Top 100 Best Books for Managers, Leaders & Humans

Ladies and gentlemen…

In this post I proudly present the Top 100 Best Books for Managers, Leaders & Humans. I have created this list using three different criteria: 1) number of Amazon reviews, 2) average Amazon rating, and 3) number of Google hits.

Please refer to the bottom of this post to find out how I performed the calculations, and why that obscure and silly little favorite book of yours has not made it on this list.

The book with the largest number of Amazon reviews is Freakonomics (#53, by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner). And the book with the largest number of Google hits is The World Is Flat (#56, by Thomas L. Friedman). However, both books scored a somewhat low average rating, which means they didn’t end up among the top 10. The book with the best average rating is Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em (#36, by Beverly Kaye, Sharon Jordan-Evans), though this book scored only a moderate number of reviews and Google hits.

The winner in this list is The Success Principle (by Jack Canfield, Janet Switzer). This book scored well according to each of the three criteria, which made it grab the #1 position. And it’s worth nothing that three authors made it on this list with no less than three books each. They are Ken Blanchard (#40, #59, #67), John C. Maxwell (#35, #57, #98), and Seth Godin (#31, #47, #54). Clearly these three are the most inspiring writers in the world.


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As for the rest of the books and authors, see for yourself…

Nr Title / Author(s) / Tags
1
The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Jack Canfield, Janet Switzer (personal growth, self-help, success, achievement, coaching)
2
The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition

William Strunk, E. B. White (style, writers reference, writing)
3
How to Win Friends & Influence People

Dale Carnegie (personal development, communication skills, self improvement)
4
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Chip Heath, Dan Heath (marketing, communication, ideas, persuasion, business)
5
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition)

Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister (management, project management, software development)
6
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Robert B. Cialdini (persuasion, psychology, influence, marketing, sales)
7
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Reiter (leadership development, executive coaching, leadership)
8
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras (business, management, leadership development, leadership)
9
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

Garr Reynolds (presentations, communication, public speaking)
10
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

David Allen (management, productivity, time management)
11
The Magic of Thinking Big

David Schwartz (positive thinking, personal development, self improvement)
12
Leading Change

John P. Kotter (change management, leadership, organizational behavior)
13
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox (theory of constraints, professional development, operations)
14
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

Jim Collins (business, leadership, management, success, excellence)
15
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Patrick M. Lencioni (leadership, team building, management, professional development)
16
The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Peter F. Drucker (management, leadership, effectiveness, vision)
17
The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea

Bob Burg, John David Mann (self-help, business, success, networking)
18
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey (personal development, self improvement, leadership)
19
The Gregg Reference Manual

William A. Sabin (grammar, writing, reference, editing, english)
20
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most

Douglas Stone, etc. (communication skills, negotiation, self improvement)
21
First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do
Differently

Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman (management, leadership, professional development)
22
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

Kerry Patterson, etc. (communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, conflict)
23
The Toyota Way

Jeffrey Liker (lean, business, quality control, toyota production system)
24
The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

Clayton M. Christensen (innovation, technology, business, marketing)
25
The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything

Stephen M.R. Covey (trust, leadership, relationships, business, success)
26
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell (economics, networking effects, sociology, competition)
27
First Things First

Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill (time management, self-help, employment)
28
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

Peter M. Senge (systems thinking, organizational learning, management)
29
A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age

Daniel H. Pink (business, creativity, thinking, cognitive psychology)
30
Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques – 2nd Edition

Michael Michalko (creative thinking, imagination, business, decision-making)
31
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Seth Godin (marketing, leadership, community, motivational, networking)
32
The Leadership Challenge

James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner (leadership, professional development, personal growth)
33
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Roger Fisher, Bruce M. Patton, William L. Ury (negotiation, business, brainstorm, conflict, influence)
34
Getting Past No

William Ury (negotiation, collaboration, conflict resolution, improvement)
35
Developing the Leader Within You

John C. Maxwell (business leadership, self control)
36
Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay

