Announcing the Thinkers50 2023 Leadership Award Shortlist

Nominations are in for the Thinkers50 2023 Distinguished Achievement Awards. Who has made the Shortlists? Between August and October we will be announcing the Shortlists for each of the nine award categories, starting with the Leadership Award.

The nature of leadership and how we understand the role of leader is constantly evolving but demands ever urgent attention in a world of fast-paced change and uncertainty. Teams, corporations, and organisations of every kind require leadership. So, which eight thinkers have shed powerful and new light on this perennial yet classic subject? The final recipient of the Leadership Award will be announced at the ‘Oscars of management thinking’ Awards Gala, 5-6 November 2023. Join Us!

The Thinkers shortlisted for the 2023 Thinkers50 Leadership Award are:

1: Morra Aarons-Mele

for The Anxious Achiever

Morra Aarons-Mele is the author of The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears into Your Leadership Superpower (HBR Press, 2023). Amy Edmondson – Thinkers50 #1 Ranked Thinker – calls the book “a game changer, wise and practical.” Morra also hosts the award-winning podcast, ‘The Anxious Achiever,’ and founded the award-winning social impact agency, Women Online. Her work, which focuses on mental health as a leadership strength, won the 2023 Media Award from Mental Health America. Morra’s first book, Hiding in the Bathroom: How To Get Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home) was published by Dey Street Books in 2017. An entrepreneur and communications executive, Morra has launched digital campaigns for President Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and the United Nations. 

2: Kirstin Ferguson

for Head & Heart

An award-winning author, columnist, and company director, Kirstin Ferguson was recognised in 2023 as a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant contributions to business and gender equality. Her latest book, Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership (Berrett-Koehler, 2023), debuted in the top 10 non-fiction bestseller list on release. It has been described by New York Times bestselling author, Adam Grant, as “a timely, actionable book on the virtues that every great leader needs to learn” and features in the Thinkers50 2023 Best New Management Booklist. Kirstin’s first book, Women Kind: Unlocking the Power of Women Supporting Women (co-authored with Catherine Fox, Murdoch Books, 2019), received the Best Management and HR award at the 2019 Australian Business Book Awards. 

3: Frances Frei & Anne Morriss

for Move Fast and Fix Things

Frances Frei is a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School. Anne Morriss is a leadership coach and executive founder of The Leadership Consortium (TLC). Their forthcoming book, Move Fast and Fix Things: The Trusted Leader’s Guide to Solving Hard Problems (HBR Press, 2023), argues that problems, even the biggest problems, can be fixed fast, and that the trade-off between speed and excellence is false. The more reasons we have to slow things down, they explain, the more difficult change is going to be. Frances and Anne are also the authors of Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You (HBR Press, 2020) and Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business (HBR Press, 2012).

4. Heidi K. Gardner

for Smarter Collaboration

A distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School and former professor at Harvard Business School, Heidi Gardner has authored or co-authored over 100 books, chapters, case studies, and articles, including the Washington Post bestseller, Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, (HBR Press, 2017). Her 2022 follow-up, Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work, (co-authored with Ivan A. Matviak,  HBR Press), lays out a pragmatic action plan for companies to collaborate effectively. Along with her team at Gardner & Co, Heidi works with boards, executive teams, and senior leaders to boost performance by embedding the principles and practices of agile cross-silo collaboration.

5. Ranjay Gulati

for Deep Purpose

Professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Ranjay Gulati’s 2022 book, Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies (Harper Business), delivers an in-depth examination of corporate purpose. “Deep purpose” companies, he argues, energise their enterprise by inspiring employees and fostering greater trust with customers and partners. Deep Purpose was listed in the Thinkers50 2022 10 Best New Management Books. Ranjay’s recent work explores leadership and strategic challenges for building high-growth organisations in turbulent markets. He is also the author of Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Organization (HBR Press, 2009).

6. Céline Schillinger

for Dare to Un-Lead

Céline Schillinger is the founder and CEO of We Need Social. She is an award-winning entrepreneur, change agent, and consultant, who was knighted in her native France in 2017 for her workplace change efforts. Céline’s 2022 book, Dare to Un-Lead: The Art of Relational Leadership in a Fragmented World (Figure 1 Publishing), explores how to transform leadership by empowering people to lead together through the concepts of liberty, equality, and community. Dare to Un-Lead has been described by Thinkers50 #1 Ranked Thinker, Amy Edmondson, as “sweeping and intelligent, deeply researched and penetratingly insightful,” and was listed in the Thinkers50 2023 10 Best New Management Books. 

7. Sally Susman

for Breaking Through

Chief corporate affairs officer at Pfizer, Sally Susman was named by Forbes as one of the World’s Most Influential CMO’s in 2022, for Pfizer’s efforts to combat vaccine misinformation. She was also the recipient of the Matrix Award for New York Women in Communications in 2019 and her 2023 book, Breaking Through: Communicating to Open Minds, Move Hearts, and Change the World (HBR Press) shows leaders how to face the challenges of communicating through turbulent times. Prior to joining Pfizer in 2007, Susman held senior roles in communications and government relations at The Estée Lauder Companies and American Express. She currently serves as co-chair of The International Rescue Committee and on the board of UL Solutions, a global leader in applied safety science.

8. James D. White

for Anti-Rascist Leadership

As chair, president, and CEO of Jamba Juice (2008-2016), James White led a transformation of the company’s DEI practices, resulting in a 500 per cent increase in its market cap. His 2022 book, Anti-Racist Leadership: How to Transform Corporate Culture in a Race-Conscious World (co-authored with Krista White, HBR Press), gives practical lessons on how to build a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment. James has held senior executive positions at Safeway, Gillette, and Nestlé Purina and currently serves on the board of Honest Company. In 2020 he launched the Culture Design Lab to coach CEOs, boards, chief people officers, and chief diversity officers on how to put his DEI playbook into practice.


Recipients will be announced at the Thinkers50 Awards Gala 2023 on 5-6 November 2023.

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