Editor’s Note: The original article featuring 20 thought leaders in business was published in March 2015, and the updated version with an additional 10 leaders was published August 2017.
In my more than 20 years in strategy and management reporting, I’ve followed hundreds of business thought leaders whom I’ve looked to for wisdom and advice, and I wanted to share them with you. With so many innovative business people, balanced scorecard gurus, scholars, and executives, it was difficult to parse down the list.
In the end, I decided on the top
20 30 men and women—ranked alphabetically by last name—we follow for advice in the management world. If you follow and check in on these people occasionally, we’re confident you’ll pick up a few great tips about management, reporting, leadership, business and growth, productivity, economics, and more.
20 30 Business Thought Leaders
1. Teresa M. Amabile
Teresa Amabile is a Director of Research and Professor of Business Administration at Harvard. She studies how routine activities within an organization influence employee performance. Her latest book, The Progress Principle, teaches managers how to build up morale, engagement, creativity, and productivity within a team. She has presented her research-driven theories in public and private forums around the world, and implements her research and practices in major corporations.
2. Bob Burg
Bob Burg is well-known speaker, author, and business thought leader who focuses on sales. His first book, Endless Referrals, was published in 1993 (and is now in its third edition). Endless Referrals focuses on the importance and power behind building relationships. Pinned at the top of Burg’s Twitter feed is a tweet that reads, “The single greatest ‘people skill’ is a highly developed & authentic interest in the other person.” His latest book series (including The Go-Giver, a parable-style tale) places emphasis on (surprise!) giving rather than getting. If you’re in a sales-based position, Burg’s tips will certainly be helpful.
3. Clayton Christensen
Oxford and Harvard graduate Clayton Christensen is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on strategic thought and innovation. He has authored and co-authored dozens of bestselling books and journal articles throughout the years, including The Innovator’s Dilemma. The Harvard business school professor is also the figurehead behind Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank dedicated to education and health care reform.
4. Lee Cockerell
As the former vice president of operations for Walt Disney World, Lee Cockerell knows a thing or two about excellence in the service management industry. His last two books—both published in 2016—are aptly titled Time Management Magic and Career Magic. The former is focused on making the best use of your time, the latter focused on how to handle the high and low points of your career. Check out his website or his latest tweets for more details.
5. Cheryl Snapp Conner
Public Relations (PR) and communication expert Cheryl Conner has created a name for herself through bridging the gap between communication and business strategy. She is the founder and managing partner of Snapp Conner PR, an industry-leading firm that has worked with dozens of large companies worldwide. Conner is a regular contributor to Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.
6. Lolly Daskal
Lolly Daskal is considered one of the foremost leadership experts in the world and is hired by some of the top executives around the globe to help them make a better impact in their organizations and beyond. Her latest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, focuses on how to become a better leader—as do the many articles you can find on her blog. If you want to learn to become a stronger leader from a pro, make sure you’re following Daskal.
7. Steve Denning
Steve Denning expertise lies in the parallels between storytelling and management. He works with companies worldwide, consulting on innovative new business techniques and practices. If you’re looking to turn traditional management thinking on it’s head and understand management in a new way, Denning’s latest book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, is a must-read.
8. Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal is a Stanford-educated entrepreneur, researcher, consultant, and author who focuses on a topic he calls “behavioral design”—a mix of psychology, technology, and business, according to his blog. His 2014 book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products is an ideal read if you’re building a product and want to know how you can make it better. Check out his website, and give him a follow on Twitter—he tweets good stuff regularly.
9. Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman is three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist. He has written six books, focusing primarily about environmentalism, globalization, and foreign and domestic policy. While Friedman isn’t a business strategist, strictly speaking, he has drawn parallels between policy and international business in his writing and his ideas are certainly valuable. Find out more about Thomas Friedman in this profile from The New Yorker.
10. Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell is an author, public speaker, and staff writer for The New Yorker. His five books deal frequently with cognitive and social psychology—often as they relate to business, thought, success, and intelligence. You can read one of his most popular articles in The New Yorker, The Talent Myth, here.
11. Seth Godin
Seth Godin is well-known for his extensive work in marketing and leadership, and was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 2013. He has authored 18 books—including bestsellers Purple Cow and Tribes—and has made his mark by helping individuals learn to market their businesses effectively. Godin is known for his extremely short blog posts. (He recently added one that was a whopping 70 words long.) If you want an easy way to stay up-to-date with what he publishes, follow him on Twitter—he only tweets his blog posts.
12. Vijay Govindarajan
A professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, Govindarajan (commonly known as VG) is considered to be one of the best business school professors in the world. VG is a leading authority on strategy and innovation and has worked alongside numerous Fortune 500 management teams to create better business strategies. He is passionate about innovation in developing countries; you can read about that in his blog.
13. Lynda Gratton
Lynda Gratton is an expert in organization behavior. She is a Professor and Director of the Human Resources (HR) program at the London Business School. When she isn’t teaching, Gratton is writing—she’s written eight books that examine HR and strategy—or acting as an organization consultant for other large firms.
14. Tim Harford
Tim Harford is a Financial Times columnist and well-known author. His first book The Undercover Economist takes an unconventional and entertaining look at economic theories. His other works include Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, which fights the adage that cleanliness is next to godliness. Whether you read one of his books or his well-known “Dear Economist” column, you’ll walk away with a fresh perspective.
