Business Book Review

Friday, October 27, 2006

Book Review: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century - Reading Suggestions & CONTENTS

Reading Suggestions & CONTENTS

Reading Suggestions

Reading time: 33-35 hours 507 Pages in Book

Essentially, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century has several layers that you will need to peel back in order to grasp how each facet of their exposition interacts with other facets to form the whole “metatheory of leadership.” In order to accomplish this in the most effective manner, we recommend that you start with pages 439-442 of chapter 22, which does an excellent job of placing the foreword, the introduction, and chapters 1 and 2 (which you should read next) in an easily assimilated context. Then go back and read pages 443-470, for an overview of the practical examples of the theory and premise presented in the foreword, introduction, and the first two chapters. At this point, you will be able to decide which of the case studies, chapters 3 through 21, you wish to examine more closely.

An alternative approach, if you are only interested in how particular business leaders and their companies operate in the context of reconciliation theory, and have little interest in the authors’ analysis of this theory, read the overview of chapters 3 through 21 that appears on pages 10 through 12. This will provide you with enough information to make an informed reading choice.


Introduction to the Metatheory of Leadership
Chapter 1: Transcultural Competence, Part I
Chapter 2: Transcultural Competence, Part II
Chapter 3: A New Vision of Capitalism
Chapter 4: Creating a Hyperculture
Chapter 5: Remedy for a Turnaround
Chapter 6: Recapturing the True Mission
Chapter 7: The Balance Between Market and Product
Chapter 8: Private Enterprise, Public Service
Chapter 9: Leading One Life
Chapter 10: Pioneering the New Organization
Chapter 11: The Internet as an Environment for Business Ecosystems
Chapter 12: Global Brand, Local Touch
Chapter 13: Weathering the Storm
Chapter 14: Toward a New Spirit
Chapter 15: Change Within Continuity
Chapter 16: The Challenge of Renewal
Chapter 17: Keeping Close to the Customer
Chapter 18: Managing the Internalization Process
Chapter 19: Innovating the Corporate Dynasty
Chapter 20: Leading Through Transformation
Chapter 21: Keeping the Family in Business or Keeping the Business in the Family
Chapter 22: Transcultural Competence Through 21 Reconciliations

Book Review: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century - Remarks

Reading Suggestions & CONTENTS


The aim of Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner is to make the practice of leadership tangible by showing how 21 world-class leaders actually behave in reconciling the dilemmas facing their companies. Thus, they eschew models that rely on leadership traits and “situational” models, which they believe are largely reactive and lacking in dimension. Instead, they derive their model deductively, approaching their sample with a mental model of reconciliation dilemma theory already in place, with the objective of collecting evidence that would extend that theory. Through this approach, they discovered that it is possible to make the distinctions that are necessary to leadership and still integrate them into a practical whole. And, from the evidence of this integration, they conclude that value is not “added” by corporations, but that values are combined. Thus, it is possible to make complex business issues “user-friendly,” which the authors believe is what effective leadership is all about.

Thus, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century demonstrates, in comprehensive detail, the power to be garnered from synergizing values. It helps leaders to become aware of the major business dilemmas hiding in transcultural environments. It helps them to see how dilemma resolution is a crucial strategic ingredient and to utilize it as a catalyst for action. It illustrates the art of achieving one value through another in a “virtuous circle” (i.e., the process of through-through thinking). And, it shows leaders how transnational entrepreneurs effectively take a stand between contrasting values. The result is a practical framework for the recognition, respect, and reconciliation of cultural difference that reveals the competitive advantage of managing diverse diversities, as well as the neglected fields of values and ethics.


Reading Suggestions & CONTENTS

“It is not global at the cost of local or vice versa. … The main success criteria are how to improve local activities through global Learning and how to apply locally what has been developed globally.”
“If we ask which has priority—which value must logically come first—there is no doubt that motivating employees to satisfy customers precedes increasing returns and paying profits to shareholders.”
“Despite far greater emphasis on ascription or achievement in certain cultures, the two usually develop together. It is … a question of where a cycle starts. The international leader surfs the crest of this dilemma.”
According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, genuine leadership challenges the status quo, and this process induces dilemmas. In their research of sample leaders, the authors found that there are 21 stereotypical dilemmas that can be categorized as derivatives of each of the seven dimensions. The following examples are presented to demonstrate how reconciliation of these dilemmas constitutes effective value-generating leadership.

