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Eleven leadership books to read in 2018

From high-profile names to lesser-known authors whose books sound like worthwhile reads, the list below is a roundup of 11 titles coming in the first half of the year to consider adding to your business bookshelf.

Some of Jena McGregor's recommended books on leadership to read in 2018.
Some of Jena McGregor's recommended books on leadership to read in 2018.Read moreJenna McGregor

Following a year of dizzying news cycles, Twitter flame wars, and increasingly deep political divisions, getting engrossed in a meaty book on leadership lessons, in-depth career advice, or ideas for improving the way we work may sound pretty tempting.

So we've poured through 2018 book lists from publishers, asked business thinkers for recommendations, and sorted through upcoming galleys sent our way for the leadership titles that most pique our interest. From high-profile names — former FBI Director James Comey is releasing a book on leadership in May — to lesser-known authors whose books sound like worthwhile reads, the list below is a roundup of 11 titles coming in the first half of the year to consider adding to your business bookshelf.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

By Dan Pink, expected Jan. 9

Pink dives into the research behind not just what makes people good at their jobs or how they do it, but when: The most productive time of day to do the hardest work, the right time of year to start a new project, the best time in life to change jobs. Known for his popular books on motivation and creativity, Pink tackles the science behind how we organize our time and how we should set up the routines of our days.

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

By Patty McCord, expected Jan. 9

The former chief talent officer at Netflix, McCord led human resources at the streaming-video company when a popular slide deck about its culture went viral years ago. With the title "Freedom & Responsibility," the slides described how Netflix thinks about retention ("adequate performance gets a generous severance package"), hiring (no "brilliant jerks"), and its efforts to curtail "rule creep" (the company was one of the first to say it had no vacation policy). Now a consultant, McCord promotes the idea of "radical honesty in the workplace," sharing lessons from her time at Netflix and elsewhere.

Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More

By Morten Hansen, expected Jan. 30

Written by a coauthor of famed business guru Jim Collins, Hansen's book is based on a five-year research study of 5,000 managers and employees, which resulted in seven practices that the best of them share. The leaders he profiles have more compelling stories than the typical CEO: A principal who turned around a failing high school, a sushi chef in Tokyo who received three Michelin stars, and the first explorer to reach the South Pole in 1911.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

By Daniel Coyle, expected Jan. 30

Recommended by both organizational behavior expert Adam Grant and "The No A**hole Rule" author Robert Sutton, Coyle's book examines how successful groups of people — from the U.S. Navy's SEAL Team Six to the San Antonio Spurs — work together so well. Coyle, who is an adviser for the Cleveland Indians and is the author of other books about talent, promises to "demystify" the murky topic of organizational culture by examining the key skills that prompt group cooperation.

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have all the Facts

By Annie Duke, expected Feb. 6

This book's subhead describes exactly what leaders so often have to do: Make decisions before they know everything. And for those interested in getting ideas from diverse fields, Duke's background certainly offers one: A former World Series of Poker champion, she was earlier awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to study cognitive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Duke is now a business consultant who speaks and coaches on decision strategy with corporate clients, the lessons of which are distilled in this book.

Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught us About Leadership

By Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman, expected March 6

Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, wrote this book with Brafman, an author and consultant who writes about networks and organizational culture, and the book's description says the two have been friends for almost 10 years. The connection makes sense: Brafman's well-known first book, The Starfish and the Spider, was about the power of decentralized organizations, and Dempsey served as an Army leader amid the growth of decentralized terrorist networks. Their joint effort argues that in today's complex world, leaders should focus on "radical inclusion," involving as many people as possible, rather than the exclusionary direction the world appears to be headed.

Dying for a Paycheck

By Jeffrey Pfeffer, expected March 20

Stanford professor Pfeffer, who has written about power, leadership development, and the need for more evidence-based management practices, takes a frank look at the health risks of modern work life. The book has nothing to do with physically dangerous jobs: Pfeffer examines how the long hours, family conflicts, and economic insecurities in professional workplaces can lead to health problems, some life threatening, even while they don't help corporate bottom lines. He argues that the stresses of the professional workplace, not subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration reporting or intervention, must be dealt with by organizations that promote their environmental sustainability records, while doing too little to enhance the sustainability of their own employees.

Dear Madam President: An open letter to the women who will run the world

By Jennifer Palmieri, expected March 27

Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary Clinton's campaign, White House communications director for President Barack Obama, and a longtime figure in Democratic circles, writes a letter to future female leaders based on her experiences. Arguing that the world still hasn't adjusted to what it should look like for a woman to be president, the book offers lessons from the campaign trail, directed at the women who will aim for the country's top office in the future. In a year expected to bring a record number of female candidates for elected office, the book is likely to offer an insider's look at Clinton's campaign as well as insights for female leaders.

On Grand Strategy

By John Lewis Gaddis, expected April 3

While hardly the sort of book that populates the business shelf — Gaddis, a distinguished Cold War historian at Yale University, is no consultant with a schtick to peddle — On Grand Strategy offers a serious look for leaders interested in strategy and the art of leadership. In the book, its publisher writes, Gaddis reflects on what he's learned from a program he, Charles Hill, and Paul Kennedy have co-taught at Yale for years. There are chapters "extending from the ancient world through World War II," in which he "assesses grand strategic theory and practice in Herodotus, Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Octavian/Augustus, St. Augustine, Machiavelli, Elizabeth I, Philip II, the American Founding Fathers, Clausewitz, Tolstoy, Lincoln, Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Isaiah Berlin." Talk about a way to impress the boss at the next strategy meeting.

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

By James Comey, expected May 1

The former FBI director — fired by President Trump and now, some say, a Zen-like master of throwing subtle shade on Twitter and Instagram — inked what was reported to be a multimillion dollar book deal in August. The book's publisher has said the book by Comey, also a former Justice Department official and lawyer, promises to give readers "unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in leadership itself." Comey, who frequently uses social media to share quotations about character, justice, leadership, and power, tweeted an image of the Statue of Liberty on Dec. 5, saying he was in New York to meet with his publisher, with the note: "Hope leadership book will be useful. Reassuring to see Lady Liberty standing tall even in rough weather."

A Good Time to be a Girl

By Helena Morrissey, expected June 5

Morrissey, an investment management executive in Britain, founder of the 30% Club campaign to get more women on boards, and mother of nine — yes, nine — offers another response to Sheryl Sandberg's 2013 book Lean In. Morrissey's book, which pulls from her own experiences as a working mother and activist on gender parity in the boardroom, has been described as a manifesto for new ways women and companies can work and manage rather than trying to get ahead in "a patriarchal system that is out of date." Morrissey told London's Evening Standard newspaper that "it will be a handbook for young women, those mid-career, and also companies, because it matters what you lean in to."