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ATD Blog

How to Succeed Through Books Alongside Dynamic Coaching Experiences

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

"Life goes into books and books go back into life ... what is in them not only adds to life, but genuinely goes back into life and transforms it.”

Iain McGilchrist illustrates in The Master and His Emissary that books take the complexity of life and produce something understandable to enact. Through books, we make sense of things, just like with coaches.

Authenticity and Equanimity

In the Origin and Goal of History , Karl Jaspers suggests that “we cannot formulate any adequate concrete image” of our overall goal. Everything is a concept. The reality is, nevertheless, that we are the “being that strives to rise above itself.”

Abraham Maslow and others also believe that self-improvement and having a purpose supports well-being. Similarly for leaders, becoming their best version, or self-actualizing, benefits both them and others.

For example, authenticity and equanimity, or the ability to glide through life’s challenges seamlessly, are key characteristics.

Those traits don't just happen. We need to explore our values, shadows, and feelings, often in the compassionate and explorative space that coaches hold. Books also provide a safe space with examples from generations to support us.

It takes courage and vulnerability to develop authenticity and equanimity.

Get inspired by these books for when you next meet your coach:

  • The Road Less Traveled: “Most people most of the time make decisions with little awareness ... actions taken with the best intentions will often backfire and prove harmful.” Many leaders can resonate with those words. But can they follow M. Scott Peck’s road of personal work such that they learn "to maintain one’s ability to still make decisions with greater and greater awareness"?
  • The Stranger: Many possible motives drove The Stranger, but he succinctly tells his lawyer that “he’s lost the habit of questioning himself.” In other words, could the stark, empty world of The Stranger be ours if we don’t self-reflect?
  • The Mind of a Leader: “Successful leaders in the future will be the ones who can facilitate true happiness for their people.” The book’s research shows this takes mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion. What better way to explore those traits than in a book club?

Leading or Serving Others?

Another key aspect of self-actualizing is the desire to serve others. But to do that, we need to lose our self-serving attitudes.

Again, this doesn’t happen overnight but needs an environment of “genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding,” according to Carl Rogers in A Way of Being.

Top coaches offer such a space, although Rogers also offers insights into how to develop coaching as a management style for yourself and others. Essentially, we have all the resources needed for self-growth and mutual support.

Nevertheless, even the most grounded leader can go off-kilter when things fail. In those moments, it’s easy for the mind to fall into personal despair.

Phrases such as “this is MY pain,” “no one understands MY problem,” and “they don’t listen/respect ME” might sound familiar. And let’s remember that leadership is a lonely world.


By reading Irvin Yalom’s Creatures of a Day and their “knotty situations ... of pain, courage, drama, grief” and all the feelings of human life, we learn that anything can happen despite our struggles.

It might take time and an expert guide, but we all need help sometimes to keep connecting and transforming ourselves and others.

The Fundamentals Coaches and Books Provide for Growth

  • Shared suffering of humanity. Collaborative learning releases our vulnerabilities so we connect more deeply through mutual suffering for greater learning and resilience, as explained in a whitepaper on what makes exceptional teams.

Who Will You Become With Your Next Choice of Book?

The road less traveled of personal growth is hard. Reading is also hard. It takes time and patience. But the rewards lead us into transformation and a renewed sense of what hard means.

The question is, how much are you willing to work on to release that exceptional leader hiding within you?

About the Author

Anne Duvaux is a neuroscience leadership coach who was previously HR director focusing on leadership and development as well as coaching. In a past lifetime she was a chartered engineer and is also multilingual having lived in 9 countries and 13 cities. As an Associate Certified Coach with the ICF and almost 25 years’ experience setting up, partnering and leading teams across Europe and Asia in both corporates and early-stage companies, Anne understands how to navigate the challenges of leadership. Today, as a writer and avid reader, she continues to support people around the world with the wisdom of generations of books.

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