel

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Set in a dystopian future, The Hunger Games trilogy follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who is forced to compete in a nationally televised event where youths fight to the death in an area until only one remains. Katniss competes in The Hunger Games and goes on to become the face of a revolutionary uprising against a tyrannical government.

Katniss does not want to lead. The last thing she wants is to be the centre of attention, but she has a deep empathy for those that she loves and she refuses to let injustice harm them. She is selfless, focused and good at making decisions under pressure. I was gifted these books on the last day of my previous job, and I had no idea that I would soon be taking leadership inspiration from the unlikely hero!


What books have inspired your leadership practice? Tweet this #ReadABookDay to share your picks on Twitter!

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1 comment

  • All great reads!

    How about ‘ Leadership is an Art’ by Max De Pree: Doubleday: New York (2004)? – a personal reflection on the values that should underpin successful business leadership by a CEO whose every comment pretty well could be the starting point for a series of seminars on the values of school leaders. Described by a range of highly respected commentators as being ‘astonishing’, ‘stunning’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘perceptive’ and ‘soulful’. Every aspiring school leader should read this book!

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