A Holiday Reading List: Reflections for Leaders

Alyse Matteson, Implementation & Marketing SpecialistLeadershipLeave a Comment

In a year where many things came to a halt, I wonder how I haven’t made a bigger dent in my reading list. Book recommendations continue to be added as I hear snippets that spark curiosity and inspire me to dive into new ways of thinking and growth. The world may have paused in many ways - but the demands of work and life were consistent as we stepped into new roles, solved complex problems and dedicated our spare moments to keeping the wheels on the bus.

My holiday wish is to finally carve out that much needed time to recharge, reflect and re-energize. More than that, to ground myself in hope and inspiration as we enter the new year. And, in my opinion, there is no better way to do that than by being transformed by the brilliant thoughts and perspectives of others, written on the pages of a book.

In watching the Netflix mini-series Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, I was inspired to learn that Gates created a ritual for himself to foster reading and deep focus - his annual “Think Week” retreat to a cabin in the woods. Uninterrupted and completely by himself, Gates used this time to read books and review papers from Microsoft employees to identify new possibilities and applications for technology and innovation. On top of that, the series highlights Gate’s habit of carrying a ‘tote bag’  full of books wherever he goes. The collection is replenished each week.

Recommended Reads from Newmeasures, LLC

Looking for a book to cozy up with next to the fire during the next few weeks? Or to listen to as you run those last-minute shopping errands? Consider the following suggestions from the Newmeasures team:

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

By: Adam Grant

In his book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, Adam Grant shares the value in rethinking our opinions and beliefs. Grant encourages us to listen like we are wrong. Instead of continually reinforcing our existing notions with confirmatory evidence, he challenges us to leave our comfort zone. This includes listening to people who might dispute our typical way of thinking.

At Newmeasures, we also encourage you to "think again" - but specifically about the employee experience. Leaders might believe they understand what employees are feeling, but the data can show something completely different. Listening strategies allow employee voices to be heard and help leaders to challenge pre-existing notions to build an exceptional workforce.

Dare to Lead

By: Brene Brown

In Dare to Lead, Brene Brown discusses “’leading from the heart’, stating: “leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.” In addition to an outward focus, Brown emphasizes that leaders must also acknowledge and address their own emotions and anxieties.

This advice has never been more relevant than in the context of 2020. While some of our clients felt this was not the year to survey as they buckled down and braced themselves for a long pandemic, many overcame fears of what they may hear and prioritized the opportunity to listen to employees. Through customized surveys, employees were given space to share their perspectives and concerns on topics including wellbeing, work-life balance, support for remote work and perceptions of diversity, equity and inclusion.

This authentic and vulnerable style of leadership is more important than ever as we continue to navigate our new normal at work. By understanding the factors that contribute to our outlook and that of our team, we can provide the necessary resources, support and reassurance. 

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving 

By: Celeste Headlee

With busyness emerging as a sign of status and an always-on culture influencing how work is done, it’s not surprising the topic of burnout continues to be top of mind for leaders and organizations. In “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving”, author Celeste Headlee provides historical insight into the events that shaped the working world of today and presents a case for why we should challenge some of these standards and create new structures.


  • Are there better ways to measure productivity than with time?
  • What are the stories we’re telling ourselves about how to be productive and how do these differ from reality (and science)?
  • Can reclaiming more, unpolluted time for leisure and things we enjoy make us more efficient (in addition to being healthier and happier)?
  • In her book, Headlee defines “unpolluted” time as time completely detached from work – meaning, you don’t check emails, send texts or take calls. She states, “research shows employees who feel more detached from their jobs during their time at home are emotionally healthier and more satisfied with their lives. They’re less likely to feel emotionally exhausted, and they report getting better sleep.”  

Newmeasures has long believed that organizations thrive by putting people first. To achieve and sustain productivity, leaders must create cultures that support their people and their holistic wellbeing and that challenge outdated notions of efficiency. And, by listening, we are able to understand and address concerns and issues before they negatively impact engagement.

The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis 

By: Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

The issue of climate change is one that requires global and societal action, calling us all to rethink how we live our lives as well as how we work and conduct business. It can be a daunting topic, which is why the optimistic perspective in The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis is so appreciated.

Written by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, who led negotiations for the United Nations during the 2015 Paris Agreement, this book takes readers through two possible outcomes: one where we do not act and the planet suffers, and one in which we do meet the challenge and create a more vibrant, regenerative world. This fork in the road mirrors the decisions leaders are faced with each day – will we do nothing, or will we take the harder path and rise to the challenge?

As businesses, we can expect the topic of climate change to require strategic attention and collaborative shifts in the years ahead. Already we see large companies – including McDonald’s, Walmart, Tyson Foods, Microsoft and Google – establishing science-based environmental targets and pursuing partnerships to evaluate and mitigate their impact, through emerging technology and otherwise. The Future We Choose helps prompt the imaginative thinking we need to engage in as leaders and illustrates how practical solutions can quickly alter our course, if adopted.


By Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming, leaves us with a strong desire to think about how we can utilize our unique gifts, talents, and resources to improve the lives of those around us. With her authentic, down-to-earth nature and kind spirit, she shares how she forged a career that enabled her to feel impactful in building the leaders of the future while navigating the joys and demands of motherhood. Oh, and also while she was supporting her husband's efforts to reach his full potential as a leader and public servant – talk about a full plate!  

Through her diverse experiences and interesting stories, Obama describes how being our best often involves being willing to accept criticism and to think through how to address others' preconceived notions of us. Similar to Newmeasures’ 360 surveys for leaders, which builds self-awareness through multi-level feedback, being open to the thoughts, observations and opinions of others requires strength and courage. However, it also equips us with insightful clarity for how we can show up as the leader we aspire to be.