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The 15 Most Popular Leadership & Management Books

Mar 20, 2012


This took a lot longer to put together than our regular type of blog post. We used Google (the most popular search engine) and Amazon (the most popular online book retailer) to try and work out which leadership and management books are most popular.This is not a best books of all time list, nor is it based on our personal favourites (otherwise #13 would a lot higher), we're just going off general popularity (quality of material may or may not be the biggest factor in its success).

Some deal more with character, while others focus more on strategy. Some are dusty classics, while others have just sprinted off the printing blocks.

To make it easy to see how the list is built, here is the primary criteria we used...

1. Relevance: The book title is relevant to both Leading and Managing in modern-day business.

2. Popularity:

  • How much it is talked about (Number of matches in Google using title in “quotations”)
  • How much it is read (Number of Amazon reviews)
  • How much it is liked (Quality of Amazon reviews)

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
By Stephen R. Covey


  • Google Matches: 15,500,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 1,068
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

With over 15 million copies sold, this is hands-down the most popular leadership development book of all time. It is about a holistic “inside-out” approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness that comes from aligning one’s character to universal human principles such as respect, fairness, integrity, honesty, and dignity. The 7 Habits are: 1) Be proactive. 2) Begin with the end in mind. 3) Put first things first. 4) Think "win/win". 5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood. 6) Synergise. 7) Sharpen the Saw. 

2. Steve Jobs (2011)

By Walter Isaacson


  • Google Matches: 9,740,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 1,221
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years — as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues — Walter Isaacson explores the intense personality of a creative entrepreneur who revolutionised six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values. 

3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t (2001)

By Jim Collins


  • Google Matches: 2,260,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 945
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

In one of the defining management studies carried out in the 90s, Collins and his team complied a list of 1,435 companies in search of those special few that could truly be called “great.” They settled on 11 (and for each one they carefully selected a slightly less impressive "comparison company"). The book is about those special traits that marked the difference between being average and exceptional. 

4. How to Win Friends & Influence People (1937)

By Dale Carnegie


  • Google Matches: 979,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 894
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

Even though the book was written more than 70 years ago, it is still considered the best treatise on “people-skills” ever written. It's staying power proves one thing: business is about people. And the same is true of leadership. 

5. The Art of War

By Sun Tzu


  • Google Matches: 9,800,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 400+
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general and strategist. It is one of the oldest books on military strategy in the world, and is still considered relevant for business people today since it deals with a myriad of economic, political, and psychological factors that go into managing and leading people to victory. 

6. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2006)

By Doris Kearns Goodwin


  • Google Matches: 1,610,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 596
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

Doris Kearns Goodwin — one of America's most esteemed historians — offers a unique historical book that is neither biography nor narrative, but an examination of leadership style and leadership tactics from which any stripe of leader, political or otherwise, can learn.

7. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (2010)

By Tony Hsieh


  • Google Matches: 1,490,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 329
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

The CEO of (the online American shoe empire) explains how an emphasis on corporate culture can lead to unprecedented success.

8. EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches (2011)

By Dave Ramsey


  • Google Matches: 987,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 196
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 5/5

EntreLeadership has some of the most impressive reviews of any leadership book ever to be published and, if the trend continues, there is a good chance it will be at number #1 on this list in a few years. “EntreLeadership" is kind of an ugly title, but Dave wanted a word to describe those rare people who had the characteristics of both leaders and entrepreneurs. Overall, the book is about being practical – it’s designed to give simple, clear-cut advice (without complicated theory or jargon) on all facets of running a business enterprise, which can benefit business leaders of all shapes and sizes.

9. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (2002)

By Patrick M. Lencioni


  • Google Matches: 264,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 372
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

A fictional tale that centres on Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech's newly appointed CEO. She faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. The five dysfunctions are: 1) Absence of trust. 2) Fear of conflict. 3) Lack of commitment. 4) Avoidance of accountability. 5) Inattention to results. Lencioni contrasts how dysfunctional teams behave by comparing them to a cohesive team in the case of each of these five dysfunctions.

10. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box (2000)

By The Arbinger Institute


  • Google Matches: 760,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 323
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

The book’s central insight — that the key to leadership lays not in what we do, but in who we are — is communicated through an entertaining story about Tom, an old-school, by-the-book kind of guy who is a newly hired executive at Zagrum Corporation. Two senior executives show him the many ways he's "in the box," how that limits him as a leader in ways he's not aware of, and of course, how to get out.

11. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (2007)

By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter


  • Google Matches: 719,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 318
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

Marshall Goldsmith is perhaps America’s most well known executive & CEO coach. In this book, he pinpoints 20 bad habits that stifle already successful careers as well as personal goals like succeeding in marriage or as a parent.

12. The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997)

By Clayton M. Christensen


  • Google Matches: 428,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 213
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

Using the lessons of successes and failures from leading companies, Christensen presents a set of rules for capitalising on the phenomenon of “disruptive innovation.” This book is given to students as required reading in many MBA programs and business schools.

13. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently (1999)

By Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman


  • Google Matches: 217,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 306
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4.5/5

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organisation present the findings of an extensive research undertaking involving over 80,000 managers in over 400 companies – the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. It lays out what the world’s greatest managers do differently and is considered essential reading for all managers and HR professionals.

14. The One Minute Manager (1981)

By Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson


  • Google Matches: 551,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 247
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4/5

This is a parable about a young man in search of world-class management skills. The authors' message is simple: a "One-Minute Manager" can achieve positive results with a minimum of time and effort by being communicative and consistent. Areas covered include goal-setting, motivating, training, praising and even reprimanding employees.

15. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998)

By John C. Maxwell


  • Google Matches: 302,000
  • Amazon Reviews: 250+
  • Amazon Av. Rating: 4/5

John C. Maxwell is a prolific leadership author, but this is considered his most popular work. It discusses the 21 laws that serve as the foundation of leadership and success. There is also a revised version published in 2007, in which Maxwell adds two new laws, while combining others – but the number of laws (21) remains the same.

40 other close contenders worth mentioning:

(separated by number of Amazon reviews)


  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
  • Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
  • Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy
  • Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • Where Have All the Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by (3 Authors)
  • Jack: Straight From the Gut by Jack Welch
  • Winning by Jack Welch
  • Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki
  • Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
  • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  • Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by (5 Authors)
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli


  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins & Jerry I. Porras
  • Leadership by Rudolph W. Giuliani
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey
  • Gung Ho! Turn on People in any Organisation by Ken Blanchard
  • Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell
  • Leading Change by John P. Kotter
  • The 360 Degree Leader by John C. Maxwell
  • Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin
  • Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman
  • Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton & John Huey


  • The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership by James C. Hunter
  • Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips
  • The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  • Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz & Joanne Gordon
  • Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright
  • The 5 Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni
  • The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company by Charles G. Koch
  • The Halo Effect: ... And Eight Other Business Delusions that Deceive Managers by Philip M. Rosenzweig
  • In Search of Excellence by Thomas J. Peters & Robert H. Waterman
  • Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance by Michael E. Porter
  • Great by Choice by Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organisation by Peter M. Senge
  • Leadership is an Art by Max Depree
  • On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

Other Interesting Links:

Topics: Leadership

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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