Business books may be able to explain why it’s important to leverage diverse perspectives, but they tend to be too model-driven to adequately reflect the complexities of the real world. For those insights, especially if you’re in a management position, reach for works of fiction.
I read and recommend fiction when challenging issues arise. Great fiction challenges me with its multifaceted characters in the context of different cultures, identities, conflicts and time periods; this complexity is what many leaders need most to alter their point of view in positive ways.
As a professor of leadership, here are seven literary gems from a diverse set of authors that I’ve read and enjoyed. They make for compelling summer reading and offer some surprising leadership lessons:
1. ‘The Moor’s Account’
By Laila Lalami
This historical novel recounts the experiences of the first Black explorer of America, a Moroccan slave renamed Estebanico.
The imagined memoir presents European imperialism from the viewpoint of an unlikely narrator, and reminds me of a critical lesson: All leaders must seek a broad array of perspectives, especially those which society traditionally has devalued, to achieve a more complete picture of reality for their decision-making.
2. ‘To Live’
By Yu Hua and Michael Berry
Originally banned in China but later named one of that nation’s most influential books, “To Live” tells the life journey of Fugui, who squanders his fortune and becomes a humble peasant farmer, while being swept up into the arc of China’s history — from civil war to the Cultural Revolution.
The power of this story stopped me in my tracks, and I immediately suggested it to friends and family. It offers a universal lesson that wealth and status can be easily lost.
It’s also a reminder to always consider what others, including colleagues, may have gone (or are going) through — and how it’s probably more than they let on.
3. ‘Moth Smoke’
By Mohsin Hamid
This is the debut novel from Mohsin Hamid of Pakistan, who went on to write the internationally acclaimed bestsellers “Exit West” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” The action-packed talefollows the misfortunes of Daru, whose life plummets after he’s fired from his banking job.
I make a habit of reading novels that offer an intimate sense of place. I savored how this one delivered a glimpse of modern-day Pakistan through a sharp, at times witty, cautionary tale with a protagonist who specialized in poor decisions and rationalizations.
Link to the rest at CNBC