Apologies to Robin Leach's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" but Americans in the 1980s yearn to know how to get riches and fame rather than glimpse them.

Perhaps that explains a rash of books and magazine articles tapping the upwardly mobile market by providing swatches of style from the work life of many of today's most successful and moneyed minds. Inc. magazine, considered by some to be the harbinger of corporate craze, recently blamed it all onLee Iacocca's 1984 autobiography Iacocca, which demonstrated unprecedented appeal to the purse-string Walter Mittys of the world.

Iacocca's is the now familiar tale of a poor Pennsylvania lad who lifted himself out of dollar doldrums to make it big at Ford Motor Co., only to be canned by Henry Ford II himself. No quitter, Iacocca eventually ascended to become savior of Ford's competitor Chrysler.

Yet it wasn't the plot of the book but rather the ending that may have triggered the subsequent I-Did-It-My-Way trend among sundry chairmen of the board. The last 50 pages or so are an unabashed departure from autobiography to rapt lecturing. Labeled "Straight Talk," it is Iacocca soap-boxing so heartily on subjects from the high cost of labor to making America great again that, soon after the book's release, rumors had the Chrysler chairman steering straight down the fast track to the White House.

Soon to follow Iacocca to bestsellerdom, if not the presidency, were other CEOs scribbling their How-Done-Its. Victor Kiam, the big shaver at Remington Products Inc., penned his opus Going for It! to much fanfare in 1986. Corporate raider T. Boone Pickens' effort was titled, austerely, Boone. Apple Computer Inc.'s John Sculley wrote one of the better of the batch maintaining, as he does in this month's Computer Currents magazine, that his motivation wasn't "to write some monument to my accomplishments as other CEOs had done." And even Rocky Aoki, whose claim to celebrity is his Benihana of Tokyo restaurants, attempted to prove like the others that success breeds know-it-alls.

Collectively, the genre might be called "Work Styles of the Rich and Famous." In fact, it didn't take savvy publishers long to figure out that if it's clues to success that readers were highlighting in these books, future releases could skip the autobiographical melodramatics and get right to the good parts.

Enter the Chairman-per-Chapter tomes, those such as Thomas Horton's "What Works For Me" (Random House, $19.95), that provide chitchat on achievement from a handful of corporate top noggins. As a cover endorsement for Horton's book states, "Reading this book is like getting a private coaching session from the world's best CEOs."

But if some these publications seem short on life and long on life's lessons, several recent releases have taken the concept even farther. For more than a decade, B. Eugene Griessman had interviewed famous people about what it is that makes people famous. By analyzing responses from celebrities such as David Rockefeller, Tennessee Williams and Ronald Reagan, the one-time Atlanta talk-show host and now sociology professor at Georgia Institute of Technology recognized certain patterns that emerged in the assent to public visibility.

"Virtually everybody would like to get ahead, but many people simply don't know how ...," writes Griessman, who examines nine traits of the renowned in The Achievement Factors (Dodd, Mead & Co., $18.95). "For the individual who is willing to pay the price to be a high achiever ... the achievement factors can be studied as a program of action."

Two Los Angeles authors narrowed that focus even more. Lee Gardenswartz and Anita Rowe "conducted 100 face-to-face interviews with America's top female achievers." According to a promo for their book, What It Takes: Good News from 100 of America's Top Professional and Business Women (Dolphin/Doubleday, $16.95), they "then created a unique and accessible five-point program to help all women hone such success-oriented characteristics in themselves." In chapters with titles such as "Four-Wheel Driven" and "No Excuses, Just Results," the authors sprinkle their blue-chip blueprint with brief quotes from those they interviewed.

For instance, on working long hours modeling agency magnate Eileen Ford said: "I'm not God. He got the seventh day." On broadening one's vision of opportunities, Irene Cohen, president of Irene Cohen Personnel Services, said: "Life is a room with an open door." From Ferris and Co., investor Sally Behn: "Successful people are willing to do things other people won't."

Which brings us to the downside of many of these gospels of Making-It-Big: Beyond the unavoidable ego-centrism, they too often tend toward trying but probably true platitudes -- those bumper stickers of business that when articulated by a David Rockefeller or an Armand Hammer may appear to be carved in stone.

Still, occasionally, these books do provide useful lessons from the top guns of the American Dream. Among them: Lesson No.1: No Guts, No Glory

The Rich and Famous like to boast about relying on "gut reactions" to make crucial decisions. Because you can't learn guts in business school, this lends an element of mystique to their success. But few of them tell as good a story as John Sculley about what happens when the intestinal oracle is mistaken for ordinary indigestion.

In his 1987 autobiography titled Odyssey (Harper & Row, $21.95), the one-time president of PepsiCo, who masterminded the "Pepsi Generation" ad campaign before being lured to the upstart Apple Computer, recalls the time he delegated the final decision on airing a national ad that felt wrong to him.

Following the colossal success of Apple's blockbuster "1984" TV commercial that introduced the Macintosh computer as saving the world from Orwellian drones and Big Brother, Sculley was looking for his next major media event. The company's advertising agency designed what became known as the "Lemmings" ad. It portrayed blue-suited, white-shirted and blindfolded male executives marching monotonously in single file over a cliff. Its point was that most executives do what all the others do. Namely, they buy Apple's nemesis IBM.

