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Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way Kindle Edition

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Length: 306 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


Directors & Boards magazine’s “Governance Book of the Year.”

“… a must for anyone who sits on a major corporate board—or who wants to understand them…. Their very helpful book provides lessons from their experiences, as well as practical advice to others going through the transformation.” — Wall Street Journal

“The writers know their stuff…the authors know their audience.” — Financial Times

“… a compelling account of a new leadership model for the modern corporation…” – Directors & Boards magazine

“The authors - Ram Charan, Dennis Carey, and Michael Useem—each an expert and practitioner in the field, throw a lot of insights on how companies can benefit from having boards that work rather than just exist.” — Financial Express (India)

“ a wise and comprehensive book.” — The Globe and Mail

“The summarised action points at the end of each chapter allows busy readers to takeaway key thoughts to chew on at their own time of reflection.” — BusinessLeadershipManagement (BLM), The Executives Magazine

“Leadership at the top is being redefined as boards take a more active role in decisions that once belonged solely to the CEO. Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem advocate a new governance model and reveal the emerging practices that are defining shared leadership of directors and executives. With a total of eighteen checklists that will transform board directors from monitors to leaders, Charan, Carey and Useem provide a smart and practical guide for business people everywhere - whether they occupy the boardroom or the C-suite.” — Strategic Management Bureau (UK)

ADVANCE PRAISE for Boards That Lead:

Alan Mulally, CEO and President, Ford Motor Company—
Boards That Lead provides the essential road map for corporate leadership. With gripping accounts and compelling illustrations, Charan, Carey, and Useem show how directors can lead in strategic partnership with company executives. This is a game changer, required reading for all who seek to bring out the best in their boards.”

Fred Hassan, Managing Director (Healthcare), Warburg Pincus; Chairman and director, Bausch + Lomb; former Chairman and CEO, Schering-Plough; former lead director, Avon Products; director, Time Warner—
“This book shows how, through leading, partnering, and delegating, boards are now starting to shape the architecture of the company in unprecedented ways. This book is rich with stories—there is nothing like learning from three world-leading practitioners on advancing board capabilities to get the company to raise its game.”

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and CEO, TIAA-CREF—
Boards That Lead offers an illuminating road map for how a board of directors can effectively engage and motivate its corporate management team to successfully navigate even the most complex of situations. This book should be on the ‘must-read’ list of every corporate board member and senior executive.”

Ivan G. Seidenberg, former Chairman and CEO, Verizon Communications; former Chairman, Business Roundtable—
“This research, complete with compelling anecdotes and practical information, brilliantly explores how creative, flexible, and innovative processes provide the foundation for long-term, sustainable partnerships between the board and the companies they serve. This work captures the true innovation intended to guide the leadership mandate for any board.”

Maggie Wilderotter, Chairman and CEO, Frontier Communications; director, Procter & Gamble and Xerox Corporation—
Boards That Lead is chock full of real-world examples that directors can use to improve their leadership and decision making—an impressive one-stop shop outlining board member roles, responsibilities, and actions, including the boundaries that boards and companies often fail to recognize. The checklists for putting this advice into action are comprehensive and practical— the best I have seen.”

About the Author

Ram Charan is a business adviser who has worked with executives and directors of many companies, including DuPont, GE, Novartis, Verizon, and RBS Group (Brazil). He has served on the Harvard Business School faculty, teaches in Wharton Executive Education, and serves on the board of Hindalco (India). He is the author of eighteen books.

Dennis Carey is Vice Chairman of Korn/Ferry International. He has placed some of the most prominent chief executives and corporate directors in the United States, including those at 3M, American Express, Goldman Sachs, GSK, Humana, MCI, and Tyco International. This is his fourth book on CEO succession and corporate governance.

