10 Modern-Day Leaders in Personal Growth

UPDATED: April 1, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 15, 2024
Brene Brown modern day leaders in personal growth

Who are the modern-day leaders in personal growth? Which self-help guru will future generations talk about the way we talk about Dale Carnegie?

Operating sans crystal ball or time machine, we can’t say with certainty, but we have a few ideas we feel pretty confident about. Here are 10 of today’s most influential personal growth leaders—authors, podcasters, speakers and coaches—whose daring ideas and forward-thinking attitudes have already been revolutionary in their own time. 

1. Brené Brown

Brene Brown Modern Day Leaders in Personal Growth
Photo by Maile Wilson

You might know Brené Brown from her viral 2010 TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” which is one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time. Or maybe you know her from one of her six No. 1 New York Times bestselling books, which include The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. Or from one of her two Spotify-original podcasts—Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead—which are aimed at helping listeners reach their potential and further develop parts of themselves they may not have known existed.

Born in San Antonio and a Texan to this day, Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. It’s that academic background that makes her such a valuable chronicler of the human heart and such a force in self-awareness and self-improvement. Brown has a wholly original knack for matter-of-factly marrying data and emotion; as she’s fond of saying, “Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”

2. Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek. Modern day leaders in personal growth
Photo courtesy of Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek, an author and inspirational speaker whose books include Leaders Eat Last and Start With Why, is all about the impacts of optimism. He has his own publishing imprint with Penguin Random House, Optimism Press, and runs a digital learning platform called The Optimism Company. But the self-described “unshakable optimist” isn’t talking about blind positivity or naïveté. What Sinek emphasizes is that by avoiding getting weighed down by doubt and believing you can push through negative circumstances and mindsets, we are able to uplift ourselves. 

The England-born, U.S.-based Sinek is especially adept at helping business leaders inspire their workers, and he’s a shrewd observer of what makes some teams work while others falter. “Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more,” he writes in Leaders Eat Last.

3. Jay Shetty

Jay Shetty
Photo by Stephanie Diani

Jay Shetty’s journey from monk to bestselling author, award-winning podcaster and beloved purpose coach has captivated millions. Those three years as a monk in his twenties—waking up at 4 a.m. to take a cold shower, shaving his head and living out of a gym locker—gave him a radical kind of wisdom about personal growth, well-being and success. He builds on that wisdom in conversations with actors, athletes, authors, wellness experts and influencers on his popular podcast On Purpose.

These aren’t your typical conversations with celebrities; when they sit down with Shetty, the most famous people in the world get real about everything from intentional goal-setting to self-compassion to healing your inner child. (Want to know what kind of relationship insights you glean from being married to the president? Let former first lady Michelle Obama tell you all about it.) Every conversation is part of Shetty’s mission to help people find their purpose—although not every person’s journey will involve meditating eight hours a day, as his did.

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4. Mel Robbins

Mel Robbins Modern day leaders in personal growth
Photo courtesy of Mel Robbins

The Mel Robbins Podcast is one of the top education podcasts in the world—and for good reason. Twice a week, the bestselling author of The High 5 Habit and Stop Saying You’re Fine takes a science-backed approach to any number of personal and professional development hurdles, including eliminating self-doubt, pushing through procrastination, setting goals and more.

Robbins dispenses BS-free advice with a no-nonsense disposition you’d expect from a former criminal defense attorney, CNN legal analyst and mother of three. But she’s also upfront about her own struggles with anxiety and stress—there’s no holier-than-thou advice given here—and she shares her insights with humor and verve that makes it feel like you’re talking with your toughest friend.   

5. Patrice Washington

Patrice Washington modern day leaders in personal growth
Photo courtesy of Patrice Washington

Wealth is about more than just your finances, which is why Patrice Washington is setting out to redefine it. Fitness, faith, friendships—it’s possible to be wealthy in all these areas and more, and it can be just as impactful to your overall happiness and well-being. Washington is fond of saying, “Chase purpose, not money,” a mindset she helps followers and listeners achieve on the Redefining Wealth podcast.

