Contributed photo / Sybil Topel


“My Life in Leadership” by Frances Hesselbein

“The Power of Moments, Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

“I Wish I’d Known That Earlier in my Career” by Jane Horan

Up Next

“The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” by Melinda Gates

“Know My Name” by Chanel Miller

“The Thread that Runs so True” by Jesse Stuart


Sybil Topel, marketing communications vice president for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, has contributed to an international career blog, earned a Master of Fine Arts in writing, and led a Chattanooga Chamber team that garnered national and local awards with its tongue-in-cheek "Literally Perfect" video as the centerpiece of a recruitment campaign. She serves on a number of boards including ArtsBuild, Girls Scouts of Southern Appalachians and the Pop-Up-Project, a start-up arts organization.

Tell us about a book you've read that influences the way you think about your work and leadership role.

Frances Hesselbein wrote several books I'd recommend, including "My Life in Leadership." A former Girl Scout CEO and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, Hesselbein spoke at a conference in Nashville and I still remember her talking about her life of service in terms of three distinct areas – service to country, non-profit work and corporate leadership. She emphasized that the three sectors would benefit from more collaboration and relationship-building. She specifically advised non-profit leaders to seek out corporate board leadership roles. That made an impression on me. As an Army brat who grew up saluting the flag on the days we were on base at 5 p.m. – and with a mother who enrolled me in Girl Scouts early on – service to country was pretty well instilled in me from the beginning. I've given a substantial part of my career to working in the private sector – journalism, financial and professional services – and now I'm giving back by working at a non-profit with a business focus.

I also recently read "The Power of Moments, Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact," which Chamber President and CEO Christy Gillenwater recommended – a great inspirational read. Jane Horan's "I Wish I'd Known That Earlier in my Career" is wonderful for those exploring career moves. I profiled Horan while writing profiles for an e-newsletter. She has lived, worked and studied in the U.S., China and Hong Kong and now lives in Singapore. She invited me to interview and write profiles on several fascinating business women based in India, England and the United States.

What is on your list to read next?

I sure do wish MacKenzie Bezos would write a memoir, but since she hasn't, I'm looking forward to Melinda Gates' book, "The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World," a birthday gift from a dear friend. I finished Ann Patchett's latest book, "The Dutch House," and next I'll read "Know My Name," by Chanel Miller, after I finish "The Thread that Runs so True," by Jesse Stuart, an author who knew my grandfather. My mother's book club finished it recently and she pretty much insisted I read it. I'm enjoying it. She reads about three books a week. An inspiration. It took me all summer to make it through my short list.