Of the many examples of the universalism-versusparticularism dilemma affecting the leaders, the authors found that the dominant one is the global-local dichotomy in which the primary questions is: Should there be one standardized approach, or should a local, particular method be tried? The answer lies in having a truly global reach, but with national sources of major influence. Seeing the need to implement more universalistic elements into Acer Computer’s strategy, Stan Shih designed the “global brand, local touch” strategy. He established Acer as a global brand name, with a good reputation, in combination with local assembly, local shareholders, local management, local identity, and local autonomy in marketing and distribution.

Another example deals with Rahmi Koç’s effort to utilize global learning to gain local market share for The Koç Group, one of Turkey’s largest conglomerates. Koç has developed joint partnerships, with such corporations as Ford and Fiat, so that his company can learn about their thinking, strategy, manufacturing techniques, and market intelligence—the main thrust being to improve local activities through global learning. The Koç Group also joins the giants in exporting so that it too can grow into a truly global player.

A second dilemma found in the area of universalism (rules) versus particularism (exceptions) is how to reconcile speed with continuous improvement. Jim Morgan, CEO of Applied Materials has accomplished that by designing organizational processes that pounce on mistakes and correct them quickly in order to accelerate learning. In these processes, what was acceptable last month is reclassified as unacceptable this month. Thus, every error is an opportunity to improve, and people are empowered to monitor themselves and rethink their work.

With regards to individualism versus communitarianism, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner believe that effective leaders understand that individualism finds its fulfillment in service to the group and that group goals are of value to individuals only if they are allowed to participate in the process of developing these values. The authors define this reconciliation, which integrates individual creativity into teamwork, as co-opetition.

Understanding that the major challenge is not in finding enough individuals to generate good ideas, but in the business system that must translate those ideas into viable products and services, LEGO’s Christian Majgaard creates teams whose members have diverse values and abilities. He believes that this approach creates the potential for devising solutions that benefit from the kind of dissimilar viewpoints and novel inputs that dispel skepticism. His reconciliation is to make the goal, as well as the process of creating new shared realities, so exciting that diverse team members overcome their differences and “realize a unity of diversities that make the solution far more viable.”

Richard Branson of Virgin is also excellent at this type of reconciliation. He seems to have special talent for creating public sympathy for the wronged individual (“David”) confronting the collectivized assailant (“Goliath”). By taking on the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the giant clearing banks, the pension industry, the U.S. gambling industry, 95 percent of British Airway’s British-originated airline traffic, Britain’s motor-car cartel, and the closed system of movie distribution, Branson has personalized Virgin, turning it into the underdog individual that comes to the rescue of the consuming public.

Gérard Mestrallet, president of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux (SLDE), presents another valuable lesson in reconciling the individual versus the community. Through his efforts, the company has captured 52 percent of foreign-owned water and treatment systems by combining the energies released by privatization with social responsibility. After a 20-25 year overhaul, SLDE returns, to the served community, full ownership of its own municipal infrastructure.

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s research shows that though the dilemma of specificity versus diffusion is very difficult to reconcile, this form of reconciliation is one of the most rewarding. Dell Computer is a prime example. Michael Dell’s dilemma was how to reconcile a broad spectrum of customers with deep, personalized customer relationships. Having entered the computer industry late, he had to do something that would differentiate him from the competition, and one of the things he decided to do was to bypass distributors and sell directly to customers. This model of direct selling received a boost from the Internet, which allowed the company to understand each customer’s problems in specific detail and, at the same time, serve a diffuse array of needs and consumers.

David Komansky of Merrill Lynch also faces a major dilemma in the arena of serving the entire spectrum of Internet users, while simultaneously digging deeply into their specific problems. He has reconciled that dilemma by integrating high tech with high touch. As customers are increasingly inundated by the deluge of numbers that the Internet gives them access to, the more they need help in interpreting them. Komansky uses the Internet to give better personal service (via high tech) to its high-touch customers and, at the same time, uses the Net to identify those high-tech customers to whom it makes good business sense to offer high touch.

