So far this year, 1,246 paperback books have been published with the word “leadership” in the title.
Today is October 26, the 299th day of the year, which means (if my arithmetic is correct) new leadership paperbacks have been coming out in 2015 at a rate of more than four per day.
That’s a lot of leadership books!
Indeed, counting all formats, Amazon offers 57,136 books with the word “leadership” in the title.
Why are there so many leadership books?
Here are 5 reasons.
1. Many people feel free to offer opinions on leadership.
On one hand, there are issues where we recognize experts and highly value their opinions. Issues of this type tend to be in the areas of natural science and the experts tend to be highly trained. Most people would agree that the opinions of a thoracic surgeon or structural engineer are more valuable than the opinions of a layperson when it comes to performing heart surgery or designing a bridge.
On the other hand, there are issues where – rightly or wrongly – we are less inclined to defer to those claiming special expertise. Subjects in this area include things like art, politics, religion, relationships and the relative merits of a Mac or PC.
Leadership falls into this latter category.
Most people are confident joining a discussion of leadership and offering their opinions, despite a lack of formal training or expertise in the subject. A lack of training or expertise does not prevent people with opinions about leadership from being potential book-writers.
2. Readers have many different tastes in leadership books.
Why can’t someone just write a single, definitive, final cookbook?
That’s a ridiculous question.
As it would be equally ridiculous to ask why can’t someone just write the single, definitive, final leadership book.
The eating public has a wide range of tastes in food and the reading public has a wide range of tastes when it comes to books. If you are in the mood for a leisurely, seven-course meal, may I recommend Leadership: Theory and Practice by Peter G. Northouse. In more of a hurry? Take out The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.
People with academic tastes like academic books. People with faith-based tastes like faith-based books. People with humorous tastes like Dilbert. You get the idea.
(And we would do well to remember that, as the Latin expression goes, De gustibus non est disputandum: In matters of taste, there should be no disputes.)
3. Anyone can publish a leadership book.
So, there is an enormous supply of potential leadership book producers and an enormous supply of potential leadership book consumers.
Furthermore, there is little to keep both groups from connecting.
It’s pretty easy to publish a book these days. Self-publishing a book is getting easier and easier. According to the Bowker Report, authors self-published 458,564 titles in 2013, an increase of 437 percent over 2008.
While that may be bad news for traditional book publishers, it’s good news for an author wanting to share her or his views on the subject of leadership.
It’s good news, too, if you are looking for something new to read on the subject. Just wait a day and, on average, you will have four more titles to choose from.
4. The practice of leadership is constantly evolving.
It is probably safe to say that hunter-gatherers practiced leadership differently 10,000 years ago than people do today.
But we don’t have to look that far into the past to see how the practice of leadership has evolved – and continues to evolve. The changing role of women in the United States provides a dramatic example. When the General Motors Corporation was founded in 1908, women could not even vote. Now, Mary Barra is the CEO of GM and either political party may send a woman to the White House in the next U.S. presidential election.
Moreover, as the practice of leadership has evolved, so has the understanding of it. We now apply modern concepts of neuroscience, evolutionary biology and behavioral economics to the study of leadership.
All this means that books on leadership written today may be as obsolete tomorrow as a stone knife or a 1980 Chevy Citation.
5. There is no limit to the way leadership can be described.
Some subjects – love, justice or happiness, for example – seem to defy complete description. I believe leadership is one such subject.
Will the reading public ever lose interest in leadership books? Who can say for sure?
But we can say for sure that there are many more books about leadership – including servant leadership – yet to be written.
What do you think? Do you agree? Do you see other reasons why there are so many leadership books? Have I missed something?
Let us know.
As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!