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  • Writer's pictureEva-Maria Zoll

Get inspired: 24 books and videos for more human leadership

Here is my personal list of 24 recommendations for books, articles, videos which have shaped and inspired my thinking and behavior towards leadership, the way I work, and in general, how to be a good human being:)

I personally believe, in order to form a decent understanding of leadership and be able to unlearn and develop a new mindset about what “leading” means in the 21st century, there is a bunch of different perspectives to be taken into account. I’ll focus my reading recommendations on five areas.

1. Our emotional landscape

2. Unleashed creativity-The oil of the 21st century

3. Our mindset

4. Femininity and the new masculinity

5. The general state of society

The number one area is to understand your emotional landscape. Even though we are so connected and constantly in touch with each other, developing strong human connections and relationships with each other, seems like the most complex thing in the world. Our organizational structures are changing and shifting dramatically at the moment. Being able to build strong relationships at your workplace won’t be a luxury but a necessity to work in flat and fluid structures. To do so, we have to look at our own emotional landscape in order to understand the other. Second, comes creativity. Unleashed human creativity is the oil of the 21. Century. So if you still believe that creativity is the secret skill of artists and designers, you better up your game and dig into it to expand your understanding of it and how creativity is very closely tied into the shift and the need from masculine to feminine leadership qualities. Thirdly, big paradigm and mindset shifts require us to check in with our current mindset first in order to understand if and how we can and should change it.

Fourthly, untangling femininity and the new masculinity and what that all means are a hot topic these days. How do we talk to each other? What is allowed? How does it change and shape our understanding of ourselves if roles and known behavior structures are being massively disrupted these days? As a fifth area, let’s have a look at what is happening in society. How is this world-changing? Why are so many paradigms shifting? Where do we come from, and where do we go?

Here we go.

Our emotional landscape

For everyone interested in understanding the anatomy of failure, read this book. It will open your eyes to your professional and private life. So no matter if you are wading through a painful and mean breakup or massively messed up at work, this book will walk you right in the arena of shame and failure.

Brené Brown´s TED talk about the power of vulnerability has been viewed over 34 million times. A number that speaks for itself I guess. If you want to dig deeper into her research about vulnerability, read this book.

Another one of Brené´s books where she takes a closer look at shame and how it stands in our way to unleash our full potential. This book has helped me a lot in getting a better understanding of the invisible emotional net spun in different organizational structures.

The latest book from Brené Brown explores the human need to belong. It’s been deeply fascinating to read about it and relate it to company culture and organizational design.

5. Würde, Was uns stark macht-als Einzelne und als Gesellschaft / Dignity What makes us strong, as individuals and as a society

The latest book from Germany´s leading neuroscientists talks about dignity. It’s been one of those books which finally gave me some proper vocabulary to talk about something which I have always felt but couldn’t put in words. Hüther explains in easy words, why the 21. century is all about bringing dignity back to the workplace. And how this is not just a nice to have but why we better do it if we want our brains to thrive at the highest capacity. ( The book is not available in English yet, but I still wanted to include it in this list because it has to be read.)

The concept of non-violent communication from Marshall Rosenberg is nothing new, for sure. Not at all. When I read it in 2016 for the first time though, I was struck by it because it feels, he still serves us a lot of interesting tools, needed for working in fluid, agile, flat structures.

To be very honest, I have not completely finished this book but do think, it’s a very valuable read for everyone wanting to know more about giving feedback, receiving it and why your way of doing it might not have been the best and can use a bit of an update. Here is also a really good article on it with the essence of it.

Unleashed creativity: The oil of the 21st century

When I read this book a while back, my former colleague (a designer) gave me a funky look at said, everyone knows that one right? Well, yes and no. It surprised me, again and again, to observe how many people outsource their own creativity to designers, marketing people, or artists because they’ve been told that this is the way how our world works. There are creative people and then there are uncreative people. For me, this is one of the most dangerous concepts we need to relearn as fast as possible in order to unleash everyone’s creativity to the fullest potential.

Yes. Some of you might think, why the heck did she put this classic book in here. I hear you. I put it in, as an example for the thousands of books out there about design thinking. And to be honest, because it’s the only book, I’ve read about design thinking after I finished my training as a Design Thinker. If you have never read anything about Design Thinking, well, start with this one. And if you want more, read the article from my friend Boris from goodpatch here.

Interesting insights from Ed Catmull, one of the founders from Pixar on how to and how not to do creativity:) I have not finished it yet, but will in the next weeks.

Also a classic in my opinion. For everyone who hasn’t read it, I think it’s a great book to give some more context and research about static and dynamic mindsets and ties in well with non-violent communication, failure culture, and creativity.

I really enjoyed reading this classic from Tony Hsieh because he radically made culture and people a #1 priority for his business Zappos from the very beginning and shares how he did it and his thinking behind it.

Untangling the new masculinity and femininity

Justin Baldoni, a famous US actor has done something very very smart and brave. He put a show together where he invites men from all different areas and walks of life and talks about everything men hardly ever talk about. The best thing, he films it and makes it available to the public. It’s been really inspiring to see his efforts towards having those difficult conversations no matter if you are a man or not and crash those gender stereotypes big time.

This is his TED talk from Justin Baldoni for the ones who have little time to understand, why it’s not just women who are redefining their role in society big time, but that it’s men too who better stop buying into the old masculine roles and shape up a new definition of what it means to be a man these days.

One of my heroes, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie shares her perspective on feminism.


This article has influenced me a lot in my role and work in the past. For everyone working in a growing company and who is in a position to actively build and grow it, keep this in mind.

Really interesting book for everyone interested in flatter structures and self-organizing teams. I would probably even go as far and say, it’s a must-read for everyone interested in non-hierarchical structures.

This book was a present from a friend of mine and I have to say, I’m highly skeptical about that kind of book. I have to admit though, that the author managed to pull together quite a few interesting concepts and methods in order to understand, screen, delete and develop your mindset.

I think the title says it all. We keep getting stuck in a very limited way of thinking. But this doesn’t bring us anywhere especially because it’s driven by fear. To cook up big visions we need to be in a mindset of abundance to cut through the noise and overload of information out there.

Another German book which I believe is not available in English. It’s a good book which ties a lot of concepts together, works with nice visualization, and brings some clarity to this big chaotic world out there.

Society, paradigm and structure shifts

I added those books because I’m currently reading all of them (Yes, I usually read a lot of books ca. 20 books at the same time. No joke:)) and they have inspired a lot of interesting new thoughts and gave me some really sharp and interesting perspectives about our past and the world we are creating.

to be continued....


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