Colleen Higgs: Digital publishing has brought new opportunities for publishers

Colleen Higgs started Modjaji Books in 2007 as an independent feminist press that publishes southern African women’s fiction, poetry, and biographies.  

She felt African women deserved to tell their stories on an authentic and conscientious platform.

Many Modjaji book titles have gone on to win numerous prestigious literary awards both locally and internationally.

In this article, Colleen Higgs talks about her work and what it takes to be a feminist publisher.

Self-publishing has its place, but there is still a great deal of room for publishers to work in – Colleen Higgs of @modjaji_bks Click To Tweet

What are the top three things someone needs to consider before opening a publishing business?

  • Do you have enough starting capital?
  • Publishing requires money up front and it takes time to earn that money back.
  • Think carefully about why you are doing it.  After many years of publishing, you might find it tough to deal with all the many demands made of you, the lack of appreciation for what you have done for writers and how little money you make from doing the work.
  • What is your focus going to be? It is good to have a very particular focus, it will help you to find an audience and to make decisions about what to publish.

Tell us about your work as an independent publisher.

Being a writer I understood what it was like to want to get published and the inflation and deflation of the relationship with a publisher.

It didn’t prepare me for all the work that it takes though, the ongoing attention to the big picture and to detail that the publisher has to manage.

Publishers do a vast number of things. You don’t just read through submissions and select books to publish.

There is a huge amount of admin. You work out a vision and focus for your company and keep a firm eye on the money and cash flow.  

You must constantly maintain relationships with all the people you work with: printers, writers, editors, illustrators, artists, proof-readers, shareholders, accountant, book-keeper, bookstore owners and employees not to mention participating in book fairs and doing interviews!

Why was it important to open Modjaji Books as a ‘feminist’ print?

Modjaji fills a gap by providing an outlet for writing by women that takes itself and its readers seriously.

Having lived through and enacted publishing only women, I became aware of how this has been a deeply political act.

When you think about the way publishing is owned, media is owned, who gets to make the decisions, and how women are represented, here and internationally it just made sense.

Women do have a different experience of the world – not just because they are women, but because of the way power is structured and filtered.

I had experienced my own writing not being taken seriously because it is too ‘confessional’.

I wanted to make a way that other women could be published where a set of values and perceptions that were not patriarchal and were not centered in the “Dead, White, Male canon” would make the decisions about what should be published.

Many of your authors have been nominated to win prestigious literary awards. How do you feel about this?

Modjaji has been lucky enough to publish the work of very talented writers.

I like to think it is also because we have done a good job of editing the manuscripts and because of how the company is positioned and how we have framed and spotlighted particular works.  

Rights sales- Modjaji Books

We have published a lot of debuts short stories and poetry collections, many of these have won prizes, and yet they are books that most commercial publishers would not touch.

How has society changed by reading your published books on infertility, stillbirth, homosexuality, etc.

I have seen how these books have added to a growing discourse on topics that were taboo or not in the mainstream but now have a more prominent place.

I’m proud to have had Modjaji Books be at the cutting edge of this kind of publishing here in South Africa.

Haven run Modjaji for twelve years, have you faced any challenges running an African press?

Yes, there are challenges, we are not supported by government policies that help us to grow and increase our sales. Recently the SA Book Development Council funded our participation in the SA Book Fair.

I don’t think this goes far enough. I think there needs to be an active policy of buying local books for libraries.

If we as independent South African publishers knew that even as few as 500 of our really good titles would be bought by the library system, it would make it all much more viable.

Trade routes and avenues of distribution into other African countries are not nearly as strong as are those to Europe and the US.

It would be great to see work on this taking place at a national level

Publishing is a very expensive industry. As a publishing brand, how do you approach your need for commercial success?

I have to confess I have not focused too much on commercial success! I thought that if I published something that needed to be heard it would be commercially successful.

This has not been the case. I have tried to publish books and voices I have loved.

With the increase of digital books, self publishing, and rumors of the “death of print”, how do you plan on staying relevant in the industry?

