What should leaders read in Black History Month?

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Written by Yetunde Hofman on 25 October 2021 in Opinion
Opinion

Yetunde Hofman suggests the top 10 books every leader should read 

Black History Month (BHM) provides a vehicle for us as leaders to reflect on who we are, who we support, why and how. I believe that we all are leaders and the way we show up in every situation speaks to who we are and what we stand for. This is even more poignant in the world of work – the place where we all go in one shape or another to make a living and do something of value and meaning for us, for those we love and who love us.  It is the one place where everyone without exception should feel like they have something to contribute. The need to drive for inclusion means that today we still have some way to go and that is okay. What is important is that with every step that is taken we move in the right direction. Part of equipping us with the right steps is the feeding of our minds with information, stories and knowledge that, when applied, can help us all to be ever better and growing leaders. I am therefore honoured to share with you my recommendation of the 10 books every leader should read this BHM and why. They are in no particular order.
 
1. The Voices In The Shadows – TLA Black Women in Tech 
This book is released on 28 October for BHM and showcases the journeys of 51 black women in the UK who impact and impacted the technology industry. It shows their influence on the future of work and the way in which they can be celebrated. In addition, it gives young black girls the empowerment they need for them to feel that there is a place for them to flourish professionally in the world of technology and wider. What is especially beautiful, is that the book also contains a journal for their reflections and career guidance.
 
2. Leading from Your Core – Obi Abuchi
A challenge we have in the world of work is the pressure for so many leaders to lead from the outside in and this makes them overly susceptible to external influences, some of which may have them make decisions and choices that do not serve their people well and serve the black person even less. This book sets out a compelling path to becoming a purposeful, courageous, and resilient leader. It provides insight into how leaders we can overcome self-sabotage, know what they stand for, build moral character, and hone their leadership philosophy. 
 
3. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Written in 1958 Things Fall Apart examines the role of a culture and tradition versus change. Whilst it is written in a different context, the insights and lessons learned can be applied as effectively in an organisation. When leaders hold on to the past and the attitude of “we’ve always done it this way” or “if it isn’t broken don’t change it” it can run the risk of the stifling of new ideas and the willingness of those who may sit on the outside and fringes having the courage to speak up.
 
4. And Still, I Rise - Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou died in 2014 and her work in my view will live forever. And this is a wonderful book full of the most amazing writing including one of her most famous poems Still, I Rise. The book is not only easy to read, it is an encouragement to every black person out there to aim for the full expression of their deepest potential in the world; to not be restrained by the outside world or the setbacks that inevitably will be faced.
 
5. Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
This autobiography, written by one of the most inspirational figures to walk the earth, the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. He led the biggest reconciliation movement that embodied love and forgiveness. Mandela showed the world what could be possible when we put our differences aside and work in the interest and service of a higher purpose.  
 
6. Windrush Lessons Learned Review – Wendy Williams
A government report rather than a book this is a compelling read. It provides an insight into mistakes made, what could have been avoided and the lessons to be learned from an experience that plunged so many of the black British community and their loved ones into grief and despair. Reading it will remind leaders, regardless of the context, the importance of doing the right thing when it comes to our people and teams and in a way that impacts not only the person in front of you, but also their families, loved ones and their communities. It drives home the important notion that leadership is more than numbers, the bottom line and profit. It is about compassion, ethics and being human. 
 
7. Becoming – Michelle Obama
Becoming is a most enjoyable read that will make you smile, laugh and give you hope. It provides an insight into relationships and the power and influence that a strong black woman can have in the lives of so many. It enables the reader to appreciate how self-belief and determination can enable the power to overcome obstacles. And for every young black woman out there, it gives her the courage to say: “if she can do it, so can I”.  
 
8. Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter – Shani King
Every leader was once a child and our children of today will be our future leaders across all walks of life. The beauty of this book is the expression of the importance of the black human being and ensuring that all children and especially black children the world over right from today, have a voice and must continue to have one. Why? Because they matter. They belong and they have a right to thrive. Reading it as an adult will remind you of the importance of legacy and the information we feed those who rely on us for direction and wisdom and that can be at home or at work. 
 
9. Black and British – David Olusoga
This book will take you on a journey into the past and the fact that the Britain has a history that contains the black community. It will educate you, challenge you and give rise to emotion that you do not expect. What it does drive home in leadership is the inevitability of mutual dependence and the success and prosperity of the country today is built also on the significant contribution of the black British man, woman and community. 
 
10. This is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity – Dr Shola Mos Shogbamimu 
I had the honour of sharing a platform with Shola on a conference run by a sales organisation on racism and dealing with prejudice in the workplace. She was inspiring and forthright. Her book published this year is equally so. Inspiring and forthright. It examines the root cause of racism, the different ways and places in which this shows up and demands that we all, regardless of who we are, what race, what background, should stand up and speak up against it. It is a passionate call to action and laid out in such a way that leaves no doubt in the fact that it is time for rhetoric to be substantiated with decisive action. 
 
Yetunde Hofmann is a board level executive leadership coach and mentor, global change, inclusion and diversity expert and founder of SOLARIS

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