What the Best CEOs Know

What the Best CEOs KnowWhat the Best CEOs Know: 7 Exceptional Leaders and Their Lessons for Transforming Any Business
by Jeffrey A. Krames

Here’s a great concept for teaching anyone—students, potential CEOs in their first year of a business track, or anyone further along in their business careers—the value of bench-marking the careers of some of this generation’s top leaders!

The author selected seven outstanding corporate leaders:

  • Sam Walton of Walmart
  • Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines
  • Bill Gates of Microsoft
  • Jack Welch of GE
  • Lou Gerstner of IBM
  • Michael Dell of Dell Computer
  • Andy Grove of Intel

Author Jeffrey Krames then isolates and examines the specific skills and styles that contributed to each CEOs well-documented achievements. In short, he explains what made them great. Listing the CEOs and their respective defining strategies is easy to do. He then devotes a full chapter to each CEO and offers his rigorous analysis of each leader and the defining strategy within the context of their respective organizations. This is indeed added value for the reader. The reader learns not only the WHAT but also the HOW and WHY.

In addition to interviews and his own expert analyses, the author also includes contributions from leading business theorists, including Peter Drucker and Philip Kotler, to provide different perspectives on each given business issue.

Here’s another interesting feature. Interactive case studies and exercises are added to actively engage the reader’s mind. For example, a brief scenario “puts the reader in the seat of each CEO.” A series of business situations are also offered which enable his readers “to test their business acumen against that of each of the seven subject CEOs.” Assessing Your CEO Quotient self-tests will help the reader apply these traits and strategies to his/her own career.

Here are the respective defining strategies of each CEO:

  • Michael Dell created a computer juggernaut by placing customers at the epicenter of his business model.
  • Jack Welch created an authentic learning organization aligning rewards with results to make GE an organization that harnesses the ideas and intellect of every employee.
  • Lou Gerstner taught IBM to focus on solutions by starting with a customer’s business problem, working back to the right combination of technologies and expertise.
  • Andy Grove fostered an awareness in his troops to sense threats and turn them into Intel’s competitive advantage.
  • Bill Gates trusted the instincts of his employees, successfully transforming Microsoft into a leading Web driver and innovator.
  • Herb Kelleher created an exceptional performance-driven culture which continues to grow as it maintains a small-company attitude.
  • Sam Walton continually learned from his competitors while remaining faithful to his vision.

All seven of these exceptional leaders have much in common: an evangelical leadership gene; an understanding of the critical role of culture; a passion to create next-generation products, processes, or solutions; a determination to implement the best ideas, regardless of their origin; and a commitment to increase and thereby advance the leadership body of knowledge.

This is a book you’ll definitely want to add to your corporate library.

(This book review was originally published in 2003 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 12.)

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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