10 Movers and Shakers Who Are Driving the Future of Work

Kylie Wright-Ford
March 15, 2017

In today’s on-demand gig economy, workplace dynamics are shifting. A growing number of workers are trading in traditional full-time jobs with employers for work as contractors, consultants, and freelancers.

Over the past 20 years, the number of gig economy workers has increased by 27 percent more than payroll employees. In fact, as of 2015, one-third of the US workforce (some 54 million Americans) participated in independent work—an increase of more than 700,000 people over the previous year.

The future of work is a fascinating topic, and one where a number of innovative thinkers are making a real impact. Here are some of my favorite thought leaders on the subject.

1. Cheryl Cran, Future of Work & Change Leadership Expert


Cheryl Cran is an award-winning international consultant, best-selling author, and highly sought-after keynote speaker. Her research on the future of work and change leadership has been featured in CNBC, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. Cheryl offers a variety of free resources, blog posts, and keynote speeches that explore the ins and outs of each topic on her website.

2. Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist, MIT


Andrew McAfee studies how digital technologies are changing business, the economy, and society. He’s a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. While he’s a thought leader on a wide range of topics, it was his TED Talks on what future jobs will look like and whether droids are taking our jobs that caught my attention.  

3. Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte


As the founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a research and advisory firm focused on talent management, leadership, and HR technology, Josh Bersin is passionate about the future of work. It’s a topic he writes about for Forbes and regularly speaks about, including at the 2016 Singularity University Global Summit. His message is that the future of work is about people and organizations, not machines.

4. Charlene Li, CEO and Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group


Charlene Li is an expert on social media and technologies, and a consultant and independent thought leader on strategy, interactive media, and marketing. She’s also the author of The New York Times best-seller, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform How You Lead, which offers a compelling look at effective leadership in today’s digital economy.

5. Diane Mulcahy, Lecturer and Author of The Gig Economy


Diane Mulcahy literally wrote the book on the gig economy. Published in late 2016, the book is a guide for how today’s workers can get better work, take more time off, and ultimately be able to afford the lifestyles they want. Diane is an adjunct lecturer in Babson College’s MBA program, where she teaches a course about the gig economy. She's also a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review; this post on the winners and losers in the gig economy offers some great insights.

6. Simon Sinek, Leadership Expert, Motivational Speaker, and Ethnographer


Known as a visionary thinker, Simon Sinek is the author of the best-selling books Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. Working to revolutionize leadership, Sinek teaches organizations how to inspire and positively impact others in the workplace. He travels around the world to speak, and presented one of the most popular TED Talks ever. Simon often comments for The New York Times, Forbes, and NPR, and is also an adjunct of the RAND Corporation and a teacher at Columbia University.

7. Kristin Sharp, Executive Director, SHIFT: The Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology


In her role as the head of SHIFT (a commission convened by New America and Bloomberg), Kristin Sharp is responsible for bringing together a community of leaders who want to understand the massive transformations in work and the lives of workers. She’s a frequent speaker on the future of work and consults for a variety of private startups.

8. Tim Leberecht, Founder and CEO, Leberecht & Partners


Throughout his career, Tim Leberecht has been an author, entrepreneur, and consultant, while working in marketing roles across a variety of industries. Last year, he gave a fascinating TED Talk entitled "4 Ways to Build a Human Company in the Age of Machines," emphasizing the importance of designing organizations and workplaces that celebrate authenticity instead of efficiency, and questions instead of answers.

9. Bruce Reed, Co-chair Future of Work Initiative, The Aspen Institute

Bruce Reed

As the co-chair of The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, Bruce Reed focuses on how the United States can “restore the promise of work by harnessing—rather than stifling—the opportunities that the new economy presents.” He recently launched The Fresh Perspective Series, which features publications and events from a variety of thought leaders who offer their ideas about how to update the social safety net to better meet the needs of today’s workforce.

10. Susan LaMotte, Founder & CEO, Exaqueo


Susan LaMotte is the founder and CEO of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy and employer brand firm. A well-known HR leader named a Top 20 Future-of-Work Thought Leader, Susan is widely cited in and writes for publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, and The Washington Post. In this article from Marketplace on NPR, she’s interviewed about the line between contractors and employees.

These great thought leaders all agree that the future of work is changing. Practically speaking, power is shifting from employer to employee, with the latter suddenly holding many of the cards the managers used to hold. For their part, employers are starting to rethink their approach to leadership, while simultaneously adapting to the realities of a different type of workforce.

Want to share your thoughts and insights on the future of work? If you're passionate about workforce change, leave a comment below and let's keep the conversation going.

Winning with a flexible workforce

Featured in: Enterprise Change

About the Author

Kylie Wright-Ford

Kylie Wright-Ford is a strategic advisor, investor and board member for private enterprises that are transforming or growing in new ways. Most recently Chief Operating and Strategy Officer for World 50, Kylie’s leadership positions have spanned operational, strategic and sales roles in prestigious financial and professional services firms like Goldman Sachs (JBWere) in Australia and global networking firm GLG in New York and London. She is an experienced leader of talent, M&A transactions and growth initiatives.  Oxford educated (MBA) and globally travelled, Kylie is a popular guest lecturer and experienced moderator of conversations with world leaders, celebrities and disruptors. She has recently co-authored a book on leading in the new world of work – The Leadership Mind Switch.

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