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Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others Hardcover – May 3, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Brief self-assessments that enhance the reader’s understanding and numerous examples from Menkes’s professional practice make this a worthwhile, practical read.” – CHOICE magazine

“An original and noteworthy contribution to executive selection which is invaluable to those charged with top executive assessment.” —Chartered Management Institute

Better Under Pressure compliments books like Clutch, but with examples more specific to organizations other than professional sports. Even if you operate a one-person small business, it will give you a blueprint for how to conduct your best performance under pressure.”- Small Business Trends (

Listed under “Summer [2011] reading suggestions for federal leaders” - Washington Post

“Personal and practical, this book is a potent resource for aspiring, emerging, and seasoned business leaders alike. Most mindful!” – CEO Refresher

“…an extremely interesting book that deserves a wide readership.” -

“An extremely worthwhile read for leaders, or aspiring leaders, in these turbulent times.” -

“What an intellectual feat! Justin takes leaders on a tour of the attributes of truly great CEOs, but the book is so much more than that. By showing us how those attributes connect and come to life, Justin’s stories reveal how the best leaders think and act under the hardest circumstances.”
--Ralph Larsen, former Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interviews with the CEO's and Justin's insightful analyses of the lessons learned. His concept of "reaching full potential" hits the nail right on the head.”
--Marijn Dekkers, CEO, Bayer AG

Better Under Pressure is a well-researched, conceptually sound, practical leadership guidebook for global business executives. Instead of serving up simplistic leadership pabulum, Menkes provides a rigorous and clear-eyed look at the world stage facing CEOs and the critical judgments required for their companies to survive and thrive.”
--Noel Tichy, Professor and Director Global Citizenship Initiative at the Ross School University of Michigan, and co-author (with Warren Bennis) of Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

“Justin Menkes captures the essence of leadership in today’s tough environment: getting the best out of your people. In this thoughtfully written book, he shows aspiring leaders how to successfully engage and inspire their people, both through their own actions, and through their ability to thrive under pressure.”
--Irene Rosenfeld, CEO, Kraft

About the Author

Justin Menkes is an acclaimed author and leading expert in executive assessment. A consultant for the elite executive search firm Spencer Stuart, he advises the boards of the world’s leading companies on their choice of CEO. He authored the Wall Street Journal bestseller Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have and has written articles for Chief Executive and Harvard Business Review.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422138704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422138700
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Look at any newspaper or magazine article featuring the CEOs interviewed in "Better Under Pressure" and you'll likely encounter the oft-repeated leadership tales we've heard again and again. If you like re-reading those, this isn't the book for you. Somehow, Justin Menkes broke past the sound bites and achieved a writer's dream: He got these household name CEOs to tell gripping, candid, never-before-shared stories that must have their PR teams wringing their hands. These are the kinds of revealing anecdotes about tough choices that expose why and how these leaders have reached the pinnacle of greatness.

But as instructive it is to learn why some leaders succeed, it's certainly just as instructive (and more fun) to read why - and how - others fail. The author's unique position within the world-class executive search firm Spencer Stuart gives him access to hundreds of confidential assessments of leaders who have been considered for the top positions in the world's most prestigious Fortune 500 companies. Without disclosing names (though it's sure fun to try and guess who they are!), Justin Menkes takes us step by step through a series of spectacular leadership blunders. He then explains why these leaders buckled at moments in which other CEOs would have shone.

This isn't a simple "how to" book, and I urge readers not to approach it this way. Instead, consider "Better Under Pressure" a thoughtful manual of excellence that teaches us to recognize how we confront and handle the stress that naturally accompanies leadership in the 21st century. Justin Menkes then gives the tools, exercises, and encouragement to help leaders (and their organizations) achieve the same results as the successful CEOs interviewed for this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Justin Menkes's previous book, Executive Intelligence, probably agree with me that it sets an exceptionally high standard in terms of brilliant insights that are eloquently expressed. Well, he has not only met but elevated that standard with this book, one in which (as its subtitle correctly indicates) he explains how great leaders bring out the best in themselves and in others. Here's an exercise that I have conducted to begin countless workshops and seminars: Draw up a list of the world's greatest leaders throughout history. No matter which ones are listed, each of them met those two criteria. In fact, they are defining characteristics. Menkes interviewed more than 60 CEOs from whom he has learned a great deal and then selects 25 (whom he characterizes as "representative") to serve as a specific resource throughout his narrative.

This book responds to an especially important question: "How to realize your own potential while helping others to do so?" Moreover, helping others to do so is central to fulfill one's one potential. "My research has shown that the best leaders work [begin italics] with [end italics] the people they lead to seek their mutual maximum potential together: they co-create their success." After briskly identifying the "what," Menkes focuses most of his attention to explaining "how" and, when appropriate, "why." His vast and rigorous research suggests that there are three traits, each of which serves as a catalyst for the development process: realistic optimism, subservience to purpose, and finding order in chaos.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul B. Thornton on July 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides great insights into the psychology of leadership and the key actions leaders take. Some of the things I highlighted to think about and reflect on include:

* Leaders' ability to realize their maximum potential and the potential of their workforce is the most profound way that they can differentiate themselves.
* Leadership means realizing potential - in yourself and in the people you lead.
* That no person has a fixed identity.
* The first key in realizing your people's potential is to bring to the forefront the threats and uncertainties from the external environment and to make them palpable to your people.
* An awareness of actual circumstances means that you balance what is known and unknown to prepare for multiple plausible events.
* Effective leadership requires an individual to take in both positive and negative messages, recognize their respective merits, and use the data to pursue a strategy that is most likely to yield positive outcomes in the future.
* Impervious optimism blocks an awareness of actual circumstances and is a fatal flaw to anyone trying to lead in a world of ongoing duress.
* High sensitivity refers to heightened radar, a more acute, broader spectrum of awareness of what is actually happening.
* Great leaders must balance: knowing when to intervene in a problem to set things straight - and when to create a context in which the participants can take responsibility.
* Great leaders do not perceive the same boundaries that others do.
* What would my role model do?

Paul B. Thornton---Author of, Leadership -Off the Wall
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