If one continues to publish books that are well written, powerful and have a clear voice, a particular story, we as publishers will remain relevant in my opinion.

It is important not to get stuck in a particular mind set and to be open to new technology and to new voices and perspectives.

Having said that, there have been many changes in the last 12 years. Social media has become a force for publishing books, and for writers to connect with each other.

Digital publishing has brought new opportunities for publishers. Self-publishing has its place, but there is still a great deal of room for publishers to work in.

Writers sometimes experiment and self-publish one or two titles, but when they see how much work is involved they tend to want to move back to a publisher, so they can focus on their writing.

In moments of adversity how do you build yourself up?

Friendships with other publishers has been important to me. Both locally and internationally, other small and independent publishers understand what you are going through.

It is a tough business, and there are many daily challenges.

I compartmentalise, so when I am having family time, I put work aside, and try not to worry about things I cannot do anything about right at that moment. I walk my dogs, swim when I can, watch Netflix, switch off.

Finally, I keep going, do the next thing, and soon the flow starts again and money and goodness will flow in.

I try not to get thrown or stopped in my tracks by challenges and difficulties. This is not always easy. – Colleen Higgs Click To Tweet

How important is it to mentor promising writers?

I think it is important, but I am not sure it is the work of a publisher. It is expensive to do, I think that if we publish a writer who shows promise – there has to be enough in the current manuscript for us to work with.

I think writers find the experience of working with an editor rewarding, someone who takes their work seriously and tries to make the work as strong as possible.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

  • Finding a manuscript that takes my breath away.
  • Seeing the actual book after many months of working on it.
  • Experiencing the joy of writers when they get their book, and when the book gets a positive reception, a good review, a prize, when the author gets invited to a prestigious event.
  • Connecting with fellow publishers and having a chance to catch up with them and their ups and downs.

What advice can you give aspiring writers on what to look for in a publisher?

Firstly find a publisher who is interested in your book and is prepared to commit time and energy to it.

Don’t publish your work with a publisher who wants you to pay all the costs upfront to have your work published.

There are outfits that fleece writers and all they get at the end is a printed book, there is no distribution or marketing offered.

There are some new models of publishing where writers can invest in their book too, but it shouldn’t be the key reason that the publisher will take on their work. (But if you come to an arrangement with a publisher where you are looking to have someone else do the work of assisting you self-publish this is possible, but do be careful that you aren’t just throwing a lot of money away.)

What is the last book you read, and your take away from it?

I read many books at once, but I will mention one, which is Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.  

I was interested in it, because its main character, Maud, has dementia, but in spite of this and because of her tenacity she is able to solve a 70 year old mystery.

I found it riveting, I love to read crime fiction for pleasure reading, also my late mother had dementia in the last ten or so years of her life. I could relate to Maud’s difficulties. It was escapist and a page turner.

What is next for Modjaji Books and for you personally as a writer?

Modjaji Books will continue to publish, we have some strong titles coming out this year. I’ve been invited to the Geneva Book Fair in May, as part of a contingent of African publishers.

We have sold rights to a number of titles to Catalyst Press in the US, and it’s fascinating to see how those titles are received in new territories by new readers. So we have that to look forward to.

I’m completing a memoir about my mother’s last years. It is based on a secret blog I wrote for more than 10 years, it is provisionally called My Mother, My Madness.

I had a complicated, difficult relationship with my mother. I took responsibility for caring for her and her needs in those years.

I also have enough poems to put together a new collection, so will do that in due course.

I find that publishing takes up most of my creative energy, so my writing takes second place. This year my resolution is to give my writing more attention.

How to be a BAWSE: Lily Singh’s best tips on how to conquer life

Lily Singh is best known for her Youtube channel Superwoman which has over 1 billion views and has featured guests ranging from Michelle Obama to Zendaya.

Her book, How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life describes a BAWSE as a`a person who exudes confidence, reaches goals, gets hurt efficiently, and smiles genuinely because they’ve fought through it all and made it out the other side`. 

