The Best Books for Ethical Leaders 2021

By NDDCEL Staff

Best Books 2021 Reduced

As part of our mission to inform, equip, and inspire values-based leaders, the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership and its Faculty Fellows stay on the lookout for new books. In our fifth annual list of Best Books for Ethical Leaders, we share ten books published during the 2021 calendar year that bridge the worlds of business and academia and provide practical insights that can help leaders live and work more ethically.


You Have More Influence Than You Think by Vanessa Bohns

After nearly two years of uphill battle against COVID-19, Vanessa Bohns's message that "you have more influence than you think" comes as welcome news. Bohns offers a fascinating look at the hidden forces of persuasion that have shaped cultural phenomena like the #metoo movement and viral misinformation, and she also helps us recognize these forces in our daily lives. Bohns shows that by experiencing our influence and fully understanding it, we can take steps to wield it not just more effectively but also more ethically. Selected by Brett Beasley.

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

The changing climate is demanding new solutions. Under a White Sky is an accessible, provocative, and interesting look at humans' efforts to adapt to and change the natural world. Kolbert looks at the Chicago River and Lake Michigan—two fascinating and close-to-campus examples—in a book focused on "people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems." Selected by Jessica McManus Warnell.

Seven Deadly Economic Sins: Obstacles to Prosperity and Happiness Every Citizen Should Know by James Otteson

In his newest book, NDDCEL Faculty Director James Otteson provides an approachable introduction to the principles of economics. Written with what the Wall Street Journal called “an apt combination of casual wit and rigorous logic," Seven Deadly Economic Sins is not just an engaging read, it also equips the reader to think well about the ethical dimensions of our economic institutions. Selected by Brett Beasley.

A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions and Insights from Catholic Teaching (3rd edition)

In this third edition of their unique work, editors Andrew Abela and Joseph Capizzi provide an updated volume that combines insights from over one hundred thirty years of Catholic Social Teaching in one easy-reference guide. New to this edition is recent content from Pope Francis about business as a noble vocation that should take a stand against "throwaway culture." Selected by John Sikorski.

Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue by Christian Miller

Honesty seems like one of those things that nearly everyone agrees about. And yet, as Christian Miller points out in his newest book, we spend far too little time studying it and finding ways to cultivate it. Drawing upon both philosophy and psychology, Miller explains why there is a lot more to honesty than simply telling the truth. And he also shares suggestions for improving what he calls our “less than honest characters.” Selected by James Otteson.

There is Nothing for you Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century by Fiona Hill

Fiona Hill is the daughter of a coal miner who implored her to leave her home town and change her destiny. She took the world stage in congressional testimony about Russian election interference. Her book details her experiences as a woman in geopolitics, and it shares her reflections on the role of equity in preserving democracy. Selected by Jessica McManus Warnell.

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross

We rarely explore the one conversation that consumes our everyday lives: our internal dialogue, our self-talk. Packed with stories, studies, and strategies, Chatter takes us inside the good and bad of our inner voice, and it shows how we can harness our introspection to help others and ourselves. Selected by Christopher Adkins.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know by Adam Grant

Thinkers and leaders including Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, and Teresa of Avila often claimed that "humility is truth." Through insights from behavioral psychology and empirical studies, Adam Grant reproposes a "confident humility" that recognizes our own blind spots, weaknesses, and deficiencies in both thought and action. Grant proposes that these are not hindrances to good and healthy leadership. They opportunities for moral growth in attentiveness to the needs, perspectives, and insights of others. Selected by John Sikorski.

Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin

What does a book about the 1948 Cleveland Indians have to do with ethical leadership in business? In Our Team, Luke Epplin tells the story of four members of the 1948 World Series champs: Bill Veeck, the eccentric and visionary team owner; Larry Doby, the second man to break baseball's color barrier; Bob Feller, the pitching prodigy turned businessman; and Satchel Paige, the legendary Negro League pitcher making his Major League debut. In doing so, Epplin also provides important lessons about leadership, business, race, fundamental fairness, culture and life. And although it's set in postwar America, its themes are timeless. Selected by Brian Levey.

Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life by Luke Burgis

As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” In Wanting, Luke Burgis draws upon the work of René Girard to reveal to us just how often our goals are really reflections of what other people want. During a “Great Resignation” in which many people are taking a hard look in the mirror, Luke Burgis’s book provides much-needed tools for getting in touch with—and taking responsibility for—our deepest desires. Selected by Brett Beasley.

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