Our Favorite Books of 2018

Our Favorite Books Of 2018

Our 2018 list focuses on five pressing issues in leadership and ethics.


Exemplary Ethical Leaders at Challenging Moments in History

It's no secret that we hear more bad news than good news about the leaders around us in business and government. These negative stories are not merely depressing; they can actually put us at risk. When we consider only negative stories about leaders, we lose faith in our ability to do the right thing when the going gets tough. Instead, we need to surround ourselves with stories that inspire us and make us believe in moral leadership. So this year we are recommending two powerful biographies.

The first, Pulitzer Prize-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin, takes us on a journey with four leaders through the turbulent times they faced: Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt in the Progressive Era, Franklin Roosevelt in the Great Depression, and Lyndon B. Johnson during the Civil Rights movement. Goodwin shows us how good leaders rise to the occasion and truly become great. Similarly, David Blight, a remarkable Yale historian, gives us an intimate portrait of Frederick Douglass, introducing us to someone fully human, yet truly heroic at the same time.

Re-defining Leadership in the 21st Century

Despite the fact that $46 billion is spent on leadership development each year, many of us still operate with outdated models of leadership that simply don't work in the 21st century. In Leaders: Myth and Reality, Retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal and his co-authors explode the myth that good leaders are always strong individuals with a command-and-control style.

Similarly, in The Mind of the Leader, Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter show why traits like understanding, mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion form the path to effective teams and productive organizations.

The Science Behind Becoming a Good Person

No one knows more about moral character than Christian Miller, the head of The Character Project. In The Character Gap, Miller shares what he has learned over the years from a wide variety of fields—both the good news (we want to be moral) and the bad (most of us don’t live up to our own standards). He also offers proven strategies for closing the gap between who we are and who we want to be.

Similarly, in The Person You Mean to Be, Dolly Chugh shows that we can work to eliminate biases, sexism, racism, inequality, and injustice—even when they are subtle or deeply engrained. Chugh is an expert in the "psychology of good people," and here she shares practical tools that have emerged from her research.

Helping your People Voice their Values at Work

The best ideas, data, and analyses are meaningless if fear holds us back from speaking up when we see a solution. Amy Edmondson shares research-based insights for creating the psychological safety your organization needs in order to support innovation and growth.

Charlan Nemeth shares the stories of those who break from the status quo, shatter groupthink, and challenge confirmation bias. She shows that—contrary to our fears and our expectations—a lone dissenting voice really can make a difference. Her book will make you think differently about "troublemakers" who are fearless in voicing their dissent. It might even make you become one.

The Ethical Dangers of a Data- and Algorithm-Driven World

Leaders are swimming in statistics. They have more data than ever about every aspect of their organization and its performance, yet many also recognize that more measurement is not a panacea for all woes. Our fixation on measurement can backfire. Metrics can become the goal rather than serving it. When they do, our organizations become less effective and we become dissatisfied. In The Tyranny of Metrics, historian Jerry Z. Muller helps us raise the questions we often ignore about performance, when to measure it, and how to measure it.

Like Muller, Hannah Fry helps us bring a critical eye to the data around us and the way it is being used. Fry, a mathematician, focuses on algorithms. In Hello World, she explains what algorithms are and how they affect our lives, from the ads we see to the medical care we receive. She also alerts us to the moral issues—such as safety risks and built-in biases—that can lurk in innocent-looking lines of code.