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Harder Than I Thought: Adventures of a Twenty-First Century Leader Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422162591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422162590
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“the authors offer a very readable story of the challenges and tribulations of the Chief Executive role.” — Graziadio Business Review, Pepperdine University

ADVANCE PRAISE for Harder Than I Thought:

Michael Beer, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School; Chairman, TruePoint—
“If you want to prepare yourself for the incredibly difficult and complex job of CEO, read this book. Using their extensive knowledge of top-level management, the authors weave an excellent and engrossing fictional account of the challenges faced by Jim Barton as he takes charge of an aerospace company facing significant business problems.”

Frank McKenna, Deputy Chairman, TD Bank Group—
Harder Than I Thought is both entertaining and edifying—a rare combination for a business book. A delightful and instructive blend of fact and fiction, this book is essential reading for any aspiring executive.”

Hisashi Imai, Dean, Nomura School of Advanced Management, Tokyo—
“Finally! The long-awaited new episodes of Jim Barton, IT leader turned CEO. Although the reader’s industry or country context may be different from Barton’s, the fundamental leadership challenges are the same. I highly recommend this book for any aspiring leader anywhere in the world, especially newly appointed CEOs and CEO candidates.”

Karen Fine Coburn, President and CEO, Cutter Consortium—
“A delightful cliff-hanger of a book that delivers essential wisdom for twenty-first-century CEOs. Walk in the shoes of a new CEO and learn what effective leadership truly demands.”

Wang Shi, Chairman, China Vanke Co., Ltd.—
“Jim Barton’s undying quest for bold ideas and his persistence to push for change against all odds are inspiring. He is a motivating role model for all leaders and entrepreneurs who aspire and fight hard every day to do better.”

Tom Lee, Hughes M. Blake Professor of Management and Associate Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs, Foster School of Business, University of Washington—
Harder Than I Thought is a fascinating, highly informative, and fun book to read. It captures and conveys the personal demands of being a CEO so very well.”

About the Author

Robert D. Austin is dean of the faculty of Business Administration at the University of New Brunswick and Professor (on leave) of Management of Innovation and Creativity at Copenhagen Business School. Richard L. Nolan is the William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and professor emeritus of Management and Organization at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington. Shannon O’Donnell is a PhD fellow in the Department of Management, Politics, and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School. Together they authored The Adventures of an IT Leader (Harvard Business Press, 2009), which introduced us to Jim Barton as he entered his previous role as CIO.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Crandall on December 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a former CEO, a Board Chairman and a current member of several Boards, I've had occasion to read plenty of books on management, mostly dry, some insightful. Harder Than I Thought is a departure, it is as engaging as any novel, yet wise in its observations and counsel. I found myself inserting into the shoes of Barton, the CEO, and thinking about what I'd do and comparing his lessons to my own.

This is about major strategic change and the execution challenges in implementing change. One area the book excels in particular, where most books of its type are silent, is the need to assess the composition of a Board of Directors and how critical, although delicate, it is to make the changes needed for the Board to be as relevant to the challenges of the change in strategy as must be the re-constituted management team.

The storyline is engaging, which I won't ruin by further disclosure here. Its appeal should be for the management student, the aspiring manager and the experienced manager facing a major strategy change. That about encompasses everyone in business management!
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Format: Hardcover
Most of the material in this book consists of a fictional business narrative that focuses on Jim Barton, the "newly minted" CEO of Santa Monica Aerospace (SMA). The challenges he faces are by no means unique (e.g. completing a high-risk, high-reward acquisition of a larger company) and as the story line begins, at least some board members and C-level executives have reasonable doubts. Robert Austin, Richard Nolan, and Shannon O'Donnell are by no means the first to write a fictional business narrative but, to the best of my knowledge, they are the first to interweave the plot with end-of-chapter "Reflection" sections and five "Interludes" that serve as "time outs" during which two or three characters share their thoughts and feelings about key issues. Eliyahu Goldratt, for example, never becomes directly involved and Patrick Lencioni waits until the completion of his narrative before suggesting the meaning and significance of what has happened.

The subject of my review was excerpted from this passage in Abraham Lincoln's "Annual Speech to Congress, on December 1, 1862: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves...." More recently, Albert Einstein observed, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." The title of one of Marshall Goldsmith's most valuable books proclaims, "What got you here won't get you there." By the end of this book, Austin, Nolan, and O'Donnell have skillfully guided Barton through a process of discovery that enables him to respond effectively to the given challenges. The details are best revealed in context, within the narrative's development.
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Format: Hardcover
I am typically not one to review books, but this one deserves a few words. I tend to get bored quickly with leadership and management books, and there are a lot of "fad" leadership books out there these days. The authors of this book took an approach similar to Patrick Lencioni, and I second what another reviewer commented - it was as engaging as any novel, but was thought-provoking and challenging as well. I learned quite a bit about the challenges that face modern-day CEO's, as well as the role of the board and the pit-falls of both.

This was a book well worth reading, and I will look forward to engaging in other titles by these authors.
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