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Readers who enjoy reflectiveness and broad perspective in their CEOs will relish Hindery's conversational but unmistakably serious approach. Far from being a conventional memoir of corporate jobs held, boardroom battles won and lost, and shareholder value created, It Takes a CEO clearly focuses on more ambitious goals. Hindery opens his book by declaring his desire to inspire future generations of CEOs, and he returns numerous times to compare his perspectives and experiences as a young businessperson graduating from Stanford's Graduate School of Business to those students coming into the economy today.
Hindery strays from the conventional business-book formula; from the very first pages of the book, in other words, Hindery focuses on the dramatic social trends that waste human potential and drain pools of potential consumers and employees. Hindery will raise some readers' eyebrows with his direct, sometimes bracing opinions. In discussing the accounting-manipulation and fraud scandals that rocked corporate America around the turn of the century, he naturally mentions the typical villains, such as leaders at Tyco, Worldcom, Adelphia, and Enron. He also displays his disgust with Wall Street analysts who praised companies publicly while privately disparaging them. Citigroup's Jack Grubman catches a few barbs from Hindery, for example. Interestingly, though, Hindery doesn't stop there. He also castigates Citigroup's current CEO, Sandy Weill, whom many in the business world admire as a consummate dealmaker. Hindery finds Weill's compensation as CEO wildly excessive, and opines that Weill "deserves a lifetime banishment from positions of corporate leadership." Hindery similarly attacks the leadership of well-respected companies such as Cisco and Disney.
Perhaps the strongest part of It Takes a CEO, though, is that it doesn't stop merely with entertaining opinions and sharply worded broadsides. Hindery also shares his experience with prospective CEOs by offering solutions. On the topic of executive compensation, for example, Hindery offers several measures that he considers wise: a smaller pay spread between CEOs and rank-and-file employees, expensing of employee stock options in profit-and-loss accounting, and elimination of short-term vesting on options. It's this kind of practical advice, and constructive spirit, that makes Hindery's book a valuable one. --Peter Han