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Lessons from the Top: The 50 Most Successful Business Leaders in America--and What You Can Learn From Them Paperback – April 17, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Updated edition (April 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385493444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385493444
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,887,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The authors -- with Spencer Stuart ([...]) -- had access to some distinguished (Lou Gerstner; Andy Grove, Bill Gates) and some not so distinguished (Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay) CEOs, and they used Gallup to conduct series of interviews and polls trying to get some insights as to what makes some CEOs successful. What the authors produce are a series of capsules (2-4 pages for each CEO) which are descriptive of the CEOs and companies but have very little analysis.
It is in failing to use the resources at their disposal and access to some remarkable people to draw significant insights, that makes for the biggest shortfall of the book. One may just as well read a description of the CEOs or the companies in a business magazine or the Wall Street Journal.
There are no unique insights to be gained from this book. Yes, some of the CEOs provide some discussion points based on their experience, but much of the space is devoted to their company's specific problems at a particular time (thus leaders of questionable integrity, such as Ebbers and Lay were included).
What in my opinion the authors should have done is go above the specific company experience and focus on the qualities of these interesting individuals and show what has allowed them to have such significant impact on the business world and out society.
Unfortunately such insights are absent from the book. What a pity!
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Format: Hardcover
I have read a lot of business books about leadership. While most of them have been interesting, they have also been a little dry because the references to real people have only been used by way of example. Therefore, I liked this book because it allowed me to spend a liitle time with 50 people that one has to respect and acknowledge for their accomplishments. They have had to do something right in order to achieve what they have. But, then the book takes these 50 real life experiences and distills it down into a framework and a few basic lessons that helps all these individual experiences make sense within the larger scheme of things. People might say that there is nothing new here, only common sense notions, yet until one sees things within a larger picture or framework that ties things together, these are just disjointed ideas with little context, synergy or power to change. I can apply these lessons for the top to my own life situation and career and that makes the book work for me.
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By A Customer on August 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book profiles both Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom) and Kenneth Lay (Enron), along with other CEOs. It lauds them all with fulsome praise, scattered with homespun aphorisms of the type normally found in Readers' Digest, and interleaved with down-home anecdotes and capsule corporation summaries that tell you nothing about running a business.
Much of the book is devoted to describing how the book came about; it's how the book starts and how it ends.
The book may be worth reading just for its list; which profiled and praised CEO will be next to turn out to be fatally flawed?
Another reader's description of 'corporate dribble' is concise and accurate.
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Format: Hardcover
Among the many books which examine "America's best business leaders", this is one of the best-written and most informative. Part I consists of three chapters: What Makes Business Leaders Great, Evaluating Today's Business Leaders, and Methodology: A Closer Look at the Numbers. The authors then proceed to 50 "Profiles" in Part II, beginning (in alphabetical order) with Mike Armstrong (AT&T) and concluding with Jack Welch (GE). Part III consists of three chapters: The 51st Business Leader: Peter Drucker, Doing the Right Things Right: A New Definition of Business Success, and Common Traits: A Prescription for Success in Business. The reader is then provided with three Appendices to supplement and enrich the material which precedes them. So much for the book's organization.
There are several reasons why I rate this book so highly. First, as previously indicated, it is exceptionally well-written. Also, each of the 50 "Profiles" probes deeply into the specific talents and skills of its subject. Biographical information and quotations supplement the authors' own analyses. Moreover, each "Profile" illustrates a key point. For example, the discussion of Bill Steere (Pfizer) illuminates the implications of his assertion that "Fads come. Fads go. We concentrate on what we do best." In the "Profile" of him, Jack Welch observes "I don't think anyone appreciates the value of informal." Obviously, Welch does. I also was very impressed by the quality of the content of Part III. The discussion of Peter Drucker is among the most insightful I have ever read. The authors redefine "business success in the next chapter and then review the "common traits" of the 50 great business leaders they have analyzed. For those who are eager to learn, the "lessons" identified and then discussed by Neff and Citrin are invaluable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In skimming through this at the bookstore I thought it was a "can't miss." Turns out it could miss.
I praise the author's strategy in that they assemble a wonderful group of leaders and pick their brain on a variety of issues - great for the average reader. The problem is that the data they gathered is pretty much raw data and needs some analysis to translate it into actionable findings. This isn't done until the end, and in my opinion, should have been 50% of the book, not 5%.
With everyone crunched for time, there are other business books that will provide better, more concise information. Save your time unless you have too much of it :)
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