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Summer 2015's Reading List for Creative Leaders

June 25, 2015

The opening months of 2015 brought important and helpful new titles for creative leaders. Among the works providing fresh ideas have been Herminia Ibarra’s Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, Google VP for People Operations Laszlo Bock’s manifesto, Work Rules!, Tim Leberecht’s similarly far-reaching call to re-think business and work, The Business Romantic, and Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s new Steve Jobs biography. For summer, a new shelf of books promises to illuminate major concerns for leaders ranging from social and economic megatrends and entrepreneurship to enhanced team dynamics and creative thinking.

Brené Brown, Rising Strong: The Reckoning, the Rumble, the Revolution  (Spiegel & Grau, August 25)

The new title from psychologist and best-selling author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection extends her research and insights on how to respond to vulnerability, disappointment and failure.  By becoming more fully aware of and owning our own stories, she argues, we are better able to succeed as leaders of ourselves and others.

Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips, The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs (Simon & Schuster, June 23)

This much-anticipated book extends Clay and Phillips’ ‘misfit’ project on the energetic innovation occurring at the margins of more formal institutions, economies, and societies. The original research covers a range of such visionaries and activists, from Hispanic gang leaders to Somali pirates, and argues convincingly for greater appreciation of their organizational and economic creativity.

Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All Trends (PublicAffairs, May 12)

From directors of the McKinsey Global Institute comes a far-reaching overview of the four interrelated forces shaping the global society, culture and economics. Their discussion of emerging urbanization and markets, accelerating technological change and impact, an aging world, and greater global connections of people, trade and capital serves as an invaluable guide to the future.

Linda Holbeche, The Agile Organization: How to Build an Innovative, Sustainable and Resilient Business (Kogan Paul, June 28)

A leading organizational development and human resources specialist lays out an accessible guide for leaders wanting to build greater adaptability and resilience in individual relationships, teams and organizations. The result is an engaging work that combines theory with case studies, self-assessments, checklists and other tools to help enhance the capacity of people to recover from setbacks and help to transform organizations. 

Jessica Jackley, with a Foreword by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration From Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least (Spiegel & Grau, June 23)

The co-founder of Kiva, the first online microlending platform, shares stories of successful social entrepreneurship from around the world. Consistently moving, the individual portraits offer lessons in the power of adaptability, character and resilience to generate meaning, create businesses, and make societies better regardless of resources or circumstances.

Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone, Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations (HarperBusiness, July 7)

Teams have become increasingly central to the work in businesses and economies marked by the imperatives of greater speed, agility, innovation and worker happiness. The publisher of Forbes Media and author of last year’s The Soft Edge and a renowned Silicon Valley journalist draw on leading research, notably from brain science, to generate practical solutions to the persistent challenges of planning, designing, and leading higher-performing teams.

Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur, Collaborative Intelligence: Thinking with People Who Think Differently (Spiegel & Grau, August 11)

Collaborative Intelligence, or ’CQ,’ measures our ability to interact and innovate with others. Integrating decades of psychological and organizational research, a cognitive neuroscientist and executive ‘thinking partner’ share strategies and practical techniques for mapping the different talents of team members and valuing intellectual diversity as a crucial resource for (rather than obstacle to) collaboration.  

General Stanley McChrystal, Chris Fussell, Tantum Collins, and David Silverman, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World (Portfolio, May 12)

Contrary to the stereotypical view of regimentation and lockstep authority, the military has actively developed new approaches to dealing with the uncertainty and complexity of the twenty-first century. Here, the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and author of the memoir, My Share of the Task, outlines specific and tested rules for more consistently effective leadership.

Martin Reeves, Knut Haanaes, and Janmejaya Sinha, Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach (Harvard Business Review Press, June 9)

Recognizing the increasing speed an uncertainty in business, the Boston Consulting Group has devised an innovative ‘Strategy Palette’ that allows leaders to determine the best strategy ideas and practices based on their specific environment and priorities. The result is an adaptable method for deploying the appropriate approach in order to Be Big, Be Fast, Be First, Be the Orchestrator, or simply Be Viable.

Brian J. Robertson, Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World (Henry Holt & Co., June 2)

An overdue book-length examination of the often misunderstood approach to re-distributing organizational authority and decision-making.  Using interviews with such practitioners as Zappo’s Tony Hsieh and Twitter and Medium’s Evan Williams, a leading advocate argues that Holacracy is a system that can empower employees and enable organizations to pursue their purpose more effectively.

Tina Seelig, Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World (HarperOne, May 26)

The neuroscientist, Stanford Engineering professor, and writer of the best-selling ‘crash course on creativity,’ inGenius, has returned with a new guide to implementing imaginative ideas. Among her helpful and actionable ideas are practical ways to adopt the perspective of potential customers, to experiment with ideas, and to determine more accurately what will succeed in the marketplace.    

Itay Talgam, The Ignorant Maestro: How Great Leaders Inspire Unpredictable Brilliance (Portfolio, May 19)

Expanding on an all-time favorite TEDTalk, ‘Lead Like the Great Conductors,’ the Israeli-born consultant and ‘conductor of people’ has produced an excellent volume on new themes of leadership drawn from ‘the music of business.’ In doing so, he offers memorable accounts of the diverse approaches of six legendary orchestral conductors, from Toscanini to von Karajan to Bernstein.

Dave Trott, One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking (MacMillan, June 4)

The British ad legend and fierce champion of creativity offers more of the inimitable inspiration familiar to readers of Creative Mischief and Predatory Thinking as well as his consistently incisive and contrarian blog.  Confronting the orthodoxies, conventions and hypocrisies of business, this latest ‘Masterclass’ uses evocative stories and thought experiments to help readers to think different.

Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ecco, May 19)

A biography by the award-winning Bloomberg Businessweek feature writer of one of the most daring entrepreneurs of our time, a ‘contemporary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs.’ The volume traces Musk’s life and career from South Africa through PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and SolarCity and offers the fullest portrait yet of the driven and endlessly energetic creative leader. 

Jim Whitehurst, with foreword by Gary Hamel, The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance (Harvard Business Review Press, May 12)

While some of today’s most admired and creatively successful businesses, including Pixar, Whole Foods and Google, are celebrated for their openness, a fuller understanding of how their practices can work more widely has been lacking. Now, the CEO of Red Hat, a former Delta Airlines COO and BCG consultant, outlines how leaders can reinvent their organizations with greater transparency, participation, and community and, in the process, enhance and sustain performance.

Stephen Witt, How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking, June 26)

A well-wrought narrative of the extraordinary transformation of the music business in the Internet age.  Weaving together well-researched histories of industry moguls, pirates and smugglers, inventors and engineers, and more everyday factory workers and music consumers, journalist Witt ably conveys how changes in media and entertainment occurred amidst the complexity of the online world.

David Slocum

Faculty Director
Berlin School of Creative Leadership
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