BOOKCASE The Essence of Seven

What the Best CEOs Know
By: Jeffrey Krames
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Price: $39.95

This is practical stuff. Surprisingly good practical stuff. It’s almost management enthusiast material.

The full title is What the Best CEOs Know: 7 exceptional leaders and their lessons for transforming any business. The seven exceptional leaders are Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Lou Gerstner, Andy Grove, Herb Kelleher, Sam Walton and, of course, Jack Welch.

Predictable selection? Probably. But Krames spends some time and compelling argument on making the case for his selection of candidates. None of them is flawless. “They all made mistakes, and most of them came under fire at one time or another for everything from strategic missteps to monopolistic business tactics and, yes, excessive pay packets,” he concedes.

But they “created legacies that include some of the most innovative business ideas and concepts of the last decade”. As he also says: “Their companies endure; more important, the concepts behind those companies will be studied and emulated by managers for decades to come.”

Krames has employed an interesting technique to bring the exploits and enterprise of these undoubtedly successful leaders to an absorbing and practical level. I am not generally textbook enthusiast but as an operating chief executive I got lot of damned good ideas and insights, delivered in thankfully easy to read and absorb style.

It is not business history, but the historical context of the companies and their CEOs is interestingly explained. Krames calls his book an “easy-to-follow road map” designed to help managers understand the “traits and strategies of these successful leaders” and to show them how to apply these to their own organisations. And he does good job of it.

It takes refreshingly different approach by beginning each chapter with brief scenario that “puts the reader in the CEO’s seat”. The reader can test his or her business acumen against that of each of the seven standout CEOs. The technique works surprisingly well.

Each chapter also has other lessons throughout and clutch of “assess your CEO quotient” questions intended to help readers gauge their own leadership abilities against each of the business leaders profiled.

Some chapters include thoughts from business theorists such as Peter Drucker and Philip Kotler, the point of which is to study the CEOs’ strategies or tactics from another viewpoint. It might all sound very text bookish but in fact, it is surprisingly good fun and equally informative.

The criteria Krames used for selecting his seven CEOs provides pretty good indication of the lessons you can expect to take from this book. Each CEO led company that was market leader and/or that outperformed its peers. Each of the CEO’s leadership strategies stood the test of time. And, each contributed to the body of management knowledge.

On this last point Krames states: “The truly exceptional CEOs – the ones who make it into management textbooks – most often have pioneered an idea or technique that others could learn from”. He felt each of his selected CEOs offered blueprint for other managers to learn from and use.

Having chosen his candidates Krames went in search of the “leadership threads” that tied his CEOs together. He found six characteristics and/or traits to describe and connect his team of top CEOs.

* The best CEOs start with view of the marketplace and instil an “outside in” perspective into the company.
* Many CEOs have an “evangelical leadership gene”.
* The most effective business leaders understand the critical role of culture, and how difficult it is to bring about meaningful cultural change.
* These CEOs create or adapt “next-generation” products, processes or solutions.
* These leaders implemented the best ideas, regardless of their origin.
* Exceptional CEOs advance the leadership body of knowledge in some meaningful fashion.

According to Krames, management guru Peter Drucker once declared leadership to be “mundane, unromantic, and boring”. Krames, however, feels confident that every one of his seven leaders would disagree with Drucker on this point.

His book, he says, delivers the leadership lessons of seven exceptional leaders who changed the face of business and “had great deal of fun along the way”. This is surprisingly smart distillation of the essence of seven very successful leaders. Clever and concise.

The book for this review was supplied by Dymocks Atrium. Available from [email protected]. Ph: 0-9-379 9919, Fax: 0-9-379 9555.

Visited 7 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window