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New Fall 2015 Readings for Better Creative Leadership

September 27, 2015

2015 has already been a year of excellent and helpful publications for leaders wanting to improve themselves and their motivation and coordination of creative teams, projects and businesses.  Some, like Herminia Ibarra’s already essential Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader and Stanley McChrystal’s powerful call for agility and cohesion, Team of Teams, highlight the importance of action-based leadership.  Laszlo Bock’s manifesto for a new way of working, Work Rules!, and Heidi Halvorson’s manual for more authentic interactions, No One Understands You and What To Do About It, among others, focus on the centrality of cultivating talent and enhancing interpersonal communications.  Still others argue convincingly for the relevance of behavioral economics, notably Richard H. Thaler’s instructive and spirited overview of the topic, Misbehaving, and Dilip Soman’s guide to applying its insights to create value, The Last Mile.  Here is a further batch of valuable titles coming this fall.

Ajaz Ahmed, with foreword by Sir Martin Sorrell, Limitless: Leadership that Endures (Ebury Press/Random House, October 1)

Keep an open mind and think beyond conventional business boundaries.  The CEO and co-founder of the cutting-edge innovation agency, AKQA (and co-author of Velocity: The New Seven Laws for a World Gone Digital), looks at leaders from Henry Ford and Coco Chanel to Steve Jobs in order to highlight characteristics – from democratization and uncomplication to building ‘a creative conveyor belt’ – that enable enduring success and transformation in organizations.  

Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, November 23)

Starting from the premise that leadership is ‘enhancing the collective capacity to create’, the Chairman and CEO of the Leadership Circle consultancy formulate an ambitious ‘Universal Model’ that integrates four different stages in the evolution of leadership: the Reactive, Creative, Integral, and Unitive.  The result is a powerful approach to using individual and collective development as the basis for improving business performance.

Zygmunt Bauman, Irena Bauman, Jerzy Kociatkiewicz, Monika Kostera, Management in a Liquid Modern World (Polity, November 16)

A far-reaching critical and theoretical reflection on the place and potential of management – and the omnipresent popular discourse of ‘management’ – in a contemporary world marked by profound changes in organizations, work, and social and economic institutions.  Joined by an academic architect and two management professors, Bauman, the internationally renowned sociologist, discusses how a more humane and hopeful system might emerge from today’s uncertainty.

Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Little, Brown, December 29)
Harvard Business School professor Cuddy’s enormously popular TED talk on ‘power posing’ contends that striking a confident pose can translate into actual self-assurance.  Her new book expands on this idea, exploring the connection between changing our bodies and changing our minds — and the minds of others – and, in practical terms, helps readers connect their posture with their self-esteem.

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes to Create an Authentic Organization (Harvard Business Review Press, November 3)

What are the key organizational attributes that enable leaders to attract retain, and inspire the best talent today?  Goffee and Jones, of the London Business School, offer six research-based and action-oriented keys for practicing authenticity, nurturing people and succeeding with the fundamentally social challenges of leadership.  The authors of one of the all-time best books for creative leaders, Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?, are also simultaneously re-releasing that volume with a New Preface.

Robert Steven Kaplan, What You Really Need to Lead: The Power of Thinking and Acting Like An Owner (Harvard Business Review Press, September 15)

Think like an owner, be willing to act on your beliefs, focus relentlessly on adding value to others.  A Harvard Business School professor (and former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs) champions democratic leadership in a series of lively case studies and hands-on exercises.  The resulting call for learning, asking questions, taking action and making decisions promises to help individuals across organizations of all sizes to become better leaders. 

Roger L. Martin and Sally R. Osberg, Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works (Harvard Business Review Press, October 6)

Social innovation and value creation beyond the corporate and for-profit realm, particularly to benefit communities and civil society, are increasing priorities for entrepreneurial leaders.  Strategy guru Martin and Skoll Foundation CEO Osberg offer an accessible theory and workable framework for developing, building and scaling solutions that transform unjust systems and drive positive change.

Joseph Michelli, Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way (McGraw-Hill Professional, December 6)

The veteran business writer, whose previous work examined Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks and Zappos, has produced the first in-depth account of the success of Mercedes Benz USA.  With a focus on the company’s leadership and alignment of mission, culture, strategy and tactics, the book tracks the systematic building of customer service to be not only best-in-class but best across all brands and industries.  

Jeff Pfeffer, Leadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (Harper Business, September 15)

A vital read that aims to de-mystify some of the central tenets of the leadership industry, which the Stanford professor argues has largely failed to produce better leaders.  Taking on familiar managerial feel-good thinking, wishful outcomes, and sacred cows, he calls instead for leaders to place greater reliance on evidence, data and research findings in their quest for improvement.

Eric Ries, The Leader’s Guide (; Digital, October; Hardcopy, December)

The entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup ran one of the most successful publishing campaigns in the history of Kickstarter.  The resulting ‘master class in applying the Lean Startup methodology’ is more broadly a timely and practical blueprint for team, project, and innovation leaders who want to overcome obstacles and set up effective systems and ways of working in organizations of any size or age. 

Barry Schwartz, Why We Work (Simon & Schuster/TED Books, September 1)

The Swarthmore professor, author of the essential The Paradox of Choice, and keen observer of social and economic life has written a short but essential book on how we have lost meaning at work and how we can find it again.  Looking closely at the social and even moral foundations of our work lives, he discusses how we can re-discover purpose, fulfillment and empowerment in the workplace.

Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (Crown, September 29)

How can we better forecast the future?  Wharton Professor Tetlock and bestselling author of Risk Gardner distill the outcomes of decades of research, including ‘The Good Judgment Project’, to share examples of success and failure and to provide practical advice on making better predictions.  The result is an accessible and helpful guide to approaching inevitable uncertainty and making better decisions.

Gillian Tett, The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers (Simon & Schuster, September 1)

The Financial Times editor and author of Saving the Sun explores the tunnel vision in eight organizations and how the people in them have both succumbed to and overcome this ‘Silo Syndrome’.  Adeptly ranging from individual ways of seeing the world through overly departmentalized institutions to the fragmentation of global markets, the concluding lessons will support leaders’ efforts to improve open-mindedness, collaboration and coordination.

Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin, October 6)

One of our most consistently insightful scholars of media and digital culture, MIT professor Turkle offers a valuable meditation on both the loss of face-to-face conversation in lives increasingly shaped by technology and the persisting opportunities for reflection and re-connection.  In particular, she outlines the timeless power of interpersonal communication – or ‘conversation cures’ – to foster empathy, learning, productivity, and community.



David Slocum Faculty Director Executiv MBA

Dr. David Slocum

Academic Advisor and Faculty Member
Berlin School of Creative Leadership