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 / Winter 2009 / Issue 57(originally published by Booz & Company)


Best Business Books 2009: Leadership

The stories make for compelling reading, particularly because they are not all paeans to the individuals profiled. Deutschman is critical of quite a few leaders, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for talking the talk about energy and the environment but continuing to own a fleet of five Hummers. The fact that, in response to criticism, Schwarzenegger got General Motors to retrofit one of the vehicles to run on hydrogen and another on biofuel was not helpful, suggests Deutschman, because neither fuel is readily available to his constituents. Obama, too, comes in for some mild criticism for not leading enough by example in the very early days, although he is praised for many of his initiatives.

Deutschman uses his stories to make a point, or several points. He starts with the statement that “the most crucial role of a leader is establishing and instilling the one or two values that will be most important for an organization or a movement or a community.” There are always a multitude of values that are important — the hard part is making the trade-offs between them in order to focus on one or two. He castigates Coca-Cola for its list of six goals and seven values, many of which are potentially contradictory: Were “people” more important than “profit,” and where did “integrity” come in the pecking order?

It is, Deutschman says, only when you walk the walk that you reveal the ranking of your values. He describes the response of Martin Luther King Jr. when he was attacked by Roy James, a Nazi sympathizer, in Birmingham, Ala., in 1962. King staggered back under a rain of blows, but dropped his hands and refused to fight back. He turned the other cheek. He walked his walk, lived his teaching, and so demonstrated that others, too, could live by his principles. Deutschman contrasts King’s behavior with stories of corporations and chief executives that have ignored their declared values and principles when it suited them to do so or when they went along with the prevailing customs of their industry, most flagrantly in the case of the airline companies. Deutschman labels them lemmings, those who follow the herd rather than setting their own standards.

Deutschman distills his long list of stories into a series of principles. Although these are obvious, like so much in the literature of leadership, it is the stories that bring them to life. My recommendation would be to read the stories and make a note of the ones that resonated most with your own situation, underline the simple message that they contain, and then resolve to act on it or, as Deutschman would say, to walk your walk.

Inspired by Compassion

There is only one story in C. Julia Huang’s Charisma and Compassion: Cheng Yen and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Movement, but it is a remarkable one and a vivid example of Deutschman’s advice to live your values. Venerable Master Cheng Yen, now 72 years old, is an unassuming Taiwanese Buddhist nun who founded a worldwide social welfare movement with more than 10 million devotees in more than 30 countries, 5 million of them in Taiwan itself and the majority of the remainder in the United States. This remarkable organization, the Tzu Chi Foundation, which started as a tiny grassroots women’s charitable group in 1966, now runs three state-of-the-art hospitals in Taiwan, a university, and a television station, as well as an international relief organization that provides money and provisions to those affected by disasters, including the tsunami in Sri Lanka, Hurricane Noel in the Dominican Republic, and floods in Indonesia and the Midwestern United States. Cheng Yen has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is well known as a Buddhist peace activist. She was also identified by Business Week as an entrepreneurial star.

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