Year Ahead: 10 books on leadership to read in 2017


After an utterly dark and divisive year of political leadership, people will surely be looking for fresh professional inspiration in 2017: books that help us stick to our resolutions at work, that offer surprising and uplifting stories from other leaders, that provide lessons from history about consequential leaders, and books that simply give us ideas for working smarter, faster or better.

To compile this year’s list of leadership books to watch for in the year ahead, we combed through publishers’ lists and picked a few that we believe will make an impact. We also asked for suggestions from the authors and professors we’ve interviewed on the topic over the past year, ranging from Stanford University’s Bob Sutton and Wharton guru Adam Grant (no, he did not recommend his own 2017 book) to popular business book author Daniel Pink and Oxford University political science professor Archie Brown (whose book Bill Gates recently picked as one of his favorites).

The result is a wide-ranging mix of traditional business books, inspirational tales of achievement and biographies of current and former political leaders, most of which will be published in the first half of next year. (For fun, we considered some non-serious options — “Oh the Meetings You’ll Go To!” a parody of the popular Dr. Seuss graduation book by a pseudonymous “Dr. Suits” — but ultimately stuck to more traditional choices.) Below, our preview of the leadership books to watch for in 2017:

“Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace”

- FWBP Digital Partners -

By Christine Porath, Dec. 27

This Georgetown business school professor’s book — which was recommended more than once — officially launches on Tuesday, close enough to the new year to make our list. In a world where divisive politics has undermined civil behavior outside the workplace, Christine Porath’s book is bound to be particularly resonant within it. Sutton, author of the popular management book “The No A–Hole Rule,” called it “a message the whole world needs” in an email to OnLeadership.

“Own It: The Power of Women at Work”

By Sallie Krawcheck, Jan. 17

- Advertisement -

There’s a rash of books aimed at women and their careers coming in the new year — with everyone from TV anchor Nicole Lapin to first daughter (lady?) Ivanka Trump adding their contributions to a genre that became publishing gold after Sheryl Sandberg’s smash hit “Lean In.” Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck’s book will be among the first and most notable, given her lengthy career at the top of some of America’s biggest banks and her more recent investment in the professional women’s network Ellevate.


By Scott Sonenshein, Feb. 7

Recommended by Grant and Sutton, “Stretch” examines the “science of resourcefulness,” aimed at helping people learn to get the most out of what they have rather than constantly chasing more. With a focus on the value of constraint, Rice University management professor Scott Sonenshein was praised by Sutton for his “skill as a writer and ability to translate.”

- Advertisement -

“Madame President”

By Helene Cooper, March 7

No, this is not a Democrat’s fan fiction of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Rather, it is New York Times journalist Helene Cooper’s biography of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female president in African history. Cooper, who grew up in Liberia, tells the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s personal story and examines her leadership of the Liberian women’s movement, promising a look at one of the few women to run a nation not only in Africa, but anywhere.

“Eyes Wide Open”

By Isaac Lidsky, March 14

Fans of the “Saved by the Bell” spin-off series may remember Isaac Lidsky as “Weasel” during the 1990s — yes, really — but that’s just one of the surprising elements of this entrepreneur’s life story. Suggested by Dartmouth Tuck School of Business professor Sydney Finkelstein, “Eyes Wide Open” not only shares Lidsky’s remarkable tale — blind by the age of 25, a onetime Supreme Court law clerk to Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Conner, now CEO of a $150 million construction services company. It also provides life lessons on surmounting fears, avoiding assumptions and responding to circumstances.

“Radical Candor”

By Kim Scott, March 14

A former Google executive and faculty member at Apple University, Kim Scott is a CEO coach in Silicon Valley who believes, says Pink, that “workplaces are too nice – really ‘fake nice’ – and that we’d all be better off with unvarnished honesty, especially when it comes to evaluating performance.” Her solution, “radical candor,” sits at the “sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on one side and ruinously empathetic on the other,” according to the book’s synopsis.

“Option B”

By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, April 24

The Facebook chief operating officer’s sophomore book, written with popular management author and Wharton professor Adam Grant, has the makings of a mega hit. Named after the advice a friend gave Sandberg following the sudden death of her husband, Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg, the book is focused on recovering from adversity. While it’s likely to have a wider appeal than most business books — it includes stories of people who recovered from hardships such as divorce, sexual assault and imprisonment — it’s could appeal to leaders wanting to build their own resilience, too.

“The Captain Class: The Driving Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams”

By Sam Walker, May 16

The premise alone is intriguing: The former sports editor of the Wall Street Journal, now a deputy page one editor, spent years coming up with a list of the 16 most dominant teams in sports, and then looked for what they had in common. His answer? Each team had what the book’s summary calls a “captain” — “a singular leader who drove it to sustained, historic periods of greatness.” Sam Walker then studied the seven attributes those leaders exhibited, such as doggedness or nonverbal communication skills, that aren’t always heralded as the most important leadership traits.

“The Push”

By Tommy Caldwell, May 16

Two years ago, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made the first free ascent on El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park, a climbing feat marveled at around the world. At the time, Jorgeson, also a public speaker, said he hoped the achievement “inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will.” Now Caldwell has written a book that could help with that — a memoir about the hardships he’s faced and what he learned in the process.

“Gorbachev: His Life and Times”

By William Taubman, Sept. 7

Many CEOs say they learn more about leadership — where it goes right and where it goes wrong — by reading biographies of historical figures, rather than the traditional business fare. Next year will see the release of a big one: Amherst College professor William Taubman’s biography of the last Soviet leader, more than a decade in the making, will “put Gorbachev’s leadership in its political context, and be enriched by the interviews Taubman has conducted with Gorbachev himself,” Oxford’s Brown wrote in an email. Taubman’s definitive 2003 biography of former Russian leader Nikita Kruschev won the Pulitzer Prize.