She emphasizes that life is not about surviving but rather taking the decisive steps to have more effective control over your life, choices, and actions.  

Here are some of our favorite tips from the book to get you started on your ride to be a BAWSE.

Conquer your thoughts

We are the products of our thoughts, what we think affects how we treat others and allow others to treat us.

Conquering your thoughts put you in charge of yourself. It means being accountable for the things you say and do. So when you find yourself in a situation that challenges you or makes you feel a certain way ask yourself WHY you feel a certain way, WHAT made you perform a certain action, and HOW you could do things differently.

The information you discover is powerful because it helps you to discover patterns and in turn use your mind productively and efficiently.

Words lie, actions lie too, but consistency speaks the truth

Now if that line doesn’t speak truth to you, I don`t know what will! Consistency is key: people determine who you are depending on what you do.

If you are always late to meet that deadline or never do that task you said you would do, people will come to know you as the unreliable person. That is not the reputation you want to have.

Consistency and habits breed good behavior, you begin to create patterns that show people that they can trust, rely and count on you. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to show people who you are and then keep showing them.

Seek out situations that make you uncomfortable 

Comfort Zones: we love them, they make us feel happy and safe. When we are in a situation that we do not feel is tailored from us we tend to panic and act out. We basically do not cope because it is not the reality we know or are used to.

Use an uncomfortable moment as a learning tool, what does it say about you, what are you doing to address this uncomfortable situation. What can you learn? Being uncomfortable does not mean sit back and refuse to do anything, just because its no longer the norm for you.

You have to be proactive, take matters into your hands, see what difference can come out of this experience.

If you want to stay in the league, keep up to date on the game

Learning is a lifetime process. There is always room to further your education and skills, no matter how high up the career ladder you get. Do not become too self-assured that you do not think you have any more lessons to learn.

Learning more about advances in your field can help you shape your goals, enhance your career and keep you above the rest. Do not presume you know it all or that you have become an expert whose opinion is the only one that matters.

Take time to refine your skills and competencies. This does not just refer only to taking short or online courses to nurture and grow your skills, it also refers to the lessons you can learn from others around you.

A brilliant quote from the book is “Being the dumbest person on your team doesn’t make you a stupid person; it means you are smart enough to select people to work with you can learn from”.

This means surround yourself with people you can learn from. Asking questions when you don`t know is not a shortfall, it is dedicating yourself to learning something new.

Don’t be afraid to ask for things. 

The worst that will happen is that you’ll be told no!

Too often than not, we tell ourselves `no` before we even do what we wanted to achieve. We become the roadblocks to our own goals.

But, what if you denied yourself a yes, an upgrade or a promotion? ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE. It is a famous line for a reason. If you do not ask, you will never get what you want. You do not even open yourself up to the option of getting it.

Do not be afraid to put yourself out there, to request for more when you know you deserve it. Sure, we are all scared of rejection but that allows us to adjust and try again with something better that works.

A Motherland Mogul knows her worth and when to ask for it to be respected. Do not talk yourself out of asking for that raise, state your case and demand your prize. You may just surprise yourself by getting exactly what you asked for.

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5 non-fiction novels you should be reading

The right book can be like the big sister you never asked for who can dispense really good advice with no judgment. The books we read can definitely shape and influence us, whether you’re looking for professional tips or just reading for the giggles.

Roald Dahl said it best, ‘If you’re going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books‘. Here are my 5 picks for books that will leave you crying, laughing and inspired.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling


…write your own part. It is the only way I’ve gotten anywhere. It is much harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and once you find them, you can showcase them, and no one can stop you.

For the Motherland Mogul who isn’t shy to speak up, has a wicked sense of humour and does not believe in following the traditional path. Mindy Kaling is witty, entertaining and more importantly, an example of how you can be your own heroine.

The experiences detailed in her book are a great way to feel motivated into taking your career path into your hands. When the mould isn’t set for you, you can say screw it and make your own path.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes


“Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.”

