The Most Popular and Impactful HBR Articles of All Time

Your time is valuable and at HBR we know you will only give it to really useful articles. They should present solutions to the problems you’re facing, pique your curiosity, tap into your emotions, and show you, your team, or your organization the right way forward.

To celebrate HBR’s 100th anniversary, we’ve rounded up our readers’ favorites over the years: the stories they’ve read, bought and shared the most, as well as the ones they’ve identified as having the biggest impact on their life or career.

Some articles appeared in multiple categories, showing how strongly their authors’ ideas resonated (looking at you, Michael Porter). But for the purposes of this roundup, each coin only appears once. The list offers insight into a few different eras – and reminds us that many of today’s toughest business questions are the same as those decades ago.

Thanks for a century of reading.

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Our most read articles

Here’s what you’ve clicked on the most, from practical to philosophical.

This discomfort you feel is grief
In March 2020, as Covid-19 raged around the world, many of us realized that we had to retreat for the sake of our health and that of others. Schools, offices and shops closed; sports seasons and concerts have been cancelled; trips, weddings and meetings have been cancelled. It hurts to lose it all. That feeling we all shared was grief, and HBR spoke with the world’s leading expert on the subject to learn how to manage it. The article has been read nearly 9 million times, making it our most popular.

What so many people don’t understand about America’s working class
Published immediately after the 2016 US presidential election, this article analyzed how Donald Trump won over Republican voters – and why it shocked so many Democrats. “What is at the root is the class culture gap,” writes author Joan C. Williams, a law professor. “A little-known element of this gap is that the white working class hates the professionals but admires the rich.”

15 rules for negotiating a job offer
Job offer negotiations can get complex, but you can dramatically improve your chances by mastering a few tactics. This 2014 magazine article by Professor Deepak Malhotra of Harvard Business School provides a bookmarkable guide to the process.

How to write a cover letter
The cover letter is not dead yet, as evidenced by the fact that this article continues to attract so many new readers. HBR Editor-in-Chief Amy Gallo pulled together advice from several experts to create this comprehensive guide. The strong points? Grab attention with your opening line, tailor your pitch to the job, and show how you can help the company solve problems.

Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?
We have fewer women leaders than men, but that’s not because women are less qualified, says organizational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. It has to do with our skewed view of what leadership looks like. Men tend to project their confidence, which leads people to judge them competent, even when they are not. This 2013 article, which has been read millions of times, explains why this dynamic is not only bad for gender equity, but also actively harms business.

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Our most impactful articles

In April, we asked you on Instagram: What is an HBR article that changed the way you live or work? Here is what you said.

What is Strategy?
In this 1996 magazine article, HBS professor Michael Porter describes the difference between operational efficiency and strategy – two critical but very different performance drivers. While operational efficiency is necessary for businesses to achieve superior profitability, it is not sufficient to ensure their long-term success. So what is strategy, anyway? Porter says it’s about choosing a unique and valuable position that’s rooted in business systems that are hard for other companies to match, providing a competitive advantage.

How are you going to measure your life?
The late HBS Professor Clayton M. Christensen believed that we should think about our personal lives as rigorously as we do our professional lives. In his 2010 article, he suggests asking three questions to help: How will you find happiness in your career? How will you find happiness in your personal relationships? How are you going to live your life with integrity? In this article, Christensen shares his own lessons from the process; notably, he says that building others offers unparalleled rewards.

Manage your energy, not your time
We talk a lot about managing our time, but many of us could produce better (and more) work if we optimized our energy instead. “The main problem with longer working hours is that time is a finite resource,” authors Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy write in their 2007 article. “Energy is a different story,” as it can be systematically expanded and rewarded with a few simple interventions.

manage yourself
Before you can manage a team or a company, you have to learn how to manage yourself. In this classic 1999 article, the late Peter Drucker explains how to assess your strengths and values ​​— and develop your skills — to transform yourself from an ordinary worker into an exceptional performer.

Management time: who has the monkey?
“Why are managers generally short of time while their subordinates are generally short of work?” ask executives William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass in the first line of their 1974 article on delegation. As a manager, do you take on too much for your employees? And, in a way, does that mean that you work for them? The authors explain why managers end up with too many “monkeys” on their backs – and how to get rid of them.

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Our most shared articles

When you share an article with your friends or colleagues, we pay attention to it. Here are the best articles you’ve shared on LinkedIn.

Stop telling women they have impostor syndrome
There are tons of tips on how to deal with feeling like you’re not worthy of your job – the so-called impostor syndrome. But in this article, authors Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey argue that simply managing sentiment doesn’t solve the real problems: systemic bias and exclusion. They say it is up to leaders, not individuals, to solve these problems in organizations.

5 things successful teams do differently
The secret to outstanding performance today? According to psychologist Ron Friedman, these are strong relationships. High performers pick up the phone, talk about unrelated topics, give and receive feedback frequently, and are authentic at work. He identified these points through surveys of more than 1,000 office workers.

Don’t underestimate the power of a walk
Going for a walk is one of the best ways to boost your energy and clear your mind. In this article, Deborah Grayson Riegel, leadership coach and speaker, explains the many benefits of a simple walk and five ways to get the most out of it. An advice ? Pair up with a friend to save time. For those who can’t walk around, she suggests finding another way to keep the brain sharp and maintain physical well-being.

How to lead when your team is exhausted – and so are you
At the end of 2020, people around the world were facing increasing fatigue due to the pandemic, political conflicts and social unrest. Psychologist Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg shares three ways managers can help their teams keep going when it’s particularly difficult: understand the difference between urgency and importance, and focus on the latter; demonstrate compassion while channeling employees’ feelings of defiance, anger and frustration into action; and change things every day.

Good leadership is asking good questions
Leaders don’t have all the answers. But they can ask powerful and inspiring questions to guide their teams. In this article, author John Hagel III shows managers how to use questions such as “What is a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than what we have provided in the past? ?” — to help people think beyond their everyday lives.

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Our best-selling items

Individuals, schools, and businesses often purchase physical copies of our articles to save, share, or teach. These are our top selling item reprints.

Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail
Customer needs can change dramatically over time, necessitating large-scale organizational transformations. But transformation efforts are likely to fail – and frequently do. HBS professor John P. Kotter reviewed 100 to identify eight of the most common errors. As markets move faster and faster, his insights will continue to apply.

What makes a leader?
This tribute to emotional intelligence (EI) may well be more relevant today than when it was first published. Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman helps readers digest the key elements of EI — self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills — and explains why it’s an increasingly important metric to choose and evaluate leaders.

What leaders really do
Leadership and management are not the same thing. “Management is about coping with complexity. Leadership, on the other hand, is about dealing with change,” writes John P. Kotter on his second appearance on the Top Sellers list. Embracing both helps organizations manage turbulent times.

The five competitive forces that shape strategy
In this follow-up to his 1979 paper “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy”, Professor Michael Porter of HBS explores the implications of his five forces framework. It reveals why industry profitability is what it is and how industry conditions can be turned into strategy.

Leadership that delivers results
How do the most effective leaders lead? They are flexible with different leadership styles and carefully time their use of each. “Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, executives must play their leadership style like a pro – using the right one at the right time and in the right measure,” writes Daniel Goleman, in another double appearance on this listing. . “The reward is in the results.”