- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Compelling and highly readable, Michael Useem's insightful take on conventional ideas of leadership is quite definitely a worthy addition to your bookshelf. Here, in eight sometimes surprising stories, Useem demonstrates how second-in-commands can succeed (or fail) because of their ability (or inability) to keep their bosses properly on track.
Useem's book succeeds so well because of the variety of his chosen subjects and the accessible way he brings them to life. Even such potentially familiar material as the battle for Richmond, which occurred in the early days of the Civil War, becomes illuminating in his hands. In that campaign, generals George B. McClellan and Joseph E. Johnston kept their “bosses” -- presidents Lincoln and Davis, respectively -- in the dark, and the opportunity for a quick and decisive Union victory unfortunately became the prelude to a prolonged and bloody conflict.
Useem alternates such historical stories with examples from the corporate world, and the contrast is striking. Included in the book are David Pottruck’s efforts to bring Charles Schwab and Co. into the Internet age; U.S. Marine Corps general Peter Pace’s effective relationship with six different commanders; Charlene Barshefsky’s rocky negotiation of the U.S. trade agreement with China for President Clinton; and even an analysis of how the prophets Abraham, Moses, and Samuel worked with the ultimate authority, God.
Useem lets the unfolding stories bring out essential truths that you can prosper by. Each story is punctuated by several of these short and vital nuggets, labeled “Lessons in Leading Up.” Most truths seem simple (know what your boss wants, ask for clarification on inadequate instructions), but with the examples of failure provided here, it’s clear that many leaders don’t take them to heart as they should.
Useem walks a tightrope with this unconventional variety: After reading about the UN’s deadly failure in Rwanda, you may not feel ready to switch gears to examine Thomas Wyman’s strained relations with the board at CBS. Still, by retelling such graphic tales, Useem will keep your attention at every moment of the book. And the dramatic lessons make this a book for aspiring leaders everywhere. (Holly McGuire)
Holly McGuire is a book editor and consultant based in Chicago.