3 of America's richest self-made women — Tory Burch, Kendra Scott, and Liz Elting — recommend the books that have helped them become better leaders during quarantine

  • The pandemic has challenged entrepreneurs and executives alike, as they lead their teams through crises. 
  • Business Insider asked three of Forbes' richest self-made women, founders Liz Elting, Kendra Scott, and Tory Burch, what they learned about leadership during a crisis. 
  • They gave the books they read during quarantine that can teach entrepreneurs about leading in uncertain times. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged leaders at every level, from executives of billion-dollar companies to small business owners and startup founders. How they lead their teams and employees are the ultimate test of their agility, empathy, and resourcefulness. 

Business Insider asked three of Forbes' richest self-made women what books they read during quarantine, what they learned about leading during a crisis, and how their companies have adapted. 

Liz Elting is the founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, and founder and former co-CEO of language solution provider TransPerfect. Kendra Scott is the lead designer and CEO of her eponymous jewelry company. Tory Burch is a fashion designer and chief creative officer of her legendary clothing and accessories label. 

Continue reading for their responses, and the books they recommend to entrepreneurs, as told to Business Insider.

Some responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Liz Elting found that leading her team with empathy inspires positive results.

How has your business pivoted during the pandemic?

The Elizabeth Elting Foundation was originally founded to support women in business and health. Our activities centered around working alongside the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women initiative, of which I am executive co-chair, to promote education and resources surrounding women's health, and in supporting business schools, women's leadership programs, and women-focused venture funds. Since the pandemic though, we've been increasingly focused on COVID-19 relief efforts through the Halo Fund, trying to help bridge widening gaps for those most affected as the economy struggles.

What's one strategy you've learned through the pandemic that has helped your team become more efficient, adaptable, or resilient?

I'd say it's practicing compassion and positivity. I believe that what you put out into the world is what you get back in a very real, literal sense. Working with empathy, hopefulness, conviction, and strength helps inspire the same in the people you work with. It's contagious in the best way, and I think that communicating that sort of care and positivity with your team really does inspire results.

Elting recommends 'The Soul of Money' by Lynne Twist and 'The Promise of a Pencil' by Adam Braun.

What's one book you read during quarantine that you would recommend to entrepreneurs? 

"The Soul of Money" by Lynne Twist and "The Promise of a Pencil" by Adam Braun both send a message that I truly believe in, especially in these strange and uncertain times where it's easy to feel helpless, powerless, and trapped. Our focus shouldn't be on the rat race, material and monetary gain, or status, but instead on giving. Our resources are our responsibility, not simply riches designed to let us do what we want. These books are about recognizing that a truly rewarding human life means treating money as a means to an end: helping each other and making the world a better place. Now more than ever.

Find "The Soul of Money" here»

Find "The Promise of a Pencil" here»

Kendra Scott and her team fast-tracked new offerings that weren't planned to roll out for months.

How has your business pivoted during the pandemic?

Our first priority has always been ensuring the health and safety of our customers and our employees. With our retail locations closed, we knew it was more important than ever to find a way to continue to maintain the personal connections with our customers that we pride ourselves on. We were able to quickly pivot our philanthropic initiatives to virtual, such as inviting customers to host digital Kendra Gives Back events (we've had over 1,400 events booked to-date) and raising funds for Feeding America's network of food banks through sales of our Everlyne Bracelet (enough to provide over 3.5M meals to those in need).

We also implemented virtual styling sessions and a new virtual try-on tool to ensure our customers feel as confident as possible in their purchases before they buy, since they can't touch and feel the products in-stores. And once it was safe to do so, we began offering curbside delivery (with a percentage of sales going back to local hospitals – which raised over $475,000) and one-on-one store appointments following strict social distancing guidelines as outlined by the CDC.

What's one strategy you've learned through the pandemic that has helped your team become more efficient, adaptable, or resilient?

We had to change our expectations and timelines. When COVID-19 started to threaten our business, we worked quickly to fast-track initiatives and programs that we hadn't planned to roll out for months — or even years! For example, we rolled out our ship-from-store and curbside pickup initiative in just under a month, when we had not planned to launch that program until mid-2021.

I am so proud of my team for their creative thinking and quick action to best serve our customers and our employees in these unprecedented times. Our business model is rooted in interaction and experience. Our customers come to us because of the authentic connection we create. As our world continues to evolve, we have learned that our business must evolve as well. We look to serve our customers and our communities where they need it most.

Scott recommends 'The Alchemist,' by Paulo Coelho.

What's one book you read during quarantine that you would recommend to entrepreneurs? 

I've read "The Alchemist" about three or four times in my life and each time I do it takes on new meaning. It's a timeless, entertaining story that illustrates how success isn't always linear and achieving dreams may not look like you initially envisioned. One quote in particular that resonated with me rereading the book during this time was "The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times."

Looking back, I realized I had to go through so many struggles to get to where I am today. In this moment, it's hard to understand why this is all happening. But the lessons we're learning will make us all stronger and come out even better as a planet and as one people as we try to find meaning during this pause.

Find it here»

Tory Burch designed a collection remotely from her dining room.

How has your business pivoted during the pandemic? 

Of course, the first few months were incredibly tough. It was a crazy time: trying to protect jobs, keep people safe, and get the support we needed to continue to operate. At one point almost all of our stores were closed.

Our core business strategy has not changed and in fact, it helped us steer a course through the constant change. We believe in finding the opportunities, even in times of extreme difficulty. And we have taken advantage of this time to reset and double down on our plans and to accelerate many of the things we were already working on.

The Tory Burch Foundation pivoted to become a go-to destination to help women entrepreneurs navigate all the different forms of assistance for small businesses. They have also been offering free tools and webinars to help businesses stay on their feet.

The biggest pivot for me personally was designing the collection remotely. It was comparatively easier to run the business virtually, but designing a collection required more ingenuity. At one point I had racks of clothes in my dining room and a couple of team members standing in as socially distant fit models. We made it work though. I'm proud of the collection we designed in COVID and in many ways I think it is our best yet.

What's one strategy you've learned through the pandemic that has helped your team become more efficient, adaptable, or resilient?

There is no playbook for a pandemic, and as I reflect on what feels like thousands of decisions, I realize that a great team, clear values, and a deep awareness of interconnection have enabled us to weather this storm.

The value of interconnection has played out in so many ways. We saw that there was not a unified voice advocating for American fashion, and we advocated in Washington for the needs of our own industry, as well as landlords and suppliers when asking for much needed government support. 

And later, we could triangulate information from different markets and reallocate inventory to regions and channels with higher demand. 

The emphasis on relationships has also informed how we communicate with our customers; from the beginning of the pandemic I wanted to be more personal. It felt important to share my challenges, frustrations and hopes.  

We are part of an ecosystem and everything and everyone is connected. It's vital that this spirit comes through in everything we do.

Burch recommends 'The Moment of Lift,' by Melinda Gates.

What's one book you read during quarantine that you would recommend to entrepreneurs? 

This year I read Melinda Gates' "The Moment of Lift," the book talks vividly about the challenges facing women all over the world — and solutions that are making a difference today. Her mission to help women all over the world realize their dreams is an inspiration to me. 

One thing I recommend to all entrepreneurs is that you make time to reconnect often with your purpose — for me that means empowering women and challenging the stereotypes that stop everyone from being treated equally, with kindness and respect.

Find it here »

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