Magazine article New Zealand Management

The Essence of Seven

Magazine article New Zealand Management

The Essence of Seven

Article excerpt

What the Best CEOs Know By: Jeffrey A 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 a textbook enthusiast but as an operating chief executive I got a lot of damned good ideas and insights, delivered in a thankfully easy to read and absorb style.

It is not a 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 a good job of it.

It takes a refreshingly different approach by beginning each chapter with a 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 a 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. …

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