For the Motherland Mogul who needs to get out of her comfort zone. We all know Shonda Rhimes is the goddess of television, how can she not be? As the titan behind  the TGIT shows (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and the Catch), she has revolutionized television.

Her shows have sparked interesting conversations and given young women bad ass female characters who inspire us in various waysYear of Yes dares you to work hard, step out of you comfort zone and love yourself. So whether you need to ask for that raise or have been feeling like you are in a rut, you can definitely be inspired by this book to step up your game and challenge yourself to live a more fulfilling life.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be … a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

For the Motherland Mogul who needs a reminder of how awesome being a woman is. Now we all know a book list would not be complete without our soul sister Chimamanda. This book is based off her inspirational TED talk which also featured as part of Beyonce’s **Flawless** gaining her worldwide acclaim and attention.

This book is ideal to gain an understanding of feminism from an African point of view. It may also be a great read for those who don’t truly understand what feminism is and how important it is in today’s modern society.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly


“Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status–none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions.”

For the Motherland Mogul who needs some inspiration. If you have not watched Hidden Figures, you are doing yourself the greatest disservice ever. Reading the book? Just as necessary. The biography details the discrimination faced by the three mathematicians who worked as human computers at NASA.

Dealing with racism and sexism, it highlights how intersectional oppression is an experience faced by black women in the workplace. It’s a great read for when you feel unappreciated in the workplace or when you face challenges like racism and sexism. This story can definitely motivate you to persist beyond the challenges that can suppress your talents and skills.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah


“I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”

For the Motherland Mogul whose past is key to defining her future. Reading this book felt like reading a love letter to Trevor Noah’s mom, his respect and adoration for her are clear. The description of his upbringing as a mixed race child during the Apartheid era showed her resilience and strength that motivated him to become the man he is today.

Very often we take our experiences for granted, yet they can shape our career and personal choices. Life is about pushing through the hard times, finding pride in who we are and taking that leap no matter how scary.

Royal Adventures of Princess Halima: It just takes time for others to see your vision

The Royal Adventures of Princess Halima book series was created to teach African children more about their history & culture Click To Tweet

While digital content has made it easier for people across the globe to access previously underrepresented stories, there is still a significant gap when it comes to online and offline content focused on authentic African stories. After the birth of a new generation of their family tree, Anna, Lucy, Jainaba and YaAdam came together to ensure that more African children knew about their rich history and culture.

Why did you believe that Princess Halima needed to be created and how did you find yourself being the one to make it happen?

We are half Gambian and Tanzanian and wanted to bring Africa to the forefront and educate our readers that Africa is a continent full of rich history, and not the misconceived idea that Africa is a single country.  We want our readers to find an escape into Africa’s vast richness and history while following Princess Halima in all her adventures.  And most importantly, we want to empower young minds with knowledge that will pique their interest to one-day jump on a plane and make the journey to Tanzania, Ghana, or Nigeria or any other country in Africa!

Our inspiration- Halima Bah
Our inspiration- Halima Bah

The Royal Adventures of Princess Halima project was inspired by the birth of the first baby (grandchild) in the family, Halima Bah. Halima is of Guinean, Gambian, Tanzanian descent. With such a rich combination of African culture and history, we thought the best way to educate Halima about her many homelands was to start the series of books through which she will get to not only discover her heritage, but also learn about the African continent as a whole.

Why don’t you believe that books such as Princess Halima have been created before in the market?

You will find that most stories about Africa are told through animal characters. It boils down to controlling our own narratives and images of ourselves in the world. Storytelling is one of the most important traditions humans possess to influence, shape beliefs and behaviors. We could not exist without the values, the wisdom and the courage shared from past generations through the art of storytelling. As such, this campaign is an effort to control the stories and images of our beautiful continent.

What makes Princess Halima different from all of the other educational content out there on the market?

