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It Takes a CEO: It's Time to Lead with Integrity Hardcover – November 1, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rarely do clarion calls sound this loud. Longtime media-industry executive Leo Hindery, who once headed AT&T and several other large companies, now sees plenty of problems in the modern world, in business and out. He uses his new book, It Takes a CEO to issue both his diagnoses of the ills, and proposed cures. With the expansive tone of a politician, Hindery addresses a wide array of issues: inner-city unemployment, lack of health insurance, violence on television, corporate greed, outsourcing, undermotivated young people, and even, in brief stretches, the growing trend towards obesity in Americans.

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

From Publishers Weekly

According to Hindery, CEOs are uniquely positioned to save the world from the corrosive effects of airline deregulation, the flight of jobs to China, Wal-Mart's rapaciousness and the lack of national health insurance. Hindery, AT&T Broadband's former CEO and former president of TCI cable (and current recreational race car driver), shows how, in isolated instances, CEOs have solved one of the aforementioned difficulties, specifically noting how Costco's CEO, Jim Sinegal, in contrast to Wal-Mart's leadership, manages to pays the company's employees a living wage, and how discount carrier JetBlue has fostered financial success and both employee and customer satisfaction by upending the traditional airline service model. These cases give Hindery hope that future generations of CEOs will launch "the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to help rescue the U.S. economy and its middle class." Hindery spends most of his time exposing and condemning egregious executive behavior, corporate shenanigans, the perils of offshore outsourcing, the prevalence of gross-out reality television and how, at the end of the earnings period, the employee everyman suffers. His aims are admirable and his perspective is unique, but it's a tough sell that CEOs, not generally seen as champions of the middle class, will be the ones who remedy the societal ills Hindery has in his crosshairs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743269853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743269858
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,075,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Mr Hindery gives a clear account from the position of a CEO in the trenches. As a former CEO of two Biotechnology Companies I can relate to the struggles with ethical dilemmas that each CEO faces in this rapidly changing world. He has a very straightforward analysis which all Business Schools should present to their students as case study on multiple levels.
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Format: Hardcover
A call for ethics and strong leadership from an insider: Hindery has been CEO of several major cable and Internet companies, including AT&T Broadband. He's also been actively involved in social justice work in both the Catholic community and as a supporter of equal treatment for gays/lesbians and AIDS research, among other causes.

Interestingly, his corporate insider stance is in many ways quite similar to my solopreneur's perspective. He's quick, for instance, to point out the high cost of corporate decisions made on bad moral choices, citing a $2.65 *billion* payout by Citigroup to compensate WorldCom investors who got taken based on one of its analysts' fraudulent advice.

Likewise, on issues ranging from the role of tax cut policy (to stimulate economic development among the have-nots rather than the already super-rich) and the disgrace of CEO compensation all out of proportion to ROI--or what folks make at the bottom of the corporate ladder--I find myself in basic agreement. He doesn't understand why average worker pay climbed only 15 percent from 1980 to 2001, while CEO pay mushroomed 600 percent, and he notes that Disney would have actually shown a greater return if it had taken CEO Michael Eisner 's pay and put it into treasury bonds. Forcing companies to expense stock options, as Microsoft does voluntarily, is one part of his prescription to fix the broken CEO compensation system.

And he points out, as I so often do, that corporate scandals have a real human cost. The Enron retiree who expected to live on a $700,000 nest egg and was left with only $20,418 is one face on that human cost.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't know much about Hindery's background and how successful he has been as a CEO, but I really enjoyed reading this book. The three main topics seem to be: 1. CEOs should become CEOs for the right reasons, i.e. helping all stakeholders become successful and happy, instead of worrying only about their own highly-inflated income, benefits and bonuses; 2. Shareholders should not be the only people who are considered in the running of a company -- employees, the community and customers should also be considered; 3. Deregulation of certain industries (e.g. media, transport, utilities etc.) has been bad for the country and those industries as a whole; 4. companies (and the national economy) will be better and stronger if employees are paid decent wages and have decent benefits instead of huge bonuses being given to the already mega-wealthy.

Personally, I found it hard to put this book down, as it touched upon so many issues I have thought about in the past few years, especially when I see one my own bosses yearning to become one of the megawealthy fatcats he obviously admires so much. He would obviously be in the job for the wrong reason.
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While the condition of the U.S. economy, and the lack of a manufacturing base in the U.S. are not 100% the responsibility of the CEO, I do agree with the author. Rather than point out his mistakes, as one reviewer successfully didm, I would call on all of us to look at the condition of our economy, our government, and even our world, and do something about it. Do anything. These are all problems that can be solved by one person alone. But if a group of high-profile CEOs decided to forego the instant millions of dollars, truly look long-term, and challenge all other CEO, and Boards of Directors to do the same, there may well be a chance.
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It seems that while criticizing renegade CEO's at Enron and the like, the author has not chosen to discuss his own roles in the major disasters linked to two of his own companies - TCI which became AT&T Broadband, which cost AT&T so much money trying to accomplish broadband delivery over cable that it was severely damaged financially and finally sold out to get out from under.

His next role was at GlobalCenter, which was sold to Exodus Communications for $6 billion in stock, in a deal which not only finally brought down Exodus, but also precipitated the fall of GlobalCenter's seller Global Crossing. Certainly a frank examination about what went wrong in those deals would be much more interesting reading than his examinations of the problems of others - and it might better explain why he understands that it is time to lead with integrity.

Any reader should keep this context in mine.
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