What does it really take to run a successful company today? Thomas Neff and James Citrin, U.S. chairman and managing director, respectively, of the Spencer Stuart executive-search firm, offer revealing answers in Lessons from the Top: The Search for America's Best Business Leaders. In 50 short but perceptive profiles, they identify and analyze the men and women who drive today's most successful corporations. As might be expected, the authors lean heavily on well-known CEOs such as Steve Case of America Online, Michael Dell of Dell Computer, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks. But they also look at a number who don't get the same publicity, including Fannie Mae's Frank Raines, the Gap's Don Fisher, and Autodesk's Carol Bartz. The result is a broad but surprisingly consistent palette of personalities and philosophies that in a concluding section Neff and Citrin highlight by synthesizing into 10 common traits (passion, intelligence, communication skill, high energy, controlled ego, inner peace, a defining background, strong family life, positive attitude, and a focus on "doing the right things right") and six core principles (live with integrity, develop a winning strategy, build a great management team, inspire employees, create a flexible organization, and implement relevant systems). This book is for managers and anyone else looking for the patterns of success, both in and out of business. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
Headhunters Neff and Citrin of Spencer Stuart U.S. set out systematically to identify, profile, interview and capture the vision of the nation's top 50 CEOs. Through their company, they commissioned Gallup polls, gathered performance data and constructed a list of intangibles ("showed the ability to overcome challenges," "demonstrated consistent strength of character," etc.). The final results don't look all that different on the surface from countless other books purporting to offer the managerial motherlode, but in this case the difference is in the details. Interviews with AT&T's Mike Armstrong, Charles Schwab, Martha Ingram (one of four women named), Louis Gerstner, Bill Gates and Bill Marriott are all illuminating, revealing complementary aspects of captaining the ship without making redundant observations. A few of the notions even seem worker-centered: Starbucks' Howard Schultz points to the decision to provide equity and stock options to employees, even part-timers, as one of the main reasons why his company's attrition rate is below 60% annually (compared with the national average of 250%). The book is filled with such ideas, presented with a minimum of self-promotion from their purveyors. A final section of "lessons learned" offers a "new definition of success" that begins "live with integrity and lead by example." As concise and clear a management guide as readers are likely to find, this is a great tip sheet on business leadership. (Aug.)
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