The 18 new voices re-energising management

28 February 2018 -

Pioneering leaders These are the 18 writers, thinkers and leaders whose ideas will shape the way we lead our organisations.

Emma De Vita

Who are the new voices shaping management and leadership? Whose views will carry weight and be heard in boardrooms?

Our team of CMI experts, Professional Manager editors, and advisers at The Conversation (which sources independent news and views from the academic and research community) has picked out an 18-strong huddle of writers, thinkers and leaders whose fresh new ideas will influence the way we lead our organisations in the next few years.

Our selection of challenging new ideas ranges from how to rebuild public trust in institutions to the rise of artificial intelligence to workplace considerations such as culture, diversity and how to be an empathetic manager.

These are ideas you can apply, and we believe that they should be widely understood. As Professor André Spicer, one of our 18, puts it: “Too much management is bulls**t-handling. Great leaders need to spot the empty talk and stop it. They should create lots more space for their people to engage with things that have substance. It will also make their followers’ lives much nicer.”

Joelle Emerson

Find evidence to show diversity’s value

The race is on to find a way to accelerate progress in inclusivity and diversity, and nowhere is the pressure felt more heavily than in Silicon Valley.

Former women’s rights employment lawyer and now entrepreneur Joelle Emerson has founded a strategy firm, Paradigm, that helps companies develop effective evidence-based diversity and inclusivity strategies.

Based in San Francisco, Emerson is a young, outspoken commentator on inclusivity across gender and colour, particularly in Silicon Valley startup and tech culture.

She recently argued in Harvard Business Review that multiculturalism, which stresses the recognition and inclusion of group differences, should not be ditched by firms seeking to include the majority. One of a new wave of inclusion experts, Emerson’s approach relies on data analytics for evidence of whether or not a strategy is working.

Emerson’s clients include Airbnb, Pinterest, Slack and Twitter

Read her Harvard Business Review articles at

Ellen Pao

Embrace inclusivity, everyone

Accelerating diversity in tech – top of the sector’s to-do list – is Ellen Pao’s mission, and she is using her personal experience of discrimination to win listeners.

The former venture capitalist and now tech CEO has sparked debate in the upper echelons of business about workplace gender and race discrimination.

Pao’s experience of bringing a discrimination case against her former employer in 2015 has made her an important new voice and activist, whose influence is strong within previously impenetrable finance and tech circles.

Pao’s high-profile discrimination case exposed the tech world’s toxic culture

Read her book Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

Demis Hassabis

Give everyone fair access to advanced technologies

If the ultimate purpose of artificial intelligence (AI) is to advance human achievement, how can we ensure the technology is used for the best reasons, does not run away from us and stays in the right hands?

That’s the big ethical and moral question that Demis Hassabis, British co-founder of AI company DeepMind, is chewing over. He is hugely influential in business circles, not least because of the scale of his ambition for the technology he helped create. “I believe that AI will become a kind of meta-solution for scientists to deploy, enhancing our daily lives and allowing us all to work more quickly and effectively,” he has said.

Yet he warns that this opportunity to enrich and advance humanity can only be achieved if “we can deploy these tools broadly and fairly, fostering an environment in which everyone can participate in and benefit from them”.

Creator of the AlphaGo program, which, in a landmark moment for AI, defeated the world champion at the game of Go 

Watch his 2017 RSA lecture on YouTube

Yuval Noah Harari

Leaders must confront the most heady questions

Are human brains anything more than algorithms? Is reality just data processing? What role will leaders have when algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

To pose just one leadership question thrown up by the groundbreaking Israeli academic: how will career planning work if lifespans extend exponentially?

In 2018, Harari has a new book out, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which will doubtless intrigue and alarm many leaders.

His TED Talk, ‘What explains the rise of humans?’, has more than 2.6 million views

Read his two worldwide bestsellers: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Brené Brown

Leaders must show their vulnerability

We live in uncertain, unsettling times. Having the courage to face that uncertainty with emotional exposure is what makes a true leader, argues author Brené Brown.

“I believe that vulnerability – the willingness to be ‘all in’ even when you know it can mean failing and hurting – is brave,” says Brown, a professor of social work at the University of Houston. Her research ignited a global conversation about vulnerability, daring to fail and building resilience.

As well as being the author of the bestsellers Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, she is the founder of Brave Leaders, an organisation that brings courage-building programmes to teams, leaders and entrepreneurs.

32 million views of her TED Talk, ‘The power of vulnerability’ 

Follow her @BreneBrown

Terence Tse and Mark Esposito

We need new models for identifying market opportunity

We are living in a world of constant and ever faster change, argues Terence Tse, co-author of Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using DRIVE to Harness the Power of Today’s Megatrends.

