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I have authored two books that explore how and when individual leaders can make a difference in history and organizations. Buy your copies today.

gautam mukunda speaking in a suit
indispensable book cover


When Leaders Really Matter

Does one leader really make a difference?

My book, Indispensable, examines the crucial moments when individual leaders have radically transformed real world events – rather than being carried by prevailing forces beyond their control.

Combining analytical rigor with vivid storytelling about iconic figures, I delineate the rare circumstances that allow leaders to reshape history and distill the traits that enable them to seize such opportunities.


Indispensable provides a masterly, absorbing, and exceptionally original approach to the age-old study of leadership.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning author and presidential historian

It makes for fascinating reading.

Tom Friedman

New York Times

In his new book, Indispensable, Gautam Mukunda, of Harvard Business School, uses Lincoln to examine one of the liveliest debates in modern management—whether insiders or outsiders make better bosses.

The Economist

Indispensable is indispensable—an eye-opening analysis of how we should evaluate leaders in our politics and our organizations, and a set of gripping narratives about some of the most fascinating people who have ever lived.

Steven Pinker

Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author, The Better Angels of Our Nature and How the Mind Works

I have studied innovation and change from many dimensions. Somehow, however, I had simply assumed that the right leader can be selected to effect the changes required. Indispensable has taught me that I was woefully naive. This is a great book.

Clayton M. Christensen

Bestselling author of The Innovator’s Dilemma

Indispensable provides fascinating insights into how leaders are shaped by their unique personal and professional journeys and by the context of their times. Whether they were focused on saving countries, saving companies, or saving lives, the individuals profiled here are memorably illuminated through Mukunda’s sharp and engaging analysis.

Kenneth C. Frazier

Chairman, President, and CEO, Merck & Co

Why do some leaders change the course of human events, while others find themselves not quite up to the task when history knocks? In a study that applies to business as well as to civil society and politics, Mukunda explores the ‘filtration’ systems through which we choose our leaders, providing fresh and fascinating insights.

David Gergen

Professor of Public Service, Harvard Kennedy School; senior political analyst, CNN

These insights should now be of considerable help to the future development of aspiring executives and those who coach them, and to those responsible for selecting a CEO most suited to mastering a looming challenge.

Strategy & Leadership

picking presidents book cover

Picking Presidents

How to Make the Most Consquential Decision in the World

In my book, Picking Presidents, I draw on decades of research to examine what qualities best predict who will become a successful president and leader.

Mixing history, psychology, and political science, I aim to elucidate why some longshot leaders thrive in office—while others flounder.


An essential read for every citizen...

General Stanley McChrystal

Retired 4-star general and author of My Share of the Task

Bad presidents are very dangerous. In this engaging empirical study, Gautam Mukunda offers sage guidance on reforms to lower the odds of choosing the worst.

David Frum

Author of Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy

Gautam Mukunda has written a vital book for understanding how we pick presidents and why the process is so at odds with the job. It is carefully argued and leaves the reader with a framework for understanding what's wrong and how the system can be improved. The stakes are high. At the very least our understanding of the process should respect the enormous power of the office. You'll want to get this book and study it not just before the next presidential selection contest, but to understand the presidency itself.

John Dickerson

CBS News Chief Political Analyst and author of The Hardest Job in the World

Want to read more about how I’m helping craft indispensable leaders? Check out my newsletter!

Each issue of the Indispensable Newsletter features a deep dive on a current social or political leadership topic and how it impacts the world.

It’s also a great place to keep up with what I’m up to and interested in!

Contact Me

I have learned something from everyone I have ever met. Fill out my form or share your thoughts by tweeting me: @gmukunda.

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Gautam Mukunda

Bridging history, theory, and practice to advance insights on leadership, innovation, and strategy that equip you to excel in complex environments.


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