Another excellent example of the reconciliation of specificity and diffusion is Kees Storm, of AEGON, the large Dutch insurance company. In his opinion, it is foolish to extol shareholder value above the rights and responsibilities of stakeholders. He views the needs of all stakeholders as being so interdependent that it is impossible to emphasize any single set without damaging the entire system and “precipitating a regressive spiral.” Thus, using stock options that give each interested employee a stake in shareholder profits, he motivates employees to satisfy customers, which results in higher sales and profits for shareholders who, in turn, reinvest in AEGON.

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner found that their leaders all “either had passion as the context in which their reason made sense or had reason as their context in which their passion became meaningful.” In the case of Club Med, its prodigious growth had put a strain on its management structure. It had become incapable of keeping track of costs or logistics, and it had also fallen prey to chronic underinvestment. However, Philippe Bourguigon’s insistence that the aesthetic experience of a vacation start to make sense in the real world rescued the company. Although he ensures that every Club Med vacation is still a unique, personal dream come true, he also makes certain that the elements that go into that vacation are standardized, globalized, and systemized, and that they are also generated in high volumes and at low cost. He has discovered that it is possible to create fresh vacations out of standardized inputs, and that it is the combination of elements that is unique, not the elements themselves.

Hugo Levecke, president of ABN AMRO Lease Holding, provides an example of how to change an emotional entrepreneurial setting into a neutral, rationalized one. At one time, most of the division’s growth had been created by innovative entrepreneurs; however, as the business matured and became more international in scope, a need developed for more interdependence between the division’s units, but one that would not destroy the hearts of the people. Thus, Levecke focused on improving the quality of internal communications and establishing a rapid exchange of knowledge at all levels of the organization. To this end, he developed a companywide scoreboard for recording initiatives and results. In addition, he introduced periodic meetings, where teams of directors, or the specialists reporting to them, exchanged experiences resulting from the initiatives being attempted by a business unit. The division’s sense of entrepreneurialism has survived because each director has an intelligent audience to admire and critique each initiative.

Anders Knutsen’s feat was his ability to create a balance between market and product. When he assumed the leadership of Bang and Olufsen (B&O)—the Danish audiovisual company—the firm’s tradition of immaculate design and engineering was so perfect that fewer and fewer people could afford it. Thus, he launched “Break- Point az,” a plan to restore harmony between the feelings of customers and the excellence of design and technology without compromising either. Knutsen also extended “Idealand,” a nonlocal initiative in which engineers, music lovers, designers, and other experts, both within R&D and outside the company, could engage in dialogue that would stimulate and balance ideas.

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner and note that the difference in achieved status versus ascribed status generates dilemmas when partners have different ideas about how people move up the organizational ladder. This dilemma has been a fundamental issue for Stuart Beckwith, founding entrepreneur and managing director of the BCIF group of companies. His organization provides small or family-run businesses with business training, consulting, and recruitment services. Recognizing the importance of “planning to let go,” Beckwith uses his “status” to ensure that his customers have succession plans in place and that their businesses will not be dependent on the founder’s personal presence. He also recognizes the need for BCIF, also a family-run business, to change. He has broken it up into a number of components, each of which focuses on a number of core business competencies, and has given his children the opportunity to drive new ventures. In this way, he has reconciled the tension between the “aging” founder and “young” successors.

Another example of reconciliation between achievement and ascription is the nonprofit status of British United Provident Association (BUPA), the U.K.’s largest private health insurer and provider. Instead of having a yield of 25 percent profit to shareholders and having to compete with Internet stocks on the AEX, Val Gooding, BUPA’s CEO, decided to make enough return to care for the old and the frail. She believes that caring about the people she serves, and ascribing status to them from the outset, is a prerequisite for success. For this reason, BUPA has no shareholders, demanding their cut, but is a provident association, residing in between for-profit and nonprofit status.

Gordon Billage is now CEO of Clifford-Thames (Holdings), Ltd., a growing printing and communications company. However, when he was the managing director of the company’s founding division, he used this ascribed status to reposition the firm to become a support-services enterprise, driven by technology data management and the delivery of information across a variety of media.

According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, with dilemmas deriving from internal versus external control, the