In aÂ category crowded with formulaic promises, bad writing and warmed-over common sense, it’s hard to know which books on the business bookÂ shelfÂ areÂ worth a look. To help you fill those new year’s resolutions to lead smarter, work faster and get ahead on the job, weÂ scannedÂ publishers’ lists,Â pored over book catalogs and asked a fewÂ topÂ leadership thinkersÂ about the books they’re looking forwardÂ to reading in 2016.
Below, 10 books from the first half of next yearÂ that should help inspire you at workÂ inÂ the year ahead.
By Adam Steltzner with William Patrick
Portfolio, Jan. 12
Everyone remembers theÂ video of the unbridled elationÂ in the room when theÂ CuriosityÂ rover successfullyÂ landed on Mars back in 2012. Now imagine leading the team who did it. In The Right Kind of Crazy,Â Adam Steltzner, an engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory who led the “Entry, Descent and Landing” team, shares his story of the rover’s “seven-minutes of terror” — its nerve-racking landing routine. But he also shares the ten years of hard work that led up to it, and the techniques he used to manage and lead the team behind this extraordinary achievement. With tipsÂ for how to getÂ around creative block, moveÂ from fear-based to “curiosity-based decision-making,” and manage difficult employees,Â The Right Kind of CrazyÂ offers a fresh and personal perspective for leading a high-stakes, high-intensityÂ workplace.
By Robert M. Gates
Alfred A. Knopf, Jan. 19
Gates’ last book,Â Duty, was a memoir many will remember for its unsparingÂ commentsÂ about President Obama’s leadership, saying that while he admired Obama’s decisiveness and intelligence,Â heÂ “didn’t believe in his own strategy” in Afghanistan. His latest volume is written more as aÂ guideÂ to leading large institutions through reform and change. Gates, after all, has had quite the perch to advise on theÂ topic, leading not only the Department of Defense, but theÂ CIAÂ andÂ Texas A&M University. (He is now chancellor of the College of William and Mary.) While some suggestionsÂ won’t come as a surprise to anyone (“the most critical thing a new leader at any level should do is listen,” Gates advises) he brings themÂ to life through stories of his own powerful and critical leadership roles.
By Todd Rose
Harper Collins, Jan. 19
Rose’s book aims to put to rest the “age of average” — a world of standardization in which weÂ compareÂ kids to the average student in tests and college admissions, for instance,Â and employees to the average worker in hiring screens and performance reviews.Â “Every one ofÂ those familiar notions is a figment of a misguided scientific imagination,” he writes. At a time when many companies are questioning how they conduct performance reviews and applying big data to their personnel practices, Rose’s book also includes stories of how different employers are taking a more individual approach to managing employees. Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School, is also increasingly in demand as a corporate speaker about his ideas.
By Emma SeppÃ¤lÃ¤
HarperOne, Jan.Â 26
HappinessÂ may seem like a hard thing to study, but SeppÃ¤lÃ¤, the science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University,Â brings together the growing body of research on the connection between happiness and success. SeppÃ¤lÃ¤ attempts to overturn the idea thatÂ achieving success comes from persevering at all costs, inevitable stress, narrowing your focus and putting your head down,Â using research to lay out sixÂ keys for being both happy and successful. SeppÃ¤lÃ¤’s book offers more insightÂ at a time when more companies are turning toÂ research and thinkers on positive emotions to help with productivity.
ByÂ Adam Grant
Viking, Feb. 2
Grant, whose 2013 bookÂ Give and Take turned him into one of the best-known business thinkers today, is back with his next book on the power of originality. In it, he examinesÂ whatÂ successful non-conformists — fromÂ the woman behind wireless power companyÂ uBeamÂ to the founder of online eyeglass company Warby Parker — have in common, all in an effort to help the rest of us learn how to do things like bust myths, speak truth to power and avoid groupthink without getting sidelined. With a foreword by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and a book tour that includes fellow superstars like Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Pink, Originals isÂ likely to be one of the bigger business books of the year.
By Sydney Finkelstein
Portfolio, Feb.Â 9
Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. NFL coach Bill Walsh. They’re all what Finkelstein calls Superbosses, or leadersÂ who hatchÂ aÂ whole diaspora of peopleÂ who go on to do great thingsÂ elsewhere. In his February book, FinkelsteinÂ examines what theÂ people at the head of these talent trees — “talent spawners,” as Finkelstein calls them — haveÂ in common, as well as categorizing them into three types.Â If we’re lucky, it’s an effect we’ve experienced first-handÂ during our careers. For those who haven’t, Finkelstein describes how to mimic whatÂ Superbosses do: Instill high demands andÂ high self-confidence, createÂ master-apprentice relationships with the people you lead, and offerÂ lots of freedomÂ to themÂ to rethink and reshape their jobs.
ByÂ Iris Bohnet
Harvard University Press,Â March 8
Fighting gender discriminationÂ in the workplace isÂ one of the hottest topics in Corporate America, with unconscious bias training programs becoming as de rigeur asÂ first-day orientations.Â Bohnet, a behavioral economist and director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, takes a researcher’s eye to what really works and what doesn’t when it comes to stamping out bias, showing that training alone isn’t enough. Rather, Bohnet argues, it’s easier to change the workplace than it is to change our minds. As a result, she urgesÂ more evidence-driven H.R. departments, as well as more environmental “nudges,” such as taking down portraits of men from corporate boardrooms, for instance, to help women interview better, whichÂ can have outsized effects.
ByÂ Charles Duhigg
Random House, March 8
Duhigg turns his eye fromÂ habit-making and habit-breaking — his 2012Â book on the topic was a best seller — to one on productivity. At a time when we’re all overwhelmed by commitments at work and home, he gets some of the most productive people and teams (the filmmakers behindÂ Frozen, for instance) on how they work, think and approach their lives and jobs. With chapters arrangedÂ by topics, such as motivation, goal-setting, decision-making and managing others, Duhigg examines the choices that make people more productive.
ByÂ Angela Duckworth
Scribner,Â May 3
MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” winner Duckworth is known for her research on grit — the idea that focused persistence, rather than geniusÂ alone — is whatÂ really leads to great achievement. Duckworth’s upcomingÂ book, certainly timed for graduation gift season, shares her research on how perseverance and passion wins out over raw talent. Duckworth — a former McKinsey consultant turned University of Pennsylvania professorÂ who’s also founded a nonprofit for research into character-building in kids — alsoÂ sharesÂ her own personal story, as well asÂ interviews with successful peopleÂ to illustrateÂ its ideas.