Beverly Kaye, Sharon Jordan-Evans (effective management, employee engagement, management)
37
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter

Juanita Brown, etc. (conversation, facilitation, dialogue, team building)
38
Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes – Revised 25th Anniversary Edition

William Bridges (change, transition, personal transformation, leadership)
39
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

Chris Anderson (internet marketing, consumer behavior, business)
40
Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization

Ken Blanchard (business, empowerment, inspirational, leadership)
41
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

Robert I. Sutton (management, leadership, workplace, abuse, business)
42
Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box

The Arbinger Institute (leadership, self awareness, relationships, management)
43
The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

The Arbinger Institute (peace, conflict resolution, relationships, leadership)
44
The Power of Full Engagement

Jim Loehr, Tony Schwartz (leadership, personal development, self improvement)
45
The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Mark Sanborn (leadership, business, motivational, relationship building)
46
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

John Medina (brain science, education, business, success, learning)
47
Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas

Seth Godin (marketing, ideas, business, internet, customer service)
48
Winning

Jack Welch, Suzy Welch (leadership, business, management, success)
49
The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management

Peter F. Drucker (effective management)
50
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander (leadership, inspiration, innovation, coaching)

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51
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Barry Schwartz (sociology, consumerism, economics, positive psychology)
52
Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know

Thomas H. Davenport, Laurence Prusak (knowledge management)
53
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner (economics, sociology, statistics, business, marketing)
54
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Seth Godin (marketing, business, innovation, ideas, advertising)
55
Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

Taiichi Ohno (lean, kanban, toyota production system)
56
The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded]: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas L. Friedman (globalization, economics, business, outsourcing, culture)
57
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

John C. Maxwell (leadership, empowerment, influence, self-help)
58
Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!

Anthony Robbins (motivation, success, self-help, nlp, achievement)
59
Full Steam Ahead!: Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life

Ken Blanchard, Jesse Stoner (applied psychology, business, leadership, management)
60
Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Brian Tracy (time management, self-improvement, personal productivity)
61
The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees)

Patrick M. Lencioni (management, leadership, team building, employee engagement)
62
The Halo Effect: … and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers

Phil Rosenzweig (management, strategy, decision making, business)
63
Crossing the Chasm

Geoffrey A. Moore (marketing, technology, business strategy, management)
64
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

Bill George, Peter Sims (leadership, executive coaching, business, enlightenment)
65
The Power of Positive Thinking

Norman Vincent Peale (motivational, positive thinking, inspirational, self improvement)
66
The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth

Clayton M. Christensen, Michael E. Raynor (innovation, business leadership, strategy, planning)
67
The One Minute Manager

Kenneth H. Blanchard, Spencer Johnson (management, leadership, business, personal development)
68
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (decision making, risk, complexity, knowledge)
69
Now, Discover Your Strengths

Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton (strengths, personal development, leadership, management)
70
The Black Book of Outsourcing: How to Manage the Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities

Douglas Brown, Scott Wilson (globalization, outsourcing, economics, business)
71
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson (cognitive dissonance, social psychology, reasoning)
72
QBQ! The Question Behind the Question

John G. Miller (personal accountability, leadership, business, responsibility)
73
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (complexity, decision making)
74
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Malcolm Gladwell (intuition, decision making, psychology, business)
75
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz (networking, success, business, relationships)
76
(…)

Alright, I tricked you. Shame on me! The remaining 25 positions of the list are only available when you request the full PDF version. Don’t worry, it’s free!


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Management 3.0

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If you want to receive the PDF version with the full Top 100 list, including ISBN-numbers and release dates, then you can download it here… send me an email and simply ask for it. I like getting email. And it will help your request tremendously if you told me that you’ve subscribed to my blog/feed. And don’t you dare deceiving me! I’ll be monitoring the feed statistics actively… 🙂 (Oh, and please allow me at least 24 hours to reply to your mail. I might be trying to recover from the hours of sleep I lost…)

Audience
I have created the list for three kinds of people:

  1. No-so-great managers who want to become much-greater managers;
  2. People in a group who would like to become leaders of that group;
  3. Any other workers and team members who want to improve their skills.

