There are certain central truths of leadership that remain timeless. Yet, conventional wisdom doesn't always carry forward to modern times. In fact, the way we lead today is constantly changing; we're constantly learning the best way to move people toward accomplishing a common goal.
To help us navigate the ever-changing leadership landscape, there are leadership innovators that are shedding light on the ancient art of motivating and inspiring people. From advances in social sciences or neurobiology to creative ways to engage and communicate, these thought leaders are shaping how we think about--and view--leadership.
Because I didn't want this to be a rehash of the same names that everyone lists in their "Top Leader" posts, this list of leadership innovators includes some names that may be familiar to you--and some new ones. I intentionally want to shed light on--and introduce you to--the innovators doing remarkable work, and making a real difference.
Each name links to the innovator's website. I encourage you to explore their work, and learn why they made this list. I believe it will become evident that each person is doing important work to help us lead in the 21st century.
Top 50 Leadership Thinkers
Peter Aceto for leading the way as a social CEO and building a social organizations
Shawn Achor for giving richer, deeper meaning to a happy life
Kare Anderson for expanding our awareness and know-how in developing rich, meaningful relationships
Jurgen Appelo for teaching us about what organizations need to look like in the 21st century
Mark Babbitt for teaching us what social leadership is and why it's essential for personal and business success
Max Bazerman for helping leaders learn about the power in noticing the world around them
Laszlo Bock for leading a team who uses human behavior and data to create a great workplaces -- Google
Brene Brown for teaching us how to handle the messiness of vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame
Marcus Buckingham for showing leaders how to measure and access results that improve engagement
David Burkus for expanding our understanding of creativity and leading people
Bo Burlingham for adding transparency to financials through open-book philosophy and building employee fluency in understanding business financials
Anese Cavanaugh for teaching us that how we show up as leaders impacts results and relationships
Bob Chapman for showing us how to be a truly human leader
Clayton Christensen for masterfully guiding our understanding of business disruption and being the best person we can be. What a combination.
Doug Conant for showing us that compassion and thoughtfulness are essential leadership skills today
Amy Cuddy for teaching us how human behavior impacts the quality of our interactions and presence
Carol Dweck for revealing the powerful distinction between a fixed or growth mindset and how each on helps/hinders our effectiveness as coaches and leaders
Traci Fenton for teaching us how to build more democratic workplaces
Mark Fernandes for teaching us how values-based leadership can be personally rewarding and organizationally profitable
Barbara Fredrickson for showing us the meaningful world positivity creates for ourselves and those we lead
Ron Friedman for illuminating the way to better understand how to create great workplaces
Marshall Goldsmith for steadily guiding us to better understand how to improve our leadership performance
Adam Grant for masterfully teaching us why and how givers make the best leaders.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett for helping organizations leverage talent and the diversity in which it comes.
Heidi Grant Halvorson for teaching us how best to be heard and have the impact you want.
Ariana Huffington for passionately showing us how to thrive in life by redefining what success means
Rosabeth Moss Kanter for sharing her insightful conclusions about leadership in a rapidly changing business landscape
Saul Kaplan for his contagious passion in helping businesses innovate the way the create value.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner for sharing their timeless leadership insights into leadership practices that make us more human
Kevin Kruse for shedding light on the engagement puzzle and how to evoke more of from employees.
Patrick Lencioni for giving us keen insights into what makes organization's healthy
Charlene Li for guiding us to more deeply understand the business value of social technology and the mindset needed to thrive in this new world
Sonja Lyubomirsky for shedding much needed light on the role happiness plays in our professional and personal lives.
Roger L. Martin for becoming the go-to-source for business strategy
Scott Mautz for showing us how to use meaning to create a more fulfilling work experience
Susan Mazza for laying out a path that shows us how to genuinely connect with who we are as leaders
Nilofer Merchant for modeling the way to master the social era, an essential outcome for today's digital world
Jacob Morgan for keenly giving us insights into the future of work and how to prepare for it
Jeffrey Pfeffer for closely examining organizational behavior to help us be more effective as leaders and generating desired business outcomes
Dan Pink for exploding open the conversation about what really motivates us and making it understandable
Skip Prichard for practicing what he advocates as a leader and bringing great ideas to light that help the modern leader grow
Tom Rath for teaching us how to recharge and have more energy to live and lead fully
Liz Ryan for advocating for businesses to be more human and for leaders to create human workplaces
Tony Schwartz for sharing his message that managing our energy is a vital skill if we want to thrive in an over-stimulated world
Rich Sheridan for showing everyone that joy at work is not on possible but it's good for business, too
Simon Sinek for revealing and starting an important conversation that central to success is a clear why that goes beyond generating profit
Jesse Lyn Stoner for showing us how collaborative leadership works and why its important
David Sturt for giving us reasons to believe work can be great
Bob Sutton for shining light on what kind of bosses work and which ones don't
Liz Wiseman for blazing forward with keen insights to make more leaders in your organization and how to unleash emerging leaders
A Word about How the List Was Developed
This list of leadership innovators are authors, professors, speakers, in-the-trenches leaders, and management/leadership consultants/advisers. Through their work, they deepen our understanding of the art of leadership. Some have won awards and others have been nominated. Some advance our understanding of motivating and inspiring people to unlock their potential through their leadership roles in organizations. Many in the list have written books I have found to be both inspiring, and actionable.
While it is difficult to measure each person's impact, the list is made up of those whose efforts can at least be seen: through books, blogs, talks, or media coverage. It's for this reason that the list is alphabetical.
How the names were even considered is based on their ubiquity, message, and public acceptance. Clearly, the internet--and the availability and consistency of their message--played a powerful part in helping develop the list.