Who have been the most influential authors in my life in recent years? It was a question I pondered while reading in a coffee shop on Nimman today. Four quickly came to mind. Here they are with the books I’ve read that got them on this list:
Robert Kegan: The Evolving Self (1982), In Over Our Heads (1998), How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work (2002), Immunity to Change (2009).
Fortunate to take his course at HGSE, Bob Kegan and his theory of adult development has had a profound influence on my life. Based on Constructive Developmental Theory (CDT), Kegan has developed a compelling and engaging way of looking at the way humans develop through adulthood. He observes that we construct meaning on a developmental scale, from less complex to more complex meaning making. And this complexity lies in our ability to take that which is subject to us (perceptions, emotions, viewpoints) and make it object; to get off the dance floor and look down from the balcony above. In my life, Kegan’s theory and books have helped me to “get on the balcony,” be an active participant in my own development, and embrace the complex situations of life and work abroad. I am also keenly interested in applying lessons from Kegan and CDT to my international classrooms at Payap.
Bill Robinson: Incarnate Leadership (2009), Leading People from the Middle (2010).
Somewhat of a no-brainer for me, Bill Robinson’s books have been influential for me because I am also so well-acquainted with the man behind the words. Having known Bill well while at Whitworth, I can hear his voice clearly in his writing. He embodies the lessons he writes about, which adds a certain gravitas to his books. The biggest takeaways for me in my life as a leader at Payap have been to love those I lead, live and be among them, live transparently and honestly, and seek to grow personally while empowering others to do the same.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Freedom From Fear (2005), Letters from Burma (2010), Voice of Hope (1997).
Her essays In Quest for Democracy and Freedom From Fear have the quintessential tone and content of a leader with integrity. She is both 100% gentle, calm, and peaceful and 100% fiery and tenacious. Her biography by Justin Wintle, Perfect Hostage, is also a great account of her life as Myanmar’s anchor and proponent for democracy and human rights. She spent 15 years over a 21-year time period under house arrest as she advocated for basic freedoms and rights amidst a brutal ruling regime. She’s been influential to me through her unrelenting courage to stand up to injustice and face her own deepest fears.
Parker Palmer: A Hidden Wholeness (2009), Let Your Life Speak (1999), The Heart of Higher Education (2010), To Know As We Are Known (1993).
Parker Palmer has been my favorite author since 2008 when I first read an essay of his called Leading from Within, which is also one of the chapters in Let Your Life Speak. I’m consistently refreshed, encouraged, and challenged to new depths by his voice. He’s a misfit of sorts, which I relate with. Part educator and academic, part activist, part spiritual writer and retreat leader – Palmer is a man with diverse interests and abilities which give him clarity as he embraces life’s deepest issues.
Honorable mentions include Sharon Daloz Parks, Jonathan Haidt, James Fowler, Gandhi, and as of late, Martha Nussbaum.
What about you?