Sculley thought it lacked the optimism and playfulness of the "1984" ad. He worried that viewers would find it offensive, that potential customers would feel ridiculed. "It didn't register as well in our gut ...," he writes. Apple went with it anyway, scheduling its first appearance during the 1985 Super Bowl. Sculley and partner Steve Jobs sat in the Super Bowl crowd waiting nervously for an immediate reaction as the Lemmings spot was piped into the stadium's huge instant-replay screen as it aired nationwide.

"Everyone in the place stopped what they were doing," writes Sculley, "their eyes turning toward the screen. Some 90,000 people were dead silent ... When it ended there were no cheers, only an instant of dreadful silence before attention returned to the field and the game ... The commercial was a flop." Lesson No. 2: Think Big

Authors Gardenswartz and Rowe call it "Megavision." Others tag it "Grand-scale planning." True to his style, Donald Trump gets right to the point: He calls it thinking big. And no matter what else is said of the brash Mr. Trump, he undeniably does that. His name hovers over Manhattan on the Tower he built. Figuring the "house" was the best gamble in Atlantic City, he bought a huge casino and hotel. With millions of dollars burning a hole in his bank account, he even spent $6 million of them on a team in the then-failing and now-defunct United States Football League -- "as a long shot," he says.

"My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward," writes Trump in Trump: The Art of the Deal (Random House, $19.95). "I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing to get what I'm after ... I like thinking big. I always have. To me, it's very simple: If you're going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big. Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage." Lesson No. 3: Street Smarts

"Some people have street smarts and others don't," writes David Mahoney in Confessions of a Street-Smart Manager (Simon and Schuster, $17.95). The son of Irish immigrants, who climbed from penniless obscurity in the Depression-era Bronx to become the chairman of the board of Norton Simon Inc. (NSI) in 1970, knows of what he writes. Among the companies whose buy-out Mahoney engineered are Halston Enterprises, Max Factor, Avis and United Can. He reportedly walked away from a 1983 attempt to take NSI private with more than $35 million.

"A person with street smarts is someone able to take strong action based on good judgment drawn from hard experience," he writes. "In the old 'Amos 'n' Andy Show' on radio, Amos once asked the Kingfish why he had such good judgment.

" 'Well,' said the Kingfish, 'good judgment comes from experience.'

" 'Then were does experience come from?' asked Amos.

" 'Experience comes from bad judgment,' was the Kingfish's answer.

"Which gets us to the point that it is okay to make honest mistakes as long as you learn something from them," Mahoney concludes. "Sometimes with a little good judgment, you can turn a negative mistake into a positive result. But that usually takes a creative and questioning mind as well as experience."

Mahoney espouses the Darwinian doctrine of big business -- the strongest survive. "In order to get experience you have to get knocked around. Getting knocked around is the norm. If somebody has not been knocked around by life, I get concerned, not only about his judgment but about his resiliency. Experience, if it doesn't kill you, teaches you how to bounce back." Lesson No. 4: Never Say Die

The word "persistence" echoes throughout this genre of book. B. Eugene Griessman heard it repeatedly in his interviews. "They are not easily stopped -- even if they feel they are on the right track," Griessman says of high achievers. "{Two-time Nobel Prize winner} Linus Pauling told me, 'If I differ from other scientists, it is that I form my own opinions and stick to them ... '

"Architect John Portman, as a student, was told by Frank Lloyd Wright to 'go seek Emerson.' Portman followed that advice and, in Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay 'Self-Reliance,' discovered the counsel: Trust thyself. Great men have always done so.

" ... High achievers may be persistent, but their styles vary. Some choose frontal attacks for their ideas and stay at it until the job is done or they return bloodied from the fray. Others choose compromise, attaining a bit of what they want with each transaction. Still others pull back from an undertaking -- if they feel the times are wrong -- moving to another project temporarily, then returning ... Says Norman Vincent Peale, 'I never let go of something that I desperately want to do or that I believe ought to be done.'" Lesson No. 5: Risky Business

Six years after James Burke went to work for Johnson & Johnson in 1949, he was named director of new products. Those were the days when coming up with new products wasn't the science it is today. It relied mostly on brainstorming and taking chances. "We found that only three out of 10 new products which reached the marketplace succeeded," recalls the chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson in his chapter of Thomas Horton's book, "What Works for Me."

"It was during that period that I began to understand the necessity for risk and the realization that you can't grow without it. You simply have to create an environment that encourages risk taking ... "

Among Burke's early risks in new products was a children's chest rub to be promoted as safer and easier to use than those already on the market. The chest rub was designed like today's stick deodorants. It failed along with the nose drops and cough medicine and Burke was told to report to the chairman's office.

"I was certain that I was going to be fired," recalls Burke. " ... I decided to defend myself, and was mentally prepared for a good fight. He said, 'I understand that your product failed.' I said, 'Yes, sir, that's true.' Picking up apiece of blue paper, he said, 'Furthermore, I understand it cost this corporation $865,000.' I said, 'Yes, sir, that's right.' He stood up, held out his hand and said, 'I just wanted to congratulate you. Nothing happens unless people are willing to make decisions, and you can't make decisions without making mistakes.'" Lesson No. 6: Deliver the Goods

One of Donald Trump's rules for success may explain why several of these books recently haven't sold to publishers' expectations: "You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on."