As 2014 approaches, many of us are looking for ways to live more mindfully. Many of us want to be more mindful, but few of us know how. Below I have compiled a sampling of eight exceptional books on mindful living that will help you become a better leader and a more fulfilled human being.
Focus by Dan Goleman: The breakthrough book of 2013. Goleman writes from his vast experience and understanding of the mind about living more mindfully to focus your life and your work on what is truly important in your life. After a treatise on neuroscience discoveries of how the brain can be remodeled through meditation and other calming techniques, Goleman brings great clarity to the subject at hand: finding inner focus (focus on self), focus on others, and focus on the world around you. If you adopt his approaches, your life will not only be more productive, it will be more fulfilling. For $27.95 minus the amazon.com discount, that's a bargain.
Why Meditate? by Matthieu Ricard: As a molecular geneticist turned Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard is one of the world's leading experts on meditation. As the Dalai Lama's scientific advisor, he has been a pioneer in demonstrating scientifically the benefits of meditation in calming and focusing the mind. A frequent lecturer and panelist on mindfulness, he has helped open up meditation to non-Buddhists. He not only demystifies meditation in this book, but he also gives the reader practical instructions on how to do succeed at it.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg: The best leadership book of 2013. Guys, don't be fooled! This is not a book solely for women. Leaders of both genders can learn a great deal about how to be successful in the workplace from Facebook COO Sandburg's wisdom, candor and experience. Sandburg's advice to be deeply engaged, passionate, and committed applies to all of us. She has deep thoughts on how we can all contribute more in the workplace, inspire those around us, and thus be more effective as leaders. She shares many personal stories. In so doing, she comes across as a humble leader who has gained much from her mistakes and learned from her challenges.
Wonder Women by Deborah Spar: If you resonate with "Lean In," then you'll like "Wonder Women" even more. Spar, who is president of Barnard College, is a former HBS colleague of mine whom I with on the board of Goldman Sachs. She is a superb writer, whose writing is deeply authentic and candid. She is genuinely honest about the challenges she and many other women face in trying to juggle their careers, marriages, mothering, and roles in the community. She acknowledges the barriers but also the self-imposed limitations many women create. You will come away inspired to open the doors and bring more women into the upper echelons of all organizations.
Becoming a Genuine Leader by Marilyn Mason: Mason delves deeply into the impact of one's family of origin to discover the secrets required to become a genuine leader. As author Gail Sheehy writes on the cover, "She takes you home again, to discover how you learned to negotiate in the first organization to which you belonged, your family. Her psychological insights are stunning. She illuminates the passage to authentic leadership." (For the record, I consider that authentic leadership and genuine leadership are synonymous.) Mason has a deep understanding of family systems and how we carry the rules and the wounds from our families of origin into our families of choice and even find our families at work. In better understanding the families we grew up in, we can build better relations in our own families and in our chosen place of work.
Finding the Space to Lead, by Janice Marturano: Marturano is the former associate general counsel of General Mills. She began her work in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) by attending one of guru Jon Kabat-Zinn's programs. Then she began teaching classes in MBSR at General Mills. Eventually, she morphed her work into mindful leadership and began running weekend seminars on that subject for executives. They were so popular that she had the courage to run these seminars as a full-time business. Her book provides a very practical guide to meditation (I prefer calling it by its real name rather than the "safe" euphemism MBSR) with numerous exercises that help the reader become more mindful and, thus, a better leader.
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown: You may be acquainted with Brown from her exceptional TEDTalk, but her book takes you much deeper into how your willingness to be vulnerable can transform your leadership and your life. As she says, being vulnerable takes courage and the willingness to look deep inside yourself, confront your demons and your shame, and emerge a whole person. When you try to hide your vulnerabilities, others sense your weaknesses and they have the power. When you share them openly, then you have the power.
Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia: Mackey, the founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, teams with Sisodia to write the finest treatise of my adult lifetime on what genuine capitalism is all about. As I said in the Foreword that Mackey asked me to contribute, "This is the book that I wish I had written." I said that because I believe that the authors have discovered how to build and sustain a successful enterprise. Their ideal company is driven by purpose and values, provides unique value for customers, inspires employees to peak performance, serves society and communities simultaneously, and ultimately creates lasting value for shareholders. They avoid the common trap of responding to short-term shareholders by staying focused on Whole Foods' mission and greater purpose. Mackey's idealism is truly inspiring - and he has backed it up by demonstrating conclusively that his approach creates superior results for the long term - not just for Whole Foods, but for many other companies as well.
Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and author of True North and Authentic Leadership. He is the former chair and CEO of Medtronic. Read more at www.BillGeorge.org, or follow him on Twitter @Bill_George.