“To us, it is ever more important to understand what is happening from multiple perspectives and how things are connected,” Tse explains.

The DRIVE framework identifies five important trends: demographics; resource scarcity; inequalities; volatility, scale and complexity; and enterprising dynamics.

“We believe that traditional business analytical tools are becoming less able to help identify new market opportunities. DRIVE is different because it is far more encompassing, comprehensive, universal and timeless,” says Tse. “The goal is to help managers make more informed choices now.”

Esposito teaches at Harvard University; Tse is an associate professor of finance at ESCP Europe Business School 

Rachel Botsman

Understand how trust is formed

Trust in institutions is evaporating. But, instead of disappearing, trust has shifted to a ‘distributed model’ where we give it away to strangers, online bots and algorithms. The question that arises is: have we given away our trust too easily? And what will be the consequences if we have?

These issues are picked up by Rachel Botsman, a visiting academic at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Best known for coining the term ‘collaborative consumption’, Botsman’s TED Talks about trust have been watched more than four million times.

In her new book, Who Can You Trust?, she argues that “managers need to recognise that the conventions of how trust is built, managed, lost and repaired are being turned upside down. Companies have to let go of an era where trust could be produced and controlled centrally, by them.”

Over 1.2 million views of her TED Talk, ‘The currency of the new economy is trust’ 

Follow her @rachelbotsman

Joost Minnaar and Pim de Morree

True innovators share certain qualities

How can work be made more fun? Two Dutchmen, Joost Minnaar and Pim de Morree (above, third and fourth from left, with their fellow ‘Corporate Rebels’), have adopted this as their personal mission, producing a cult blog that is catapulting them up the management-thinker rankings.

They quit their frustrating corporate jobs to visit the world’s most inspiring organisations and share insights as they go. They have compiled a list of 60 companies that they want to visit to uncover their often radical ways of managing and leading. The self-styled Corporate Rebels have identified eight traits of these highly successful organisations.

Minnaar and de Morree will publish their first book in 2018 

Read about them at

André Spicer

Learn not to be stupid

Stupidity within organisations is endemic. Professor André Spicer hopes to help managers understand why smart people do stupid things – and help them stop.

“Too much management is bulls**t-handling,” he says. “Great leaders need to spot the empty talk and stop it. They should create lots more space for their people to engage with things that have substance. It will also make their followers’ lives much nicer.”

Professor of organisational behaviour at Cass Business School

Read his books Business Bullshit  and The Stupidity Paradox

Patrick Debois, Jez Humble, Gene Kim and John Willis

Understand the whole organisational system

The collaboration and open communication favoured by ‘agile’ advocates are important management principles that are crossing over from tech project management.

The next big piece of innovative thinking to influence how we manage could be ‘DevOps’. The term was coined by Patrick Debois, CEO of, who says the idea promotes mutual respect and greater empathy between all parts of a business so that the whole system is optimised.

“Instead of focusing on their own business unit, managers and leaders will need to optimise for the whole of the company,” he explains. “The first step is understanding the entire system: put all groups together and map out the system.”

Five years of collaboration and 2,000 hours of contributions between the authors went into the book  

Read The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, & Security in Technology Organizations

Simon Sinek

Managers must dig deep and find the why

The way to enjoy career success is to focus on the meaning you derive from your work. For company success, the same concept applies. Leadership guru Simon Sinek’s new book, Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, will be required reading for managers and leaders alike. One of the biggest stars of the TED Talk scene, Sinek’s books are also huge.

Find Your Why is the follow-up to the global bestseller Start With Why. Sinek has presented his ideas to Fortune 100 companies, startups, government and the US military.

An interview with Sinek, talking about what millennials want, went viral, with 180 million views 

Watch his TED Talk, ‘How great leaders inspire action’, at

Susan David

Be emotionally agile; develop positive behaviours

‘Emotionally agile’ people experience the same stresses and setbacks as anyone else. The difference is that the emotionally agile know how to unhook themselves from unhelpful patterns, and how to create personal success through better habits and behaviours. Being able to bounce back from upsets is what makes us resilient.

Susan David’s original thinking builds on Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence, and taps into the twin executive preoccupations of self-development and resilience at work. David is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital.

Leading an all-women expedition to Antarctica that’s being filmed as a documentary

Read her book Emotional Agility

Satya Nadella

Only empathy can unlock change

Putting empathy at the heart of a corporate turnaround is a surprising idea, but one that has worked for the Indian CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella. He has won many C-suite admirers since taking the helm at the ailing tech behemoth, and for detailing his approach in Hit Refresh.

