Ultimately, people are a product of their influences.

Even truly groundbreaking business thinkers use the ideas, the perspectives, and the advice of others as the basis for their own thoughts and actions.

So, who are the most popular leadership and management experts in the world?

That's a great question, one Jurgen Appelo, a creative networker, speaker, and author, set out to answer. His team factored in rankings, ratings, links, search ratios, and Twitter followers in an attempt to quantify popularity.

(I've included Appelo's detailed description of the methodology at the bottom of this post. Though truly quantifying popularity is impossible, the approach Appelo's team used makes sense--especially when you check out the people who made the list.)

If you see people in the list below you don't recognize or aren't following, check them out. We're all a product of our influences, so it only makes sense to improve both the quantity and the quality of the people we listen to.

If you want to dig deeper, here are 51-100:

And here's the methodology:

The purpose of our work was to find out which people are globally the most popular management and leadership writers, in the English language. In other words, we did not focus on local countries or languages; we did not focus on teachers, professors, or CEOs; and we did not measure any other topics besides management and leadership.

Step 1: Top lists

With Google, we performed a lot of searches for "most popular management gurus," "best leadership books," "top management blogs," "top leadership experts," etc. This resulted in a collection of 36 different lists, containing gurus, books, and blogs. We aggregated the authors' names into one big list of almost 800 people.

Step 2: Author profiles

Owing to time constraints, we limited ourselves to all authors who were mentioned more than once on the 36 lists (about 270 people), though we added a few dozen additional people that we really wanted to include in our exploration. For all 330 authors, we tried to find their personal websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, Wikipedia pages, Goodreads profiles, and Amazon author pages.

Step 3: Goodreads ratings

With the Goodreads profiles, we checked the total number of ratings the authors received for their books. We assumed that the more ratings an author has received, the more popular are his or her books. Some authors do not have books (only blogs). Those didn't get a score in this category. The result was a ranking of management and leadership writers on Goodreads.

Step 4: Twitter followers

We assumed that the number of followers on the social networks is another indicator of popularity. We decided to only use Twitter, because its use appears to be the most widespread. LinkedIn doesn't offer insight into number of connections, and Facebook, Google+, and Klout are not used widely enough to use in our calculations. The result was a popularity ranking of authors on Twitter.

Step 5: Blog reputation

This was a difficult category, because some authors have blogs on their company website, some authors publish blogs on large media networks, and some authors separate their blogs from their personal sites. The best metric we could think of was the number of unique websites linking to the author's blog as a measure of his or her reputation. We assumed that the more domains linking to a blog, the more popular the author must be. This resulted in a ranking of blogs.

Step 6: Wikipedia

Many authors have a page on Wikipedia, but the existence of a page doesn't mean that much. Again, we checked how many unique websites link to the author's Wikipedia page, which resulted in a ranking of authors on Wikipedia. Plenty of authors are not on Wikipedia, which means they didn't score in this category.

Adjustments

Some authors rank highly in many metrics, but they have little to say about management and leadership. For example, Colin Powell is very famous, but not because he is a management guru (though he did write a book). Likewise, Mary Jo Asmus is not as famous, but almost everything she writes is about management and leadership. Therefore, we had to find a way to compensate for people's real affinity with the topics of management and leadership.

Step 7: Google search ratios

For all authors, we did a search for "author name" blog AND book and also "author name" management AND leadership. By comparing the number of hits on Google search, we determined which authors are often associated with the terms management or leadership. This resulted in yet another ranking, but this time of authors and their affinity with these specific topics.

Step 8: Number of lists

Last, but not least, we used the 36 original sources mentioned earlier. We counted how often each author's name was mentioned on those 36 lists. For example, Bill Gates is very well known, but he was mentioned only once on a management and leadership list. Fewer people know Mike Myatt, but his name popped up no less than 13 times across the 36 lists. This resulted in a ranking of authors most often mentioned in "top lists" on the Internet.

Step 9: Average

The last step was simple. We had six rankings from six different sources. We simply calculated the average across all of them and sorted the results again. That created our final ranking of Top 200 Management and Leadership Authors.

Disclaimer

We know there is no way to accurately measure popularity. The best we can do is use different imperfect measures from different imperfect sources. Scientists know that measuring multiple times with imperfect tools doesn't remove all bias and inaccuracy. But it does reduce the error margins and gives at least a decent enough picture that can be considered useful.

We believe this is the best we could do within the time we had available. Of course, we welcome any suggestions for improvement.

Published on: May 12, 2014