The Professor’s Picks: Top 10 Books on Management

After the tremendous response from my top ten books on leadership, I decided to add a top ten books on management article too.   Complete strangers on Twitter ( have asked for reading suggestions when they learn that I am a management professor.

My bookshelf at Charleston Southern University.

So I have decided to provide my personal top 10 list of management books. If you have read my blog, you will notice that these are books that I have recommended in other articles.  That is because these are some of the best. If you scour the internet searching for “top 10 management books” or “top 10 books on management”  you will undoubtedly see overlap and variation. That is OK. No single book is a silver bullet. My suggestion is that you read the description and click through to purchase three or four that you think would help you in your situation.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern University If you are interested in any of the books listed below, click on the title or the picture. I have linked each to so you can click through and purchase the book. I like to use Kindle because I want to get it right now (and you can download right to your PC with no additional hardware required), but the hardback and softcover editions are listed too.

Top Ten Books on Management:

Practical Management Books

judgment How leaders make great calls

Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls – Tichy & Bennis are leading authorities on the nature of leadership. That is why it is important when they write that judgment is the “essence of leadership.” But how do you develop judgment in order to make the right call? Tichy and Bennis offer example after example to show you how to think like a leader.

executionExecution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Charan and Bossidy) – What is the primary skill necessary for successful management–execution. Bossidy and Charan give executive level insight into the causes of business failure. In their assessment, it comes down to execution (or failure to execute or execute well). Couple this book with Judgment for a powerful one-two punch!


The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth Discipline (Senge) If you need to understand how organizations function, Senge will teach you how to think. He moves you from mental models to systems thinking. Without such understanding, you are at a clear disadvantage. You simply will make mistakes in a well-intentioned but wrong-headed attempt to operate  in the business environment.


what-got-you-here-wont-get-you-thereWhat Got you Here Won’t Get You There (Goldsmith) Marshall Goldsmith is a professor and consultant that cuts through the clutter to identify the bad habits that will sabotage your success. The good news is that it is fairly easy to course-correct when you know what you need to do (or, in many cases, what you need to stop doing).


The Martha RulesThe Martha Rules (Martha Stewart). I feel weird about recommending this book because I do not like Martha Stewart. That being said, this book is such a masterful overview of important management practices that I could not in good conscience not add it. If you need an overview of everything, this might be what you are looking for.


The Classics

The Practice of ManagementThe Practice of Management (Drucker) This classic management text, The Practice of Management, was written in 1954. Nevertheless, it is hardly out of date. Drucker asks penetrating questions like “What is our business–and what should it be?” The examples may have faded over time (e.g. IBM or Sears, Roebuck & Company) but the principles still apply as much as ever.

effective executive

The Effective Executive (Drucker) The effective executive helps managers function at a higher level. Here Drucker emphasizes time management, delegations, and utilizing your strengths. I am unsure how any manager can be effective without applying these principles. You do not have to read this book, but if you do not apply these teachings, you simply will not be effective.



In Search of Excellence (Peters and Waterman) This landmark study has been called the greatest business book of all time. Peters and Waterman reviewed what 43 companies have done to achieve excellence and this focused a generation on how to do business. They have been criticized because some of their examples have since fallen from prominence, but they were excellent at the time.

built-to-lastBuilt to Last (Collins and Porras) Similar to In Search of Excellence, Built to Last asked the question of what it was that allowed excellent, visionary companies to succeed. They studied 18 companies that were on average over 100 years old. This book was the basis for much of the business language that we still use today. It is a must read for the competent manager.

good-to-greatGood to Great: How Some Companies Make The Leap…And Others Don’t (Collins) Applying the same type of method used in Built To Last, Collins compared pairs of companies asking the research question of what it took for a good company to become a great company. This book became the first classic of the 21st Century. If you are not conversant with the concepts in Good to Great, it is like not knowing the secret handshake in business.

I realize this is a top ten list of management books, but I have added a number of honorable mentions below.

Honorable Mentions

Great by ChoiceGreat By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (Collins) If you liked Good to Great, you will like this extension to Collins’ previous theme. Here he addresses a number of fallacies about why great companies are great. It turns out that companies that become great do similar things that lead to predictable success.

How The Mighty FallHow the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In (Collins) This book scared me. Collins outlined the sequence of events that companies in decline go through as they head toward the death spiral. I have seen companies in various stages of this decline and in each case, none would have thought that they were in danger.

Essential DruckerThe Essential Drucker (Drucker) This book is a distillation of the life and thought of Peter F. Drucker. Here, the “Father of Modern Management” covers a range of important management issues. I do not believe you can read this book and not walk away a better, more focused, manager.


Science of SuccessThe Science of Success  (Koch) The Koch Brothers have used the principles of economics that they describe in here to manage Koch Industries, the largest privately held companies in the world.

They have had undeniable success and they share their method with us. It doubles as a great economics book. 


The Invisible Employee

The Invisible Employee: Realizing the Hidden Potential In Everyone (Gostick & Elton). This book is  a must read primer on how to (and why you should) deal effectively with your people.  The advice contained within is worth it’s weight in gold. Why? Your success is largely determined by your people. 

I am also compiling a top ten list on each of the following:

  • Leadership
  • Organizational Behavior & Teamwork
  • Economics
  • Business.

What books would you like to see on the list? What have I missed? I am always looking for good suggestions. Thanks for reading.

Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on are his own.


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