Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Books about leadership skills by Dakotah Jennifer
Image courtesy of Kristen Harper
Successful entrepreneur Kristen Harper’s book, The Heart of a Leader, will turn the tables on your expectations. Harper’s book, “a number one new release on Amazon within 48 hours,” highlights fifty-two actional emotional intelligence insights that can help you succeed and move up in the corporate world. The book, an intelligently researched piece of the self-help genre, mixes emotional intelligence, interpersonal advice, and Harper’s personal experiences into an insightful work of art and a peek into her life of success working with Hershey’s Kisses®, Crest®, Oral B® and more.
As a third-generation entrepreneur, Harper is not unfamiliar with good work ethic and juggling a fast-paced, demanding career. As a teen, she started her first business selling cookies, and after six years she switched to piano lessons, teaching almost twenty students a week, all of whom ranged from age 4 to 80. But her entrepreneurship lifestyle didn’t stop there, in November she founded Driven to Succeed LLC to fully reach her potential. “I’ve always aspired to be a full-time entrepreneur, but I didn't know what I wanted to do,” Harper said. “The best about being an entrepreneur is the time freedom, the variety, the sense of purpose and fulfillment.”
What is most unique about her book is that it isn’t fully based in research — though Harper did extensive research for the piece— the whole concept is based in her 30 years of leadership experience and 20 years in the corporate realm. It all came to fruition while Harper’s company was going through an acquisition, “If you know anything about acquisitions, they are a time of great change; they’re a time of uncertainty; they are a time of vulnerability and very, very high emotion. There were a lot of things about the situation that I couldn't control,” Harper confessed. During that time, she started to scribble down notes, insights, and “leadership lessons” she’d learned through her personal experiences in corporate America. Soon enough, she had 52 insights. But it wasn’t that easy - of course, it never is. “When I got picked up by a literary agent, and then a major publisher, they wanted the book to be at least 50,000 words—I had to write four times more,” Harper recalled. “It felt like I was in a Ph.D. program, writing a dissertation.” Harper’s research, though demanding, allowed her to sustain her self-proclaimed status as a “life-long learner,” and gain knowledge on “Resilience,” “Emotional Granularity,” and “Bottlers and Brooders”– all terms that you can learn about in her book. “I'm biased, but one of the things I appreciate about my work surrounding emotional intelligence leadership is that it's not exclusive...it's more experiential and practical.”
As a black woman in the higher echelons of corporate America, Harper pointed out that being both black and a woman made her quite a minority. “Oftentimes, I was the only black person in the room. And it wasn't a big deal to me, necessarily,” Harper said. As the alumni of an HBCU and a predominantly black high school, Harper commented on how she hadn’t been a minority in those spaces, and because of this, she had different experiences in her career. “For me, the way that I look at myself is that I am more human than I am black. I'm more human than I am a woman. I'm more human than I am any other identity that I associate myself with.” But after going on her journey and reflecting on the book Harper realized that her blackness had seeped in, “As a black woman in corporate America, I didn't realize how thoughtful I had to be about my words—how I've had to create things in a way so that it is being seen as friendly, and not threatening. You know, those are things that I just did. But the past few weeks have caused me to analytically think about how I was modifying, accommodating to what would make others feel more comfortable. In my book, one of the insights is being able to bring your full self to work, but to be careful with how much you share. And I realized I wrote that... from a perspective of a black person - you cannot bring your full self to work.”
The very first chapter of Harper’s book is titled, “Why Great Performance Isn't Enough” and it covers the sort of myth that people carry about hard work paying off. “People think, if I work hard, I'm going to be recognized. If I work hard, I'm going to get promoted. Working hard is a good thing. It's an amazing characteristic. But I would say work toward an outcome.” Harper revealed, “At the end of the day, a company is hiring your organization for the outcomes. So, you have to produce outcomes, in addition to working hard...What really matters is how you engage with others. Leadership is not just about a title. It's about how you were able to influence others.” Harper’s book focuses on the interpersonal and social goings-on in everyday life, and how these dynamics require emotional intelligence and can lead to a climb up the corporate ladder. Harper speaks about personal lessons she’s learned like, “Leadership is about learning as well as unlearning. Hire for character, not just competence. Put people first, titles second. Diversify your network and forgive frequently.” It is not only her research and success but her personal experiences that really create its brilliance.
Harper’s first book, a self-published piece called Love’s Resurrection, is a bit of a turn away from career and towards love, but still a piece you should put in your shopping cart. Harper, now married for a second time, was previously divorced— from the same man who is now her husband. “The message that I would just like to share is, you know, don't give up. Love yourself first and the rest will follow, and of course, be willing to forgive. All of which I talk about in my book, that's one of the 52 insights - to forgive frequently. And the same thing goes with, with relationships,” Harper mentioned. “There's always an opportunity for a second chance, so never give up.”
And Harper’s insights didn’t stop there, her biggest piece of advice to people who aspire to more in their corporate careers was to get feedback from all of the people in your life— including your family! And if you make changes and keep getting passed up for the promotion, “That may not be the organization for you,” Harper states “A lot of times, people can advance their career by leaving and going someplace else. Some of our best growth is through moments of challenge.”
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