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It Takes A Ceo: It's Time To Lead With Integrity

by Leo Hindery
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publishing date: 15/07/2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780743269865
  • ISBN: 0743269861

Synopsis

Rarely do clarion calls sound this loud. Longtime media-industry executive Leo Hindery, who once headed AT&T and several other large companies, now sees plenty of problems in the modern world, in business and out. He uses his new book, It Takes a CEO to issue both his diagnoses of the ills, and proposed cures. With the expansive tone of a politician, Hindery addresses a wide array of issues: inner-city unemployment, lack of health insurance, violence on television, corporate greed, outsourcing, undermotivated young people, and even, in brief stretches, the growing trend towards obesity in Americans.

Readers who enjoy reflectiveness and broad perspective in their CEOs will relish Hindery's conversational but unmistakably serious approach. Far from being a conventional memoir of corporate jobs held, boardroom battles won and lost, and shareholder value created, It Takes a CEO clearly focuses on more ambitious goals. Hindery opens his book by declaring his desire to inspire future generations of CEOs, and he returns numerous times to compare his perspectives and experiences as a young businessperson graduating from Stanford's Graduate School of Business to those students coming into the economy today.

Hindery strays from the conventional business-book formula; from the very first pages of the book, in other words, Hindery focuses on the dramatic social trends that waste human potential and drain pools of potential consumers and employees. Hindery will raise some readers' eyebrows with his direct, sometimes bracing opinions. In discussing the accounting-manipulation and fraud scandals that rocked corporate America around the turn of the century, he naturally mentions the typical villains, such as leaders at Tyco, Worldcom, Adelphia, and Enron. He also displays his disgust with Wall Street analysts who praised companies publicly while privately disparaging them. Citigroup's Jack Grubman catches a few barbs from Hindery, for example. Interestingly, though, Hindery doesn't stop there. He also castigates Citigroup's current CEO, Sandy Weill, whom many in the business world admire as a consummate dealmaker. Hindery finds Weill's compensation as CEO wildly excessive, and opines that Weill "deserves a lifetime banishment from positions of corporate leadership." Hindery similarly attacks the leadership of well-respected companies such as Cisco and Disney.

Perhaps the strongest part of It Takes a CEO, though, is that it doesn't stop merely with entertaining opinions and sharply worded broadsides. Hindery also shares his experience with prospective CEOs by offering solutions. On the topic of executive compensation, for example, Hindery offers several measures that he considers wise: a smaller pay spread between CEOs and rank-and-file employees, expensing of employee stock options in profit-and-loss accounting, and elimination of short-term vesting on options. It's this kind of practical advice, and constructive spirit, that makes Hindery's book a valuable one. --Peter Han


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  • Where It Matters When the Buck Stops
    From Amazon

    A call for ethics and strong leadership from an insider: Hindery has been CEO of several major cable and Internet companies, including AT&T Broadband. He's also been actively involved in social justice work in both the Catholic community and as a supporter of equal treatment for gays/lesbians and AIDS research, among other causes. Interestingly, his corporate insider stance is in many ways quite similar to my solopreneur's perspective. He's quick, for instance, to point out the high cost of corporate decisions made on bad moral choices, citing a $2.65 *billion* payout by Citigroup to compensate WorldCom investors who got taken based on one of its analysts' fraudulent advice. Likewise, on issues ranging from the role of tax cut policy (to stimulate economic development among the have-nots rather than the already super-rich) and the disgrace of CEO compensation all out of proportion to ROI--or what folks make at the bottom of the corporate ladder--I find myself in basic agreement. He doesn't understand why average worker pay climbed only 15 percent from 1980 to 2001, while CEO pay mushroomed 600 percent, and he notes that Disney would have actually shown a greater return if it had taken CEO Michael Eisner 's pay and put it into treasury bonds. Forcing companies to expense stock options, as Microsoft does voluntarily, is one part of his prescription to fix the broken CEO compensation system. And he points out, as I so often do, that corporate scandals have a real human cost. The Enron retiree who expected to live on a $700,000 nest egg and was left with only $20,418 is one face on that human cost. Hindery also notes that stockholders aren't the only stakeholders, and decisions should take into account the effect on five major classes: shareholders, of course, but also employees, customers, community (both broadly and narrowly defined), and industry. To that list, I'd add future generations. As an example of this big picture thinking, consider the French government's decision to subsidize a shipyard rather than let it close, recognizing that the economic costs of government assistance to laid-off workers and the social costs of their unemployment, not to mention the loss of a key industrial capability, were going to cost more than the subsidy. He's got plenty of examples from the business side, a well. Can a company be socially responsible and still compete economically? Hinder contrasts Wal-Mart's rapacious policies with Costco's much more responsible approach, and discovers that the performance numbers wildly favor Costco. There's more--a lot more--but you'll just have to read the book. Shel Horowitz's award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, demonstrates how to build a business around ethics, environmental sustainability, and cooperative practices--and how to develop marketing that highlights those advantages.

  • What has happened to Leaders?
    From Amazon

    While the condition of the U.S. economy, and the lack of a manufacturing base in the U.S. are not 100% the responsibility of the CEO, I do agree with the author. Rather than point out his mistakes, as one reviewer successfully didm, I would call on all of us to look at the condition of our economy, our government, and even our world, and do something about it. Do anything. These are all problems that can be solved by one person alone. But if a group of high-profile CEOs decided to forego the instant millions of dollars, truly look long-term, and challenge all other CEO, and Boards of Directors to do the same, there may well be a chance.

  • At last, a broader perspective on the purpose of companies
    From Amazon

    I don't know much about Hindery's background and how successful he has been as a CEO, but I really enjoyed reading this book. The three main topics seem to be: 1. CEOs should become CEOs for the right reasons, i.e. helping all stakeholders become successful and happy, instead of worrying only about their own highly-inflated income, benefits and bonuses; 2. Shareholders should not be the only people who are considered in the running of a company -- employees, the community and customers should also be considered; 3. Deregulation of certain industries (e.g. media, transport, utilities etc.) has been bad for the country and those industries as a whole; 4. companies (and the national economy) will be better and stronger if employees are paid decent wages and have decent benefits instead of huge bonuses being given to the already mega-wealthy. Personally, I found it hard to put this book down, as it touched upon so many issues I have thought about in the past few years, especially when I see one my own bosses yearning to become one of the megawealthy fatcats he obviously admires so much. He would obviously be in the job for the wrong reason.

  • It takes a lot of gall.
    From Amazon

    It seems that while criticizing renegade CEO's at Enron and the like, the author has not chosen to discuss his own roles in the major disasters linked to two of his own companies - TCI which became AT&T Broadband, which cost AT&T so much money trying to accomplish broadband delivery over cable that it was severely damaged financially and finally sold out to get out from under. His next role was at GlobalCenter, which was sold to Exodus Communications for $6 billion in stock, in a deal which not only finally brought down Exodus, but also precipitated the fall of GlobalCenter's seller Global Crossing. Certainly a frank examination about what went wrong in those deals would be much more interesting reading than his examinations of the problems of others - and it might better explain why he understands that it is time to lead with integrity. Any reader should keep this context in mine.

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