5 Novels to Boost Your Leadership Skills

If you’re like me, summer weekends are best spent lounging by the pool with a good book. While I enjoy getting lost in a novel, sometimes I feel like I should be doing less pleasure reading and more professional development and non-fiction reading. If you feel similarly, there’s no reason to keep feeling guilty about your summer reading choices. This week’s NextGen Leadership post is all about bringing you the best of both worlds.

We’ve put together a summer reading list of novels that incorporate leadership themes throughout. From the classics to more contemporary works, our favorite fiction characters have a lot to teach us about leadership.

  1. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer: Required reading for West Point grads and Marine Corps cadets, this novel tells the story of the main characters’ 45-year military career during the mid-twentieth century. The story revolves around Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale, two officers who are at odds with each other from World War II through Vietnam. Following the characters’ growth and failures as leaders may provide you with some insight on how to overcome a leadership problem you are facing at the office.
  1. The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald: While this last novel by Fitzgerald is unfinished, The Last Tycoon offers unique insights into work-life balance. The story follows a Hollywood mogul, Monroe Stahr who is widely successful in his career but failing in his private life. This novel is a good model for what not to do and offers some insight into what could potentially happen if you fail to separate work from the rest of your life.
  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: This powerful story follows Amir from his relatively privileged childhood in Afghanistan, to his immigration to America, and back to Afghanistan for a chance at redemption. While Amir doesn’t seem like an obvious leader, his courage to remedy the wrongs he created in his childhood as an adult speaks volumes about his character. The Kite Runner is the perfect novel if you’re facing a challenge at the office that makes you want to run and hide instead of lead.
  1. Miramar by Naguib Mahfouz: This novel follows the story of Zhora, a beautiful peasant woman who leaves her family and begins working in a hotel in Alexandria, Egypt. She soon becomes the center of jealousies and conflicts among the hotel’s residents but she manages to remain one of the few level-headed characters throughout the narrative. Pick this one up if you are looking for guidance on harassment in the workplace.
  1. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi: This compelling piece offers insight into the life of women in revolutionary Iran. Nafisi, a teacher, spends two years hosting weekly gatherings so her most committed female students can read secular Western classics. While whatever adversary you are facing in the office may not be the Ayatollah, this is a good book to dive into if you feel like you are struggling to lead in the face of oppression in the office.

Have you read a fiction book that really helped you hone your leadership skills or overcome a challenge in the workplace? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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