6 Podcasts that Will Change How You Think About Your Leadership Journey

Podcasts are a way of life for me—they are both a pathway to dive deeper into the insights, ideas, and connections of my favorite topics, and an escape from my constantly-curious mind, a ticket to another world.

Here are six podcasts that have changed the way I think about my leadership journey as a woman:

1. Women at Work

Start with: Make Yourself Heard

I love the format of this podcast from Harvard Business Review: three female editors talk with guest experts and then debrief on their own experiences, questions, and tips on some of the most complex issues around being a woman in the workplace. It's conversational, inquisitive, and full of sample language that you can actually apply in your own work.

This episode is all about how women can better be heard at work and how managers can support them. They discuss feedback strategies that go beyond "speak up more," ways to assertively communicate your ideas in a meeting, and practical examples of how to confront someone who chronically interrupts you.

2. Hidden Brain

Start with: “Why Now?”

This social science podcast from NPR is hosted by Shankar Vedantam, who is, in my opinion, one of the most curious, disarming, and humble yet powerful podcast hosts out there. I would listen to him read the dictionary, because I’m sure he would manage to do even that in a way that makes me feel closer to all of humanity.

This episode explores the #MeToo movement through the lens of the social sciences and aims to understand the psychological forces behind this cultural reckoning: What has changed in our minds and in our culture so that allegations of sexual harassment and assault are being taken more seriously than they were in prior decades? This episode will alter how you think about being a woman in the office in 2018.


3. Ask a Manager

Start with: I’m Bad at Taking Feedback

In this call-in advice show, author and seasoned manager Alison Green takes calls and talks directly with listeners about how to deal with work and management dilemmas. She covers everything from managing the politics (and smells) of the office fridge to what to do when your boss is burning out.

In this episode, Alison speaks with a PhD candidate about how to process and respond to negative feedback in a way that’s not overly defensive or emotional. It’s full of specific examples of language that you can apply in your work.


4. How I Built This with Guy Raz

Start with: Drybar with Alli Webb

In this podcast from NPR, journalist Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best known companies and the entrepreneurs who created them. I was hooked by this episode in particular, which traces the journey of Alli Webb, who, a decade ago, was a full-time mom who noticed a gap in the beauty market—there was no place that just focused on blow-drying hair. Her company, Drybar, now has more than 100 locations. This story will resonate with anyone who is curious about what it’s like to scale a business idea. Alli Webb’s motto: Focus on one thing and be the best at it.


5. Dear HBR

Start with: Bad Bosses

The Dear HBR podcast answers listener questions on workplace dilemmas, making recommendations for ways to move forward based on academic research and insights from experts. I love that this podcast is both research-based and completely practical, applicable, and accessible.

In this episode with guest Moshe Cohen of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, they answer three listener questions on bad bosses. As they grapple with their recommendations, some very relatable questions come up—about whether to report a boss, flee, or find a way to stay and work together.


6. Startup

Start with: Running a Family and a Business

Startup is all about what it takes to start and scale a business. In all of its five seasons, though, it’s never touched on the topic of parenthood. In this episode, Diana Lovett, the founder of a socially responsible chocolate company called Cissé Cocoa, talks with an executive coach about her #1 challenge: managing the relentless guilt of running a business and being a mom.

Whether you own your own business or not, this episode will surely strike a chord with moms who are trying to juggle career ambition with being there for their families—it inspired me to reframe the “lacerating guilt” I feel day in ad day out, and to consider how I can forgive myself for being imperfect, and in doing so, teach my daughter a valuable lesson.


Bonus: Modern Love

Start with: One Bouquet of Fleeting Beauty

Because sometimes you need a break from thinking about work and leadership, and Modern Love is just the salve for your soul. Hosted by the warm and wise Meghna Chakrabarti, it features well-known actors reading personal essays from the New York Times Modern Love column. The wide range of essays touch on all different types of love—in that way where they are about very specific stories, but somehow feel completely universal and relatable in their themes. This essay about why we send flowers, read by Kerry Biché, made my top list of favorite podcast episodes last year.


Happy Listening!


Carole Ann Penney, Strategic Career Coach & Founder of Penney Leadership, develops mission-driven leaders who are ready to take the next steps in their career development. She is a member of The Lady Project’s Board of Directors and mentors emerging female leaders through Brown University's Women's Launch Pad Program. When she is not coaching, she’s developing the most important emerging leader in her life—her three-year-old daughter, Avery Jean. Connect with her at: LinkedIn, Instagram.