Now, Washington’s way of viewing wealth isn’t the most traditional. “I recognize that I drive some of the personal finance gurus crazy and I’m 100% OK with that,” she jokes on her website. What sets this Atlanta-based finance expert apart—and what made her shine during her time as the personal finance expert on Steve Harvey’s radio and TV shows—is that she feels real, and she offers advice that can be impactful without veering into the draconian. (Yes, you can still buy yourself Starbucks!) 

6. Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins modern day leaders in personal growth
Photo courtesy of Tony Robbins

Few personal development experts ever reach “household name” status. Then there’s business and life strategist Tony Robbins, a titan of finance, mental health, productivity, personal growth and more. Whatever self-improvement goal you’re after, Robbins has talked about it all for decades now. (He’s probably even written a New York Times bestseller about it.) Robbins’ coaching methods and shared knowledge have long been giving people the tools they need to change their lives. 

His odds-defying journey to becoming one of the most recognizable names in the industry begins with a childhood spent in poverty. Robbins never attended college, yet he made his first million by age 24 and has since become a friend to U.S. presidents and public figures from every walk of life. Today, he helms a veritable entrepreneurial empire and still finds time to write, most recently with The Holy Grail of Investing, which was released in February 2024. 

7. Brendon Burchard

Photo by Maggie Hudson

A traumatic life event can really make you reconsider everything. That was the case for Brendon Burchard, whose passion for personal development was sparked after a car accident when he was 19. He found himself asking, “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?” They’re questions that continue to inform his work, especially with regard to connection and meaning, to this day. 

As the bestselling author of High Performance Habits and founder and CEO of the personal development system GrowthDay, Burchard has become a top high-performance coach. Online, he offers advice on everything from building stronger friendships to staying focused and identifying when it’s time to quit.

8. Anthony O’Neal

Anthony O’Neal modern day leaders in personal growth
Photo courtesy of Anthony O’Neal

Maybe you’re not starting from a place of wealth already—maybe, like some of Anthony O’Neal’s followers, you’re in the daunting position of trying to claw yourself out of debt. If you have student loan debt or credit card debt or are just looking to build your financial skills, O’Neal’s books, courses and workshops for budding entrepreneurs (along with his podcast The Table) can be the building blocks for future financial prosperity. 

Getting to a debt-free place can feel impossible, but it can change your life, and O’Neal wants to help you get there. He was $35,000 in debt by age 19, a considerable amount of money for anyone, let alone someone not yet old enough to legally drink. That means O’Neal knows it can be done—and it can be done without sacrificing your mental or spiritual freedom. He’s especially gifted at offering guidance to young people—check out The Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make in College for proof.     

9. Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo
Photo by Eric Michael Pearson

Marie Forleo’s resume could be the inspiration for a critically lauded Netflix dramedy. Her career started as a trading assistant on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a position she left for publishing, working at Gourmet and Mademoiselle magazines. Even those roles didn’t give her the rush she needed. Although she was offered a job at Vogue, Forleo turned it down, opting instead to pursue her passion of becoming a life coach.   

Oprah has called her a “thought leader for the next generation,” and if Forleo’s growing media empire—which includes MarieTV and The Marie Forleo Podcast—is any indication, Oprah won’t be wrong. (Oprah is never wrong, right?) Forleo is also the author of Everything Is Figureoutable, an instant New York Times bestseller that’s been translated into 32 languages. 

10. Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes
Photo by Nick Onken

There was a time when Lewis Howes was just an “awkward boy from Ohio,” as he teases on his website. He was also an All-American athlete with dreams of playing pro football—but things fell apart during his senior year, when his father was in a car accident that put him in a coma. And, soon after, in his first season playing in the Arena Football League, Howes suffered an injury that promptly ended his athletic career.

Fast forward to today, and the lifestyle entrepreneur and business coach can list achievements that include penning the New York Times bestselling book, The Greatness Mindset: Unlock the Power of Your Mind and Live Your Best Life Today, which is like a cheat sheet to all the best advice he’s gleaned over the years during interviews on his podcast The School of Greatness. It’s a show he started when he realized he could seek out new mentors—folks from Ice Cube to Esther Perel—to share their views on everything from creativity and wealth to finding your true purpose.

This article originally appeared in the March issue of SUCCESS+ digital magazine. Photo by Maile Wilson/Courtesy of Brené Brown.

Cassel is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor, a co-owner of Racket MN, and a VHS collector.