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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living Into Leadership, April 21, 2009
This review is from: Living Into Leadership: A Journey in Ethics (Stanford Business Books) (Hardcover)
Living Into Leadership
A Journey in Ethics

Written by: Bowen H. "Buzz" McCoy

Reviewed by: Ken Riggs
Date: June 8, 2007

Working at and developing who we are and what we want in life comes to us in different stages over our lifetime. The profound questions this book asks of its readers--regardless of the stage in your lifetime--is: Who are you, and what do you want? The first step to answering these questions is for the reader to be open to asking each of these questions of himself or herself. Once each question is answered, Living Into Leadership--A Journey in Ethics offers readers a map to follow as they pursue a wonderful and meaningful journey in life.

Readers are fortunate that Buzz McCoy has so thoughtfully provided this insightful journey into his life from the beginning of his distinguished career to his shift in giving back through his teachings and writings to the world that he so fully embraced. Living Into Leadership is not an autobiography or a book about Buzz the man; rather, it is a series of guided life experiences grounded in friendship, family, religion, and love--all in the pursuit of happiness and a life worth living.

You will learn of a man who has the tremendous amount of courage required to be honest with himself and with those around him, and how this honesty paid handsomely by always allowing him to be true to himself and to build lifelong relationships with colleagues in business settings, spiritual places, and intriguing physical settings. You will read about how Buzz, in his first investment banking interview with Morgan Stanley, suggested that, "If he (the interviewer) had no further questions, we adjourn to the lounge and observe John Glenn on the initial manned space flight." Buzz was not being glib, but was responding to the silence on the part of the interviewer, which made Buzz uncomfortable. (By the way, this interview was the beginning stage of an extremely successful 27-year career at Morgan Stanley.)

When you finish reading Living Into Leadership, you will recognize the profound impact that Buzz has made on the business world, and that his greatest legacy may very well rest in the leadership and ethics that he imparts through this book to generations yet to come. One can almost hear Buzz challenging each of us in a Socratic manner to determine our own legacy through the many opportunities we have to make critical decisions about the quality of life. His words will urge you to be a better person by examining your life with candor and by being willing to make the hard decisions. And make no mistake about it, there are tough decisions in life, such as those described in The Parable of the Sadhu, that capture our willingness to help our fellow man, decide at what level we would agree to help, and realize that these decisions are not as clear as they might appear.

Unlike most of our training that prepares us for financial and accounting issues, management challenges, or administrative processes, Living Into Leadership prepares one for the journey we each take in the pursuit of happiness and in the search for meaning while living out one's deepest personal values. With his wonderful teaching approach, Buzz challenges us to live a deliberate life. He talks of bringing together business relationships that are more than about business; they are about connecting at a human level. He strips away the facades that we build over a lifetime to protect our inner shell to reveal that developing personal moments with our fellow colleagues are some of the most meaningful and humbling moments of life. You will learn of the close relationships and learning experiences Buzz had with business icons such as Trammel Crow. The lesson from Trammel, though the prism of Buzz, is not about real estate investing but of love. Love, as stated by Trammel, is the most important quality that a business leader needs to possess.

Living Into Leadership also shows us that the most glamorous business moments potentially can be overshadowed by the unexpected, such as Buzz drinking home-made beer and eating popcorn in a hut in the Himalaya Mountains with a family that spans three generations, and recognizing there was no other place that one might want to be. Humor and balance as an undertone to life resonate throughout the book, and readers will also enjoy the stories about social graces learned on the job by accidentally eating another person's salad and even being ornery once in awhile.

According to Living Into Leadership, ethics are contextual and experiential. To understand how to live with values and ethics is not just about what we do once in awhile. Rather, values and ethics are a constant state of thinking and doing what one believes is right. In addition, fairness involves being open, consistent, and just. Buzz brings together all these things from many different dimensions and which are carefully crafted from readings published by Dante, Drucker, Bonheoffer, T.S. Eliot, and many others to achieve the following: "Finally, there is the deep level of religious and spiritual growth and formation, of attempting to live out one's deepest values in the workplace, which becomes the source of one's courage and steadfastness when all else seems to fail."

The book also speaks to us about the respect that we have for our parents and how to incorporate that perspective into our own ideology. Buzz is honest about the realities of greatness that we see in others, but at the same time, reminds us that no one is perfect, including our parents. We experience the respect and curiosity that Buzz had for all those with whom he came into contact throughout his life, and Buzz coaches us that there is always an opportunity to go past a surface or allegorical level to a deeper relationship of learning with each situation and person we encounter in life.

The book should be held dear to our hearts and retained throughout one's life as a constant companion to refer to in living a full and complete life. Living Into Leadership can be read in different ways at different times in your life--as a quick perusal, a careful read of selective sections, or a very thorough read of the entire book. In addition, individuals should read this book at three points in their life: right after college; at the midpoint of their career; and, at the end of their career. In keeping with this spirit and advice, I will give a copy of this book to each of my three sons when they graduate from college to allow them to understand that a life lived with deliberate intent is a life worth living; second, this is the perfect book for someone like me at the midpoint of a career to allow for a full appreciation of a life that has so many dimensions in need of polishing but will shine if I chose to work at it; and, finally, everyone should read this book in the August of their career to reflect on a wonderful life--as we all have something to give to the world, as long as we make that intent known to ourselves and work at the relationships around us. Although we may not necessarily have experiences at the level enjoyed by Buzz, we all have rich experiences that run parallel to those described in this book and we have a choice to make life a glorious journey that is uniquely our own.

Buzz concludes Living Into Leadership with a quote from his friend and mentor, John Gardner, as he offers the ingredients for and offers the wish for a life filled with meaning. "....Meaning is something you build into your life...out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of your experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something....You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life...."
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