La Paz Chattanooga Executive Director Stacy Johnson shares her favorite books

Photography by Randi Vasquez Khataei / Stacy Johnson

Stacy Johnson serves as the executive director of La Paz Chattanooga, an organization that supports efforts to strengthen inclusivity in the city. Johnson joined the team in 2004, serving as a board member prior to joining the staff as the executive director in 2008. After extensive travel and volunteer work in Latin America, she developed a passion for working with Latino communities. Her work at La Paz encompasses all areas of the organization including operations, growth and fundraising.

What books have you read and recommended to others that influence your leadership style and how you've developed your career?

I am admittedly obsessed with leadership books. You will find them in my office, in piles on my shelves at home, and beside my bed. I almost always find something useful for my personal or professional life in a leadership book. Here are three that I always recommend -- and now that I think of it, should go back and reread.

Brene Brown, “Dare to Lead”

I love every one of Brene Brown's books; and if you saw my copy of Dare to Lead, you'd find it hard not to land on a highlighted page. I could quote the whole book. Her works have been extremely influential in my life and my career. Here are a few points of hers that I'm routinely considering:

• What can we do better? Especially when it comes to empathy, connection, and courage.

• If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I'm not interested in, or open to, your feedback (this one I have to constantly remind myself of).

• If we want people to show up fully, to bring their whole selves, including their unarmored, whole hearts -- so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people -- we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard and respected.

Jim Collins, “Good to Great”

Collins writes about the concept of "first who, then what."

We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats -- and then they figured out where to drive it.

The old adage "People are your most important asset" turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.

This! I've gone back to this over and over again during my journey at La Paz. I know that if we have all the right people on the bus, we will be great and make a positive impact on the community.

Richard Sweson, “Margin”

There have been times in my career and in life, when I have pushed myself beyond the point of healthy productivity. This book was one of the first to clearly point out what the chaos and "striving" was actually doing to me, to my team and to my work. There are times when we can do too much, and we need to rest and find margin in life and work. This is one I need to revisit!

What books have you recently read for pleasure that you're telling others about?

I picked up “Where I Belong” by Marcia Argueta Mickelson because of the title and the connection to my work. It's a teen/young adult book, which I tend to read because of my middle school and high school students. This one was a great read -- one that I will give to my own kids and share with others. Sometimes, we need to see through the eyes of children.

What is next on your to-read list?

Currently in my book stack for my next reads are:

• “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudices that Shape Our Lives” by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. She talks about unconscious racial biases at all levels of society and offers tools to address them.

• A re-read of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” by Susan Canes

• And for fun, I have two in the queue -- “Midnight Library” by Matt Haig and “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid