5 classic novels that will make you a better leader

If you thought fiction has nothing to offer, these books will change your mind with the leadership lessons they teach. By Satyaki Sarkar

A treasure trove of information and knowledge, every leader knows the importance of books in improve one’s skills and leadership capabilities. But do you know that popular classics can also impart some of the most important leadership lessons you will ever come across? Take a look at these classic novels that provide more than just an interesting story.


1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer award winning novel is not only one of the best works of literature, but is rife with life lessons as well. Weaving an unforgettable story of racial injustice and battles with a conscience, the book is about Atticus Finch, the famed protagonist who stands up for an innocent African-American who has been wrongly accused of rape, and his relationship with his children. Set in a town full of extreme prejudice and hatred, the book talks about one man’s struggle to defend an innocent man and uphold justice, while risking his life. There could not be a better book that can teach you about sacrifice, standing up for what you believe in, and doing something that makes a difference.


2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Another Pulitzer winner, Gone with the Wind might seem like an unlikely choice for this list, but in fact it’s the opposite. As much as one loves to hate the female protagonist Scarlett O’Hara, the spoilt daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, you also admire her when her iron resolve and conviction start to show. After the Savannah Campaign reduced the entire country, including her, to extreme poverty, she set out to use each and every means at her disposal to struggle and claw her way out of the misfortune she was in. It was with that one quote, “I’ll never be hungry again,” that she won over the whole world. This book is a wonderful example of strength of will in overcoming obstacles and tackling difficulties head on.


3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Unlike the other novels mentioned here, Moby Dick teaches you about the kind of leader you should not be. Published during the American Renaissance, it tells the story of a metaphysical struggle Ishmael faces being drawn deeper and deeper into Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest to slay the great white whale known as Moby Dick. Ahab is a conceited and foolhardy leader who sacrifices himself and the lives of his entire crew, save Ishmael, in his futile thirst for vengeance. Blinded by rage and revenge, Ahab turns a blind eye to everyone’s advice and ignoring help, which ultimately leads to his ruin.


4. 1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell’s cult classic tells a chilling futuristic tale of a dystopian society that has been enveloped in secrecy, invasion of privacy, intimidation, manipulation, and coercion. Reminiscent of the Nazi regime, the novel is a perfect case study of what can happen when leadership goes wrong, and terribly so. Control and order is definitely necessary in an organisation, but as a leader, the worst thing you can do is to lead through fear, and that is exactly what this book shows you, in the darkest and most nightmarish way possible. It is when a leader is loved and admired by his subordinates that their best, as well as his own, is poured into the work.


5. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Considered to be the masterwork of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novel is set in the cruel Puritan community of Boston during the seventeenth century, and tells a riveting tale of a young woman’s mistake, and how she is condemned for it all her life. However, what stands out is the protagonist’s quiet dignity and burning belief in her principles. Even after being humiliated, punished, and disgraced for being guilty of adultery, she does not give up the name of her lover, and dedicates her life to helping others. Not only does she learn from her mistakes and accept everything life has thrown at her, she rises above to create a life for herself and her daughter, besides helping others. 

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