Leading With Joy

Practices for Uncertain Times

By Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali

Leading with Joy  promotes a courageous and compassionate approach to leadership that can sustain purposeful action and social change.

about leading with joy

about leading with joy

In a time of increasing disconnection and uncertainty, Leading with Joy, shows how leaders can reclaim their purpose and embrace joy in service of social transformation.

Leadership that connects people and centers compassion and trust instead of competition and disconnection is needed more than ever before. There are plenty of manuals that show people how to manage organizations, but what is really needed in this moment is a book that shows us how to include kindness and inspiration within leadership. Leading with Joy  promotes a courageous and compassionate approach to leadership that can sustain purposeful action and social change.

Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali side by side smiling outdoors in front of a lake

This book takes the form of a series of vignettes about the authors’ insights and stories, with reflection questions at the end of each one. Through these stories—which address topics such as workplace triumphs and lessons, family relationships, and even near-death experiences— Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali illuminate different aspects of leadership, such as humility, forgiveness, and kindness, and invite leaders to respond to the current moment.

The book draws on the authors’ lived experiences as leaders, including their encounters with oppression, and their wisdom in principled leadership. They demonstrate how leaders can create conditions of abundance and well-being, which are necessary for long-term social transformation.

What people are saying about Leading with Joy

What people are saying about Leading with Joy

Image of Sharon Bridgforth

Sharon Bridgforth

Lambda Literary Award Winning Author & Interdisciplinary Artist

"In this book, these courageous, world changing, women of color root radically in their years of leadership, ancient Knowings, and wide open hearts as they light the way towards Joy as an embodied act of self-determination in service of the collective good. Their stories, reflections and pragmatic practices provoke the seismic shifts that are critical to lasting, systematic, vibrant change. This book is a must read."

image of Pregs Govender

Pregs Govender

South African Activist and Author of Love and Courage: A Story of Insubordination

"We need to protect our hearts, when systems of hate, greed and fear rule the earth and permeate our lives. Thank you Akaya and Vini, for honouring joy as ancestral wisdom."

Image of Cristina Jimenez Moreta

Cristina Jiménez Moreta

Co-founder, United We Dream

"At a time when we are facing multiple crises, Leading with Joy  reminds us that leadership is not only about courage and responsibility, but also about transformation, love, and joy. Akaya and Rajasvini reground the conversation about leadership on the wisdom and lived experiences of women of color. Their reflections, stories, and practices are a guide to building new ways of leading while holding the sacredness of the self and the collective."

image of Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

Founder, Third Act

"I'm allergic to books about leadership, but this slim volume engaged me so powerfully. That's because, I think, it's really a book about being human, and because it's not just smart, it's wise—kind, generous, rigorous, and exactly right for the tough moment we find ourselves in. A few (a very few) books are necessary, and this is one."

image of Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

Young People's Poet Laureate

"Has there ever been a more inviting, companionable book about leadership? In compact chapters, delicious and meditative as poems, succulent with story, Leading With Joy  offers empowerment, clarity, pleasure, and an infinite array of tools and guidance to help us feel better about our lives and the work we do, both together and alone. It's splendid!"

image of Dr Sayra Pinto

Dr. Sayra Pinto

Master’s Program in Leadership for Sustainability, University of Vermont Rubenstein School for Environment & Natural Resources

"This is a courageous book for what it says and for what it implies. In a time when many of us are tempted to simplify our realities to be able to be comfortable in certainty, Akaya and Vini invite us to sit with and accept the deep complexity and paradoxes of the current moment. They invite us to enter and own our dances in the crevices and cracks of our own reasoning so we can expand them and glean into a compelling and joy filled future possibility. As we teeter constantly on the edge of either oblivion or abundance as a species, we can dance intrepidly with our feet on the ground and our eye towards a future of shared buen vivir."

image of Ai-Jen Poo

Ai-Jen Poo

President, National Domestic Workers’ Alliance

"Leading with Joy  is a remarkable contribution to the canon on leadership. Akaya and Rajasvini are storytellers, and offer practical lessons through poetic and engaging language. This is a book for anyone who cares about community and well-being, and it will stay with me for a long time."

Image of Edgar Villanueva

Edgar Villanueva

Author of Decolonizing Wealth

"This book deconstructs toxic, formulaic leadership models and gives us a new model centered on our human need for joy. The stories, wisdom, and practical guidance shared in these pages will elevate your leadership at work and beyond."

About the Authors

About the Authors

Akaya Windwood smiling with short curly white hair, wearing a white tunic, indoors in front of a light grey background

Akaya Windwood


Akaya Windwood facilitates transformation. She advises, trains, and consults on how change happens individually, organizationally, and societally. She is on faculty of the Just Economy Institute, is Lead Advisor at Third Act, and is founder of the New Universal Wisdom and Leadership Institute, which centers human wisdom in the wisdom of brown womxn. She was President of Rockwood Leadership Institute for ten years, and directs the Thriving Roots Fund, which supports young womxn’s finance and philanthropic learning and leadership based in generosity and interconnectedness.

Akaya received the 2020 Vision Award from Middlebury College, was one of Conscious Company’s 30 World Changing Women of 2018, and has been a featured speaker at the Stanford Social Innovation Institute, the Aspen Institute, and the New Zealand Philanthropy Summit conferences. She is an Ella Award recipient from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and served on the Alameda County Human Rights Commission. Akaya is deeply committed to working for a fair and equitable global society while infusing a sense of purpose, delight, and wonder into everything we do. She lives in Northern California where she reads science fiction, makes sauerkraut, and relishes growing enormous squashes in her garden.

Akaya’s first book, Leading with Joy: Practices for Uncertain Times, will be published on October 4, 2022 by Berrett-Kohler Publishers.

Rajasvini Bhansali smiling with long brown hair, wearing a brown blouse, indoors in front of a brown background

Rajasvini Bhansali


Rajasvini Bhansali is the Executive Director of Solidaire Network and Solidaire Action, a community of donor organizers mobilizing critical resources to the frontlines of social justice.  She is a passionate advocate for participatory grassroots-led power building and a lifelong student of social movements. In a wide-ranging career devoted to racial, economic and climate justice, she has previously led an international public foundation that funds grassroots organizing in Asia, Africa and Latin America; grown a national youth development social enterprise; managed a public telecommunications infrastructure fund addressing the digital divide in the Southern United States; and worked as a community organizer, researcher, planner, policy analyst and strategy consultant.

Born and raised in India, Rajasvini earned a Master’s in Public Affairs with a focus on Telecommunications and Technology Policy from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor′s in Astrophysics and Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities & Social Sciences from UC Berkeley. Vini also spent several years working in rural Kenya with community leaders, an experience she credits as having inspired her to work to transform philanthropy and international development.  To that end, she currently serves on several philanthropic boards. 

Vini co-authored Leading with Joy: Practices for Uncertain Times, recently published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.  She is also a published poet, essayist, popular educator, yoga instructor and leadership coach. When not engaged with community organizations, Rajasvini can be found nesting with her family, taking long naps in the garden or plotting the next dance party with friends.



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