from the Top
Worth Reading, Even for the Crooks
The sub-title of this book is "The Search for America's Best Business Leaders." That's misleading, but it kind of makes sense, given the folks who put the book together. The authors are principles of Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm.
They should be in a pretty good position to identify top business leaders and to study some of the factors that make them successful. They do, in fact, identify what they say are fifty of the best business leaders in America at the time the book was written.
It would make more sense if the subtitle were something like "Interviews with Fifty of America's Top Business Leaders." That would be much more like truth in advertising.
It would deal with the problem of identifying these folks as THE best business leaders. These are fifty folks who were viewed as top business leaders at the time the book was written.
As the authors say, that list is fluid and no single search could probably uncover all of the top business leaders. The folks listed here are leaders who've been covered by the business press. You won't find top leaders from smaller companies, or even leaders from big companies that haven't gotten much press coverage.
The list is also fixed in time. Bernie Ebbers, Hank Greenberg, Dennis Kozlowski and Ken Lay, all are on the list. They probably wouldn't be today, unless you were compiling a list of famous felons.
This book gives you an interview with each of fifty folks who were viewed as very successful business leaders. Each one talks about where they work and what they do and what matters to them. That's what this book is really about and why it's valuable.
What you've got here is fifty selections of wisdom and insight from people who are successful in business. They are articulate and insightful people. The represent a broad range of personal styles and backgrounds. And they're valuable because we know how some of their stories came out.
In addition to the felons, there are other folks on this list who aren't doing what they did back then. Jack Welch and Larry Bossidy have both moved from CEO to guru. Michael Eisner and Lou Gerstner have retired.
Read this book for the individual insights. All of the survey stuff that surrounds the interviews is just there to flesh out the book and make it look scientific.
Don't read this book all the way through. Dip into it and read a couple of interviews at a time and compare them. Mark passages that are insightful or inspiring for you and go back to them.
It's a book worth reading, but not for the reasons stated on the book's cover and not because all the folks in it turned out to be either top performers or stellar human beings. It's worth reading because it gives you a view into the minds of fifty folks who've made it to the top.
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24 August 2002
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