Scope of the Project
For this Top 100 list I have included only books covering subjects that might be of interest to (middle) managers, team members and employees interested in personal development, in any kind of organization. My main criterion for each book was: might this book help me and some of my subordinates to improve ourselves? (And would it help my managers solving their problems themselves instead of buggering me…)

This means that I have left out books with primary topics such as business strategy, investment, marketing, entrepreneurship, and the art of flower arrangement. These topics, though very interesting, won’t be helpful in enabling the average Joe the Programmer to develop himself into Joe the Leader or Joe the Communicator. (The other reason is that I had to limit the scope, or I would never be able to finish the bloody thing.)

Finding the Books
To find all these potentially timeless classics, I checked the best-selling books in these Amazon categories:

Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Decision-Making & Problem Solving
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Leadership
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Management
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Management Science
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Motivational
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Production & Operations
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Quality Control
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Systems & Planning
Books > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Teams
Books > Business & Investing > Organizational Behavior
Books > Business & Investing > Organizational Behavior > Organizational Change
Books > Business & Investing > Organizational Behavior > Organizational Learning
Books > Business & Investing > Organizational Behavior > Workplace
Books
> Business & Investing > Skills
Books
> Business & Investing > Skills > Communications
Books
> Business & Investing > Skills > Running Meetings & Presentations
Books
> Business & Investing > Skills > Time Management

After I found all best-selling books, I subsequently found many other books through the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” cross-reference thingy. That’s how I finally ended up with a list of 400 books, and a pair of eyes with the color of Sarah Palin’s dress.

Doing the Calculations
Then it was time to do the calculations. I checked the number of customer reviews on Amazon, and I ranked the books according to these numbers (= a measure of quantity). I also calculated the average Amazon ratings, and I ranked the books according to these ratings (= a measure of quality). I then checked the number of Google hits for each of the books, and I ranked them accordingly (= a measure of popularity). Finally, I took the three rankings, and then re-calculated it into a final ranking. This resulted in the list you now have before you.

I can guarantee that the system I used is scientifically ridiculous. Nevertheless, the results are quite interesting, and I’m sure this list can be of great help if you want to improve your skills as a manager, a leader, or as a human being who just wants to become a more interesting colleague. I suggest you start with number 1, and then slowly work you way down. However, you might want to start with Breakthrough Rapid Reading (by Peter Kump) and How to Read a Book (by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren). These might help getting you through the list somewhat faster…

Feedback Please!
Now, I’m sure you will understand that the creation of this list cost me many hours of work, some sleepless nights, and RSI from my neck all the way down to my knees. If you think the list is interesting, or even valuable, then I suggest you digg, stumble and bookmark the hell out of it! However, if you don’t like the outcome, don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ll do my best to ignore your comments next time I make another similar list.

Thanks for your feedback, and happy reading!


Wait! Don't stop reading now. I have some more interesting lists for you:


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  • Top 100 Best Books for Managers, Leaders & Humans (part 4)
  • How to Do Many Projects (Part 4): Resource Planning
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  • http://www.pokerleadership.com Raymond E. Foster

    I would call you methodology scientifically “ridiculous,” perhaps not rigorous enough to make it into a Journal. In fact, I’ll bet its pretty close to the algorithm Amazon uses to show customers books. I would add one factor. Assuming you were inclined to repeat the experiment, I wonder how the list would change if you factored in age. Some books have a very long shelf life – people come back to them again and again. By factoring in age, I don’t know – maybe add a point per year or something – a reader might have a better place to start.

  • http://www.jannfreed.com Jann Freed

    Thanks for the work you did to put this list together.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/planetpeck/ David Peck

    Jurgen: Thanks for emailing me about this, and glad to see your blog.
    Thanks for doing this–it’s actually quite a good list. Seriously, there are some wonderful classics here on this list — books that I think about and use all the time in my own work with leaders and executives.
    Now I’d suggest you read them. If you went down the list in order from highest to lowest-ranked, what you would find? Would there be books that ranked highly that you felt strongly positive or negative about?
    Finally, I see how the criteria eliminated my own book from the list; as a more recent and first-time author with less exposure that makes sense. That said, it’s something to aspire to.