15, 16. Chip and Dan Heath
Chip and Dan Heath are business strategists, authors, public speakers, and brothers. They’ve co-authored and published three books—Decisive, Switch, and Made To Stick—all of which have been best-sellers. Chip is a professor at the Stanford School of Business and Dan is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center—The Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship—where he founded the Change Academy.
17. Sylvia Ann Hewlett
Hewlett is a woman of many talents—she’s an economist, renowned speaker, and CEO of a consulting firm (Hewlett Consulting Partners) and non-profit think tank (Talent Innovation). She’s penned 10 books, including her latest, Executive Presence, in which she discusses how your perception of yourself shapes your advancement in the workplace.
18. Ryan Holmes
Ryan Holmes is the founder and CEO of Hootsuite as well as a self-proclaimed “future enthusiast, inventor, [and] hacker.” He is a frequent contributor to Inc., where he writes about social media, technology, and leadership. His Twitter is constantly updated with good content; from a Forbes podcast interview to a LinkedIn article he authored on running Hootsuite from his iPhone (an experiment of sorts), you’ll find a plethora of good thought leadership.
19. Herminia Ibarra
Herminia Ibarra is a professor at INSEAD Graduate Business School. Ibarra is an expert in leadership and professional development, and has been published many times in leading management journals. If you’re looking to find out why and how people reinvent themselves within the workplace, check out Ibarra’s latest book, Working Identity.
20. Sheena S. Iyengar
Author of the critically-acclaimed book The Art of Choosing and Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar is an expert on the subject of choice. Her text delves into whether choice is a culturally-constructed concept, and how much control we truly have over our decisions. If you are interested in understanding the choices you, your co-workers, or your employees make, take a closer look into Iyengar’s research.
21. Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is a highly regarded psychology and public affairs professor at Princeton University and a renowned author. He’s one of the most influential psychologists on the planet and a Nobel Prize winner for his work in behavioral economics. If you haven’t read his 2011 bestseller Thinking, Fast And Slow—which examines the different ways we think and how those thought processes impact the way we make choices—you’re missing out. While Kahneman doesn’t have Twitter or a blog, you can get more of him from this TED talk he gave in 2010.
22. Rosabeth Moss Kanter
A business professor at Harvard University and chair and director of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, Rosabeth Moss Kanter has focused her life’s work and research on strategy thought leadership. Kanter has authored or co-authored a tremendous number of articles and case studies through Harvard Business Review and other publishing houses. Take this article, “Workplace Rage,” for example. She asserts (via her Twitter page) that “high-performance cultures require leaders who invest in people & improve their work conditions.” You’ll find various other innovative topics of research if you give her a follow.
23, 24. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
In 1992, Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton developed the Balanced Scorecard, a revolutionary strategic performance management system that aligns business strategy and goals in organizations worldwide. Their work in strategy implementation and performance management is considered to be second to none.They have co-authored five books and eight articles. You can read more about the Balanced Scorecard in this Harvard Business School working paper.
25. John P. Kotter
John Kotter—a Harvard professor, best-selling author, and acclaimed public speaker—is an expert on change and leadership. He founded Kotter International, a management consulting firm, to help organizations worldwide lead more effectively during times of change. He has authored 10 books, including Accelerate, the 2014 Strategy+Business Best Business Book award winner.
26. Steven D. Levitt
Economist Steven Levitt is widely known for applying economic theory to subjects that are not typically examined. His 2005 bestseller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything discusses topics such as financial and criminal impacts of drug dealing, larger police forces, and abortion. Levitt and co-author Steven J. Dubner have also penned SuperFreakonomics and Think Like A Freak, and have been both highly praised and criticised for their work.
27. Rita Gunther McGrath
Acclaimed public speaker, Columbia Business School professor, and leadership consultant Rita McGrath is considered an expert in business strategy. She often speaks and writes about competitive strategy, handling business adversity, innovation, and organizational leadership. Her latest book, The End of Competitive Advantage, argues that in order to find success, organizations need to take another look at how they shape their competitive strategy.
28. Daniel Pink
Armed with a Yale Law degree and years of political policy under his belt, Daniel Pink offers a unique perspective on what he calls “the changing workplace.” He has authored five bestselling books, including the New York Times bestseller Drive: The Surprising Truth Behind What Motivates Us. If you are interested in learning more about the intersections between human behavior and the workplace, check out Pink’s work.
29. Don Tapscott
On the forefront of media innovation and the social impact of technology is Don Tapscott. He has authored and co-authored 15 books during his career, including the best-selling management book of 2007, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. If you are interested in how technology is changing the business landscape, Tapscott’s work is a must-read.
30. Margie Warrell
Margie Warrell’s list of accomplishments is long—she is a Forbes magazine columnist, a commentator for ABC News and the Today Show, a keynote speaker, and a bestselling author. Her work focuses on “Living Bravely”—her tag line—and how to identify and fix anything that could be holding you back from living your best life. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, her most recent book Make Your Mark: A Guidebook for the Brave Hearted offers seven steps to help you reach that goal.
All 30 of these individuals offer highly sought-after insights and business thought leadership, and are shaping and redefining business leadership today. Be sure to follow these thought leaders on Twitter or bookmark their websites for excellent business and strategy advice.