This approach incorporates a personal leadership philosophy based on empathy, and changing the corporate culture from one of a team of ‘know-it-alls’ to one of ‘learn-it-alls’. At Microsoft, this meant changing the culture from a ‘fixed mindset’, where everyone wanted to be the smartest in the room to a ‘growth mindset’ that prizes uncovering weaknesses quickly to turn them into strengths.

By asking Microsoft employees to put themselves in the shoes of their colleagues and customers, by creating a ‘human mission’ for the firm, and by eliminating ego at work, Nadella has put culture change centre stage in new management thinking.

Cricket-loving CEO of Microsoft, and only the third chief executive in the company’s history 

Read Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone

Jake Knapp

Short-term project sprints should become the norm

How can you use agile principles to solve any big problem or test any big idea reliably and effectively? Jake Knapp’s book Sprint outlines a design process that can help do this in a focused, five-day, concentrated effort.

“Sprints work because they emphasise individual work (rather than aimless group brainstorms), realistic prototypes (rather than abstract debates) and opinionated decisions by a leader (rather than groupthink),” he explains. “We’ve found that sprints work for all kinds of problems… It’s a pretty versatile method.”

Knapp’s emphasis on tackling one thing at a time without distraction also taps into the backlash against continual multitasking.

Former Google Ventures designer

Read Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

Adam Grant

Resilience is a muscle that needs training

Resilience is one of the hottest topics in self-development, but what happens when our reserves are drained? Wharton management and psychology professor Adam Grant argues that we are not born with a fixed amount of resilience – instead it is a muscle that everyone can build.

The influential academic co-authored Option B with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in 2017, turning his intellectual attention towards facing adversity and cultivating resilience. He is an expert on how to find motivation and meaning in our work, and how we can live more generous and creative lives – all concerns that preoccupy forward-thinking managers. Still in his mid-30s, Grant’s Originals was overall winner of CMI’s Management Book of the Year awards in 2017.

Grant’s TED Talk ‘The surprising habits of original thinkers’ has been viewed6.9 million times 

Follow him on Twitter @AdamMGrant

Daniel Ek

Squads and tribes can unleash a growth mindset

The unique organisational model pioneered by the Swedish music-streaming service Spotify is based on agile principles and has inspired many. But as the company enters its second decade, accompanied by huge growth, how can it maintain its startup spirit?

Co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek has organised Spotify into autonomous squads of no more than 12 people. These then variously form tribes, alliances, guilds and chapters.

The company follows a ‘growth mindset’ approach to management, with continuous one-to-one coaching and no performance management.

Spotify hires people for the right cultural fit rather than for the skills they possess. It’s a non-hierarchical organisational model that may become influential in many large companies.

Join his 111,000 Twitter followers: @eldsjal

Sarah Wood

Fast-track millennial managers

Millennials think and behave differently. They’re digital natives and don’t follow old-school norms. Obvs. So how should they be managed and led? Sarah Wood, co-founder of London tech startup Unruly (bought by News Corp in 2015 for £114m), says the answer is to have millennials take on responsibility as quickly as possible.

In her new book, she says it’s time to chuck out the old corporate ladders, daring the millennial generation to step up to leadership roles early on in pursuit of a career that will be defined by criss-crossing roles and companies, rather than following a predefined corporate path. She urges leaders to manage millennials in a way that allows for this new definition of career success.

Former winner of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award; lectures at Cambridge University

Read Stepping Up: How to Accelerate Your Leadership Potential

Ben Jeffries

The brands that win speak personally to audiences

Understanding the relationship that Generation Z and younger millennials have with social media, and how organisations can reach them, is what concerns Ben Jeffries, the 21-year-old founder and CEO of, an important new voice in entrepreneurship.

Jeffries runs a growing agency that connects influencers with brands. He picked up on the trend well before it was the marketing norm, starting out with ‘micro-celebrities’ who could reach the right social media audience and allow brands to bypass off-putting ads.

As the concept matures, so forward-thinking managers will need to understand the relationship between companies and influencers, and Jeffries is well placed to fit the pieces together.

Founder of Influencer, a platform that lets brands collaborate with social media content creators


Emma De Vita is a freelance journalist who was the Financial Times’ ‘Working smarter’ columnist until 2016. Our thanks also go to Annabel Bligh, business and economy editor at The Conversation. 

CMI’s Management Book of the Year awards, held in association with the British Library and sponsored by Henley Business School, celebrate the best management writing. Find inspiring management books at

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