  • http://www.omega-it.blogspot.com Omega

    This lis – is a great event in the programing word!
    You just know, what programmers and managers want 🙂

  • http://www.deadly-decisions.com/ Lizzie

    What a great list! I loved the “Mistakes were made, but not by me,” suggestion. Another suggestion for your list, taking a look at the tragic consequences of information failures: Deadly Decisions by Chris Burns. This presents a study of a dozen or so disasters that were a failure of information, be that in government, business, science, whatever. For example, it studies the Titanic, the Challenger space shuttle, 9/11, a tunnel collapse and Enron, to name a few. And it helps managers take a look at how we can be more successful at the truthful exchange of information. It’s fascinating.

  • Sonja

    I just LOVE Freakonomics! I wouldn’t put it on this list however, as it’s not as much for managers and leaders in my opinion but mainly for humans.
    It’s interesting to see that quite some books that I value highly are between 76 and 100 while others ranked higher didn’t captivate me as much personally.
    These would’ve been much higher on my list (in no particular order, so you still need to e-mail Jurgen for the list):
    – Who moved my Cheese
    – The balanced scorecard
    – Wikinomics
    – Fish
    But overall, a very good list and a great place to start reading if you’re at a loss to find the right book.
    Thank you for your effort Jurgen.

  • Sonja

    I almost forgot, there was a post about Fish on this blog earlier, for those interested I’ve included the link:
    http://noop.nl/2008/07/book-review-fish.html

  • SG

    Intriguing list. Thanks for taking the time to compile it.
    It’s interesting to me that your software engineering list correlates strongly with my mental list of the top software books, while the top 75 positions on your management list are missing some of the titles that had the most influence on me, namely “Up the Organization”, “Competitive Strategy”, and “The Machine that Changed the World”.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/jurgenappelo/ Jurgen Appelo

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone!
    And I’m glad to see you’re offering some additional titles. I’m sure the other readers appreciate that as well!

  • hmoeller

    As you may remember, I’m not always a fan of your point of view on Scrum, but I really like your compilations. This one really takes the cake. Thank you for about 50 years of interesting reading. 😀
    (Where have I put this book on “Visual Reading”…)

  • http://johnhunter.com/ John Hunter

    Here are some books I think every manager should read http://curiouscat.com/management/essentialmanagementbooks.cfm The Leader’s Handbook by Peter Scholtes, Human Side of Enterprise by Douglas McGregor, Toyota Talent
    by Jeffrey Liker and Ackoff’s Best by Russell Ackoff. Peopleware and The Innovator’s Dilemma are great too.

  • Tintintracker

    My outlook is not configured in my machine so if I click on “email me” it gives an error. I have given my mail id while posting this comment. Please send me the PDF. Thanks a lot for putting this.

  • http://leadonpurposeblog.com Michael Ray Hopkin

    Jurgen, this is a great list of books, thank you for compiling it. I have read many of them and will keep busy in 2009 reading the rest. Happy New Year! -Michael

  • http://www.dogsadvicetoleaders.com/ Chrissy

    It’s good to see The Go Giver on this top 100… I really enjoyed this book.
    Another one that I’ve just finished reading today, “A Dog’s Advice” would have for sure been on my top 100 list.
    It’s a short fun book that you could read in less then an hour. It’s also fun, because the leadership/life principles are shown through the eyes of a very special dog, a Chocolate Lab named Miss Brown.

  • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com Nathan Magnuson

    Wow, this is quite a list! I just posted my top 15 here: http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/2012/08/27/favorite-books-on-leadership/

  • Arkkad Algamish

    Thank you very much for your time to listing these books! I really appreciate it. I am definitely looking forward on reading about 1/3 of these books you have listed.

  • Pingback: Book recommendations for Middle Managers… | Rajesh Setty

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