Staff picks for short engaging reads over the holidays

Illustration of the Holdsworth Book Club holiday reading list

The holidays mean different things for different people. Joy and stress, loneliness and togetherness – sometimes it’s all mixed up into one fruitcake. Whatever your experience, one thing we all have in common is that NO ONE wants to do homework over the holidays. With that in mind, our staff have picked four short, engaging reads that will give you a fresh perspective on what it means to be an educator and leader, and a jolt of inspiration heading into 2019.

Brian Gilson

Brian Gilson, District Support Team Lead

A former teacher and track coach, Brian’s knack for guiding and influencing students developed into a talent for recruiting, managing and cultivating talent in educational systems. Brian is also an avid runner who has completed 10 marathons and one extremely painful triathlon.

“The Score Takes Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh

Image of The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh book cover.Even if the Forty-Niners aren’t your favorite NFL team (they aren’t mine), it’s hard to deny Bill Walsh’s success as an NFL coach — winning three Super Bowls in ten years, cultivating professional football legends like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young, and being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In this reflective book, Walsh talks more than football; indeed, his reflections in leadership are applicable to leaders in any field, including K-12 education.

Walsh emphasizes the importance of positive organizational culture in achieving results, and the role that leaders play in building systems and structures that can create the conditions for positive outcomes. As Walsh astutely posits, “the exceptional assembly line comes before the quality car.” By focusing first on internal culture, systems, and structures, the score, as Walsh contends, will take care of itself.

“Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni

Image of “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni book cover.We’ve all been in meetings where we feel like the clock just isn’t ticking fast enough – or days that are stacked back-to-back with meetings. And we all intuitively know that our work lives don’t have to be that way. No, this book won’t tell you that meetings aren’t necessary. However, this short leadership fable does share a helpful framework for how you might want to think about and structure the types of meetings that you have in your organization. Different types of meetings serve different purposes, according to Lencioni, so what they look like and what happens in them should inherently look different. Lencioni reinforces the critical importance of cross-functional communication and ownership in effective organizations, and provides simple, concrete tools for better communication and better meetings.

Katie JaronKatie Jaron, Managing Director of District Support

With 15 years of experience working in education in Texas, Washington D.C., and Louisiana, Katie joined The Holdsworth Center to work alongside educators across Texas who are committed to ensuring all students succeed. Outside of work, she has a goal of visiting and hiking in every major national park in America.

True North” by Bill George

Image of “True North” by Bill George book cover.I love this book because it’s full of inspiring stories about leaders from all different fields who have figured out how to embody authentic leadership and stay connected to their ‘true north’ even (and especially) during times of great challenge. I’m drawn to this book for its insistence that leaders must know themselves first, and the many stories of leaders who have undergone leadership ‘crucibles,’ challenging experiences that fundamentally changed and strengthened who they are as leaders and how they understood themselves. This book is a great read for leaders and educators to contemplate their own true north as they take time to recharge over the winter break.

Dr. Lesley Balido McAllenDr. Lesley Balido McClellan, Senior Analyst of Research and Evaluation

Lesley is an educational leader specializing in research and innovation targeted at closing the achievement gaps in academics and social-emotional development. Fun fact: She was in intern with Monica Lewinsky in Washington, D.C.

The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Image of The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho book cover.In this oldie but goodie, Coelho weaves an enchanting story where the journey, not the destination is the focal point. This is a tale of an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago, and his journey to realize his personal legend.  Along the way, Santiago meets interesting and supportive people, faces immense challenges, and has to decide whether he will continue struggling in order to follow his dream. The personal leadership lessons Santiago learns along the way are the pieces that will stay with you long after you have closed the book.

Embracing the present is a theme Coelho threads throughout his story. He writes, “Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.” My big takeaway? In the present moment, you are in a place of possibility. It is how you engage with that moment that will direct your life in the future.

For more leadership insights from “The Alchemist,” check out the author’s blog.