Lessons from the Top: In Search of America's Best Business Leaders

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9780385493437: Lessons from the Top: In Search of America's Best Business Leaders

In the bestselling tradition of In Search of Excellence, a fascinating and authoritative selection of the most successful business leaders in America--and the strategies, methods, and motivational tools they use to help make their companies great.

"I don't expect anyone to be perfect," says Mike Armstrong, CEO of a reinvigorated AT&T. "It's not human nature. What I do expect is that they will take risks, correct mistakes, and learn from both." This is only one of the hundreds of comments and insights behind some of the most successful business minds in American industry.

In Lessons from the Top, Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin--the U.S. Chairman and a Managing Director of the renowned executive search firm Spencer Stuart--set out to identify the most successful business leaders in America, based on the most exacting standards imaginable. Then, in an extraordinary series of what amounts to master classes, the authors sit down with each of the fifty executives to discuss the long-term strategies, key accomplishments, guiding beliefs, and career milestones that have helped to make their organizations among the best-run companies in the world.

Lou Gerstner of IBM underscores the necessity of adapting to change. "We are constantly challenging what we do--building a culture of restless self-renewal." Ray Gilmartin of Merck discusses, among other things, the critical role of leadership. "My job is really to set the overall strategic direction of the company, to ensure that we are organized to carry out that strategy, and that we have the right management processes in place. I need to create an environment where everyone in the organization can achieve their full potential so that our company does."

What makes a business leader great? This is one of the burning questions in companies and boardrooms across America. An even more compelling question: Are there things each of us can learn from these leaders that we can apply to our own lives? Not surprisingly, there is no single answer to copy or formula to follow in order to excel in business.

In fact, the leaders selected in Lessons from the Top are wildly different in their personalities, their paths to the top, and the industries they work in. But perhaps the best way to learn how to excel is by studying the strategies and thinking of the wide range of leaders who have proved themselves the best in their industries.

Of course, any list of the best business leaders in America would include such recognizable CEOs as Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Lou Gerstner, and Andy Grove. But the list the authors have so exhaustively researched and selected--with the help of the Gallup Organization and the analytical tools of investment advisors Lazard Frères--includes many names that are far less familiar--extraordinarily successful CEOs such as pharmaceutical industry leader Bill Steere of Pfizer, advertising executive Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy & Mather, Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco International, and Frank Raines of Fannie Mae.

In the final section of the book, the authors distill the surprising number of  qualities and characteristics that these extraordinarily accomplished individuals share, to offer lessons to help us in our own lives and careers.

A groundbreaking book on business and success, Lessons from the Top should be required reading by leaders--and future leaders--everywhere.

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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

From the Back Cover:

Inside Lessons from the Top:

"I think you've got to continuously make sure [employees] understand how important they are. As a CEO, you need people more than they need you. My job is to keep our people interested in staying, and working, and growing and prospering with this company."
--Larry Bossidy, Chairman & CEO, AlliedSignal

"When I look at potential products or services, I see them through the eyes of the customer, because that is what I am, a customer. I am like a chef. I like to taste the food. If it tastes bad, I don't serve it."
--Charles Schwab, Chairman & Co-CEO, Charles Schwab

"We reward failure. I remember some guys came up with a lamp that didn't work, and we gave them all television sets. You have to do it, because otherwise people will be afraid to try things."
--Jack Welch, Chairman & CEO, General Electric

"The real trick to marketing is finding a core idea which the world can use. You find the universal, and then you make it the core of what you do."
--Shelly Lazarus, Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

"Customer satisfaction is the most important issue to me, and if you really believe that, then you've got to tie it to your reward system, to your management practices, and we do...We measure customer satisfaction in every way imaginable."
--John Chambers, President & CEO, Cisco Systems

"The key to building an enduring new medium is passion, people, perseverance, perspective and paranoia."
--Steve Case, Chairman & CEO, America Online

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Thomas J. Neff; James M. Citrin
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