Michael Useem is a professor of management and the director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He offers courses on leadership and has authored books on leadership and corporate governance, including The Leadership Moment and Investor Capitalism.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3255 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (November 19, 2013)
  • Publication Date: November 19, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G8O9MM4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,046 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Boards that Lead" is a call to leadership for boards of directors. In it, authors Ram Charan (renown business adviser and former Harvard Business School teaching great), Dennis Carey (Vice-Chairman, Korn/Ferry Intl), and Michael Useem (Univ Of Penn professor and head of its Leadership and Change Management Center) claim that the time has come for boards to rebalance their responsibilities and take a more active role in the leadership of the enterprise. They point out that there is a delicate balance - board leadership does not mean micro-managing but rather, establishing a deeper relationship among directors and with executive teams by requiring directors to educate themselves on strategy, risk management, and talent development. Board members must also learn when to take charge and when to stay out of the way.

"Boards That Lead" provides the reasons for this, the principles on how to do this, and the cost of not doing this. Charan et al believe that "directors remain one of the most valuable least utilized company's assets there. Their wisdom and guidance are still too often closeted." This book provides practical and actionable advice to build on the tangible experience of directors and executives in creating enterprise value.

Charan et al begin the book outlining the importance of an enterprise's central idea - "why the company exists, whom it serves, how should be nurtured, why it will flourish, how it will make money and manage risk, where it must be going if it is to sustain a competitive presence and achieve its broader purpose. The central idea is the bedrock on which the enterprise is raised and how its resources are spent. It is easily translated into action.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on November 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The authors contend some boards are well run, benefitting the companies/organizations they serve, and others that are not. In 2006 H-P and IBM had about the same market valuations, but by 2013 HP had a market capitalization of $52 billion and IBM was worth $192 billion. IBM had a stable board with a successful relationship with the CEO, while the board at HP was scandal-riven. The variance originates from the human dynamics, social architecture, and business leadership of the various boards. Too often, collegiality trumps independence and it becomes impolitic to challenge the CEO. A board's role is not to be reactive, passive, and accepting. The authors' first manifesto - governing boards should take an active leadership role in vital organization decisions (CEO succession, executive compensation, goal choices and urgency, merger decisions, ethics, allocation of capital, etc.), and not just monitor management. However, board involvement should not go so far as to constitute meddling and create fractured authority.

Decades ago, stockholdings were widely dispersed among thousands of investors (6% of corporate equity was held by institutional investors), none with sufficient clout to impact things, and boards were largely ceremonial. Today institutions hold 73% of equity and demand attention; in addition, activist investors have also gained clout. In addition, relatively recent legal actions have established two standards for director obligation - exercising reasonable caution and good fiduciary judgment. Sarbanes-Oxley of 2002, and Dodd-Frank of 2010 has also empowered and holds directors accountable in several areas.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Synopsis: Boards can make or break a company. Mr. Charan offers advice for optimal participation by boards that can catapult an organization into the next higher level of performance.

Information is offered on such topics as:
+ Hiring board directors
+ Firing ineffective or dysfunctional directors
+ Board ethics development
+ Board interactions with management

Case studies include companies such as:


My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: This book is an absolute winner and another example of why Ram Charan is one of my favorite business writers.

Mr. Charan wrote Boards That Lead in a CONCISE case study/example format with important take-aways at the end of each chapter to stress what needs to be ingrained in the reader's head. Since this is a common format of his, he is one of the business writers that I learn most from.

One criticism that I must admit that I had of the book is that Mr. Charan mainly focused on very large, Fortune 500 companies. I would have liked to have seen some smaller/mid sized companies included in the case studies. Also, a focus on different sectors and industries would have been appreciated, such as non-profit, healthcare.

Nevertheless, this book is in my business book pile to purchase. I think that there was enough to garner from the book that a "best practices" approach would apply.

Source: Publisher for review

Would I recommend? : Definitely. Purchase the print book though. I reviewed the ebook version and was thinking about the "critical data" note-taking that I was missing out on.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone
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