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Book Review – Leading by Example – Lokesh Ramani

by on November 11, 2007

An overview
Sometimes, it is easier to imbibe management lessons when top executives from leading organizations narrate real-time stories about the challenges they face and the solutions they derive to solve real business issues. This format of story-telling strikes a close connection with the readers, carving these business lessons as if they were personal perspectives offered to them by their mentors. Certainly, this mode of presentation reminded me of mentor-mentee relationships, where mentors share key insights with their mentees in an informal and face-face manner. This is “Leading by Example” in short, written by the “Lessons Learned” group. Through the power of personal story-telling, this book drives home the wisdom and experience of some of the world’s top business executives. By attempting to do so, a number of insights have been offered to the readers about how these individuals handle emergent business issues and use their experience to shape their leadership strategies.

“Leading by Example” is easy to read, concisely laid out and so engaging that the readers can assimilate all the critical business perspectives with little effort. Most importantly, every page in this book has the personal human touch attached to it, thus helping reduce the gap between the elite (the executives) and the plebes (the commonplace reader). With a very matter-of-fact, informal format, the book aims in an attempt to equip budding business leaders with the experiences and business acumen of some of the most respected and influential business leaders in the world.

Further, this book is no B-school case-study exercise. You will not find any terms that appear in balance sheets or graphs plotted between complex business jargons in “Leading by Example”. What you will find is, moving stories about how successful business leaders take on the challenges of running successful businesses and the lessons they have learnt in the process and how they use these experiences to influence their philosophy and outlook towards business and leadership.

“Leading by Example” has been designed to enhance the management and leadership development of people at all levels within an organization. The lessons cover the key business and management challenges that the managers throughout your organization deal with on a daily basis. “Leading by Example” provides essential insight for individuals taking their first steps on the management ladder, fast-track managers transitioning into leadership roles, and senior executives facing key strategic and tactical challenges.

What does this book contain?
The book is divided into 14 chapters, with each chapter outlining a real-world business problem affecting an organization and consequently the solutions devised by an executive and the experiences that ensued during such a process. These 14 chapters cover a number of business domains, not limited to strategic HR management, change management, executive leadership, corporate vision, etc. These business issues and problems are picked up from a wide array of business sectors including telecommunications, airlines, management consulting, finance, etc to ensure business perspectives and lessons can be imparted to the readers from a diverse problem set and background. Additionally, each of these chapters is summarized with key business insights derived from these real-world business experiences as takeaways at the end for readers to peruse through these business lessons.

Interestingly, the book also presents situations where contrasting business strategies adopted by top executives have produced explosive results in different landscapes. Like Sanjay Ahuja, chief executive of the Orange Group, who learnt, in the course of turning around a failing business, which employees and customers thought was beyond rescue that a business is not a democracy, that leaders must take decisions in the best interest of the company and not pay heed to popularity ratings within an enterprise. Whilst Julia Cleverdon, CEO of British Leyland articulates her experiences about frontline of an organization being the most important factor to address issues and drive the organization towards superior growth opportunities. Delving deep into both of these cases, it clearly demonstrates that these contrasting strategies have different degrees of relevance and effectiveness based on the circumstances of specific business issues.

Each of the chapter in this book presents a unique challenge faced by an executive. It may be Amelia Fawcett, former Chief Operating Officer of Morgan Stanley International, who continued to drive their long-term business strategy by maintaining her company’s presence in the Russian natural gas services market when competitors were bailing out in the wake of possible financial meltdown in Russia during the 90s, or Howard Lester, CEO of Williams-Sonoma, who exercised the organization’s core business competencies by not rushing onto an internet-based business model during the internet boom era and decided to react only after a compelling business case was charted out and not following trends blindly. These experiences clearly drive the complexity of business problems that these leaders face on a regular basis, the constraints enforced on them and internal/external pressures acting upon such situations. The lessons that can be derived from these experiences offer guidance to the readers on how to strategize solutions for such issues, potential obstacles that these executives have faced during their experience and the ones that budding executives should be wary of and certain business nuances that can be employed to tackle complex business problems.

Shortcomings
At times, I wanted to know a more detailed version of these real-time experiences in some of the chapters. The excessive briefness in some chapters, which even though made an extremely easy read, was one shortcoming that I can bring out. Further details in certain real-time cases, could have brought to light some more interesting perspectives on the business environment, executive stakeholders, constraints, etc. Further,

Should you buy this book?
Priced at $9.95 and comprising of 14 chapters loaded with business content contributed by top business thought leaders, this book’s value for money is superior. This book’s content and style does not warrant itself to be anything near a textbook resource; however the plethora of lessons ranging from change management, leadership strategy, business innovation, etc presented in a matter-of-fact manner is an excellent resource for budding business leaders to shape their perspectives on critical business issues based on real-world solutions. Paraphrasing a popular business strategy professor at the University of Washington, Seattle – Kevin DeSouza, the real-world problems and solutions written in the book can be quoted in appropriate circumstances when students get the opportunity to solve similar business problems; quoting these instances while crafting solutions not only brings credibility but also exhibits the due diligence performed to address a specific business challenge. In short, this book is definitely worth the money and time investment and warrants a favorable revenue return for its publisher.

Additional Notes
The publishers of this book – Fifty Lessons also have broad range of similar resources in the case of video case studies, which contain face-face, one-one interviews with some of the most influential and successful business leaders across a wide range of business enterprises. With over 500 video cases, this is an excellent resource for class-room exercises, personal development and for any business training programs in organizations. For more details can be found at http://www.50lessons.com

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