Princess Halima is a brave, curious and courageous African girl that is intrigued by the wonders of the world but specifically her continent of Africa. As a Princess, she luckily gets to travel across the continent visiting cousins, friends and family. During each visit she takes time to explore all that these beautiful countries have to offer from the culture, fashion, languages, parks and historic sites etc. These adventures and experiences shape her worldly view, and those of her readers.Princess Halima Book Cover

For your business to get to the next level, would you prefer funding or a high value mentor? Which one would you choose and why?

We would prefer both but to be completely honest, at this point we would select funding over a mentor. We have built a machine over the past two to three years that is working for us. Every member of our team handles different aspects to ensure we are reaching our goals and meeting deadlines.

Royal Adventures of Princess Halima: It just takes time for others to see your vision Click To Tweet

What is the most important thing you’ve learned on your journey that you want to share with young African women entrepreneurs?

The most valuable lesson we have learned is patience. We have also gained an understanding that although we are passionate about this project and believe in its power, it will still take time for others to jump on board. In addition, we have learned that while we have received significant support from our African communities it wasn’t that overwhelming support we anticipated. However, it doesn’t mean that the interest and love isn’t there, it just takes time for others so see your vision and feel your passion for something you so strongly believe in.

What story can you not wait to tell next?

We are excited to tell the story of our homeland, The Gambia also known as the Smiling Coast. The smallest country in mainland Africa is going through some transitional changes right with the results of a recent election which has birthed the movement #GambiaHasDecided. This movement speaks to the ultimate pride, honor and fight Gambians have. Princess Halima’s story will capture its beauty and strength.

Fast Five

Favorite story or nursery rhyme as a child

Favorite story Shaka Zulu, was scared of it but loved it at the same time.

What did you want to be when you grew up

Work in the international development(United Nations) field like our mother.

Any travel tips for when you’re on the go with young ones

Get them a good book like ours, you can’t go wrong with The Royal Adventures of Princess Halima

What author are you most inspired by

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria

Ebook or hard copy

Hard copy! I love the smell of books and closing the book upon completion gives me a sense of accomplishment.

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A battle of the mind: Leadership lessons from Sheryl Sandberg 

powerful women lean in sheryl sandberg

Our self-perception as women is actually what keeps you from moving ahead Click To Tweet

I was fourteen, maybe fifteen and straight out of primary school, it was my first day in high school. My incoming class teacher asked me if I was willing to be the class prefect. I flat out said no. I just was not willing to take up a leadership position to a group of people whom I had never met before.

This was despite the fact that I knew I was more than capable of doing the job and doing it well. Fast forward three years later I ended up taking a leadership position not only in my class, but in the entire school. Looking back though, I see the same trend repeating itself in my life over and over and that is what Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean InWomen, Work and the Will to Lead is about.

We do it to ourselves

Initially, I thought the book was going to be about your basic feminist tirade. I was pleasantly surprised though, when from the get-go she focused more on how the self-perception that women have is actually what keeps them from moving ahead. ‘Sit at the table’ made it to my top three favourite chapters of the book.

Sandberg discusses how women face a “battle from within” that prevents them from taking advantage of what rightly belongs to them. In the chapter, Sandberg gives a story about a certain meeting she hosted for government representatives —both men and women.

After picking their cups of coffee, the men sat around the conference table but the women opted to sit off to the side of the room, even after much prodding from her. It was an innate decision they made to keep themselves away from issues under discussion even though they had every right to be there.

Women hesitate to take advantage of what rightly belongs to them Click To Tweet

It’s possible to have it all

In the 8th chapter, Sandberg brings up a common argument as far as women empowerment is concerned when she talks about making you partner, a real partner. She talks about the traditional gender roles in homes and how to overcome the limitations that these roles throw at women as far as career planning is concerned.

The discussion revolves around empowerment taking place at home as much as it is being demanded in the work place. By having men take on more responsibility around the home, traditional gender roles are discouraged. Rather, this encourages an equal playing field in the workplace and at home.

An idea that if put into practice in our homes, will enable us to excel both in our careers and in our families. In Africa, especially due to our cultural inclinations this here is easier said than done. Yet, if we are going to let Africa see what we are capable of we must get the entire community involved in this mind shift.

lean-in-3 gif

The boys’ club mentality

Generally, Sandberg’s book gives quite a good insight on the limitations placed on women both internally and externally. This was my key take-away. What I hear mostly around the office corridors is the existence of a certain secret ‘’boys club’’ that seeks to promote only the men in the career journey.

Woman empowerment is only attainable when both men and women pursue them together Click To Tweet

What I don’t hear is talk on the limitations that we as women have placed on ourselves. It’s very easy to complain about how the system has been designed to work against our growth. While we are in that mind-set we forget to look at the limitations that we are placing on ourselves.

Sandberg seems to have begun a kind of movement from the book, a not–so-secret girls’ club that should hopefully get all of us out of the pity party we might have in and work hard to get what we are looking to get.

Lean In is definitely worth the read. It is witty, it’s well researched and very open, giving you a glimpse into the lives of top women leaders in the Silicon Valley. You see their weakness and failures and how they rise up in the leadership space.

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest getting a copy. Not just for yourself but for your partner as well because as Sandberg discusses in the final chapter of the book. The goals of women empowerment are only attainable when both men and women pursue them together, at home and in the office and it begins by thinking that it is possible and worth the pursuit.

Today, despite all of the gains we have made, neither men nor women have real choice. Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don’t have real choice.

And until men are fully respected for contributing inside the home, they don’t have real choice either. Equal opportunity is not equal unless everyone receives the encouragement that makes seizing those opportunities possible. Only then can both men and women achieve their full potential

–Lean In  

Business Alchemy: Creating the extraordinary from the ordinary

the alchemist alchemy business

In its simplest form, alchemy is the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary -sometimes in a way that cannot be explained. Alchemy is seen in the way an artist can, quite magically, transform a heap of scrap metal into a breathtaking piece of art.

I believe that in the business world, we are all trying to create alchemy. We want to take something ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary. Whether you are social entrepreneur Patrick Awuah, taking tertiary education through it transforming lives so that students learn to shape their societies in remarkable, unique ways. Or whether you are Mo Abudu, CEO of Ebony Life TV, Africa’s first Global Black Entertainment and Lifestyle network, taking up the challenge of owning an African TV network where Africans can demonstrate their artistic skills and creativity in a relevant way.

Lessons from Coelho’s “The Alchemist”

One book that continues to have a profound effect on me is “The Alchemist”, by Paulo Coelho. A simple fable about pursuing your dreams, “The Alchemist” has enough wisdom in it to inspire and motivate you. It can push you to pursue and take charge of your business aspirations as much as any work you will find in the Harvard Business Review –the story is that good.

It starts in Spain, where a shepherd boy, Santiago has a dream. He literally slept one night and had a dream that he travelled and found a treasure in Africa, Egypt to be precise. The dream was so compelling –just as your business aspiration might be– that Santiago could not let it go. He had to actualize it. Selling all his sheep, he set off across the ocean to find his treasure.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be

Much of “The Alchemist” is about the Santiago’s odyssey. His adventures, the people he came in contact with (the good, the bad and the ugly), his new learning, love, and eventually finding his treasure in the most unusual place. This reminds us that as we pursue that compelling vision, that business aspiration, we must be aware of the dynamic world we live in. We need to be flexible to succeed at alchemy.

Now to connect “The Alchemist” to Patrick Awuah and Mo Abudu. It may have been on a CNN’s African Voices interview, that Patrick recalled that he was driven to leave his work and life in the US. What pushed him was his vision of starting a first class tertiary institution founded on strong leadership principles in Ghana. He was further motivated by that most famous quote from Goethe; “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Like Santiago in “The Alchemist”, I imagine that the dream was so compelling for Patrick that he could not let it go. And similar to Santiago who sold all his sheep and set off to find his find his treasure, Mr Awuah forfeited an assured life in the States and came to Ghana to start something new and risky. And what genius and magic that boldness has delivered through Ashesi University, Patrick’s creation.

The first lesson that you learn from “The Alchemist” is that business, often requires us to leave our comfort zone and take risks, but wherever your heart is, your treasure will be.

For Mo, she was a succcessful HR consultant who left a fabulous international career to host a talk show. Many people asked why, let them wonder. Like Santiago, Mo was drawn to her dream and focused on her purpose. She perfected her art by raising and talking about pertinent national issues. She gave visibility to the work and lives of remarkable Nigerians and international personalities on her show Moments with Mo. Her show may have awakened Mo to the opportunity of creating something bigger than Moments and giving Africans an opportunity to display and demonstrate their own creative skills through the platform of a global entertainment and TV network.

Today, EL TV is a testament to not only Mo’s hard work, resilience and vision. The network has also become a channel through which many other African creative entrepreneurs and story tellers can effect and build their own creative dreams.

That is alchemy. Transforming the ordinary to extraordinary.

Five essential books on leadership

One of the best ways to become a leader is by soaking up advice from those who got there before you. A plethora of leadership books exist and it can be daunting to decide where to start.

You may want to go with popular books like “The 48 Laws of Power” or you may consider this list which spices things up by choosing books with a specific kind of woman in mind.

Whether you’re the woman whose family and friends dismiss her anxiety because “Africans don’t deal with that” or you’re struggling to find a balance between being a wife, mother, daughter, aunty, bff and/or businesswoman, we’ve got a book on leadership for you.

“#Girlboss” by Sophia Amoruso:

For the woman who doesn’t have time for the haters

Sophia Amoruso is the founder of Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer worth over $250 million. When she was 22 years old, she was broke and had spent most of her teens on the road and shoplifting. “#Girlboss” is a book for the a typical CEO, it charts Amoruso’s ascendance into success offering practical life and career advice.

This one is for the women who walk the unbeaten path and have to listen to people asking them why they are setting up a puff-puff business when they haven’t yet married. In “#Girlboss” Amoruso reminds us to be loyal to our passions and remain nonconforming.

“Flying Without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success” by Thomas J. DeLong:

For the anxious #MotherlandMogul

“Flying Without a Net” is a useful guide to anxious professionals. Fear of the unknown is very real for some of us. It holds us back from new challenges and dims our brightness by making us vulnerable.

In this book, Thomas J. DeLong, Harvard Business School professor, teaches how to deal with fears and to turn vulnerability into strength. “Flying Without a Net” is essential learning on how to confront fears and improve on your courage.

essential books on leadership

“The First-Time Manager” by Loren B. Belker, Jim McCormick and Gary S. Topchik:

For the newbie just starting out

Called the “ultimate guide for anyone starting his or her career in management”, “The First-Time Manager” is effectively a beginner’s guide. This book is great for newbies venturing into the worlds of management and entrepreneurship.

It offers easy advice on diverse topics from discovering your management style and hiring and keeping your staff motivated to dealing with bosses and leading meetings.

“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” by Lois P. Frankel:

For the good girl ready to go bad

Apparently nice girls carry last. You may be making huge mistakes in your career by being overly likeable. “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” is a must-have for business women.

It shows that being a nice girl may not be the best way to take charge of your career.  Lois Frankel coaches us on getting rid of unconscious mistakes such as multi-tasking and not negotiating.

“The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius:

For the multitasking woman

This list won’t be complete without one from history. Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome from 161 to 180 A.D, he was also a legislator, a parent, a military officer, a political leader and a spouse. No wonder, Aurelius is considered to be one of the most powerful and respectable leaders in history.

And where better to learn than from a leader whose name is remembered thousands of years after his death? “The Emperor’s Handbook” brings timeless lesson from a Roman emperor to readers of today. It is a translation of Aurelius’s private personal notes on life, leadership and everyday advice.

What kind of leadership books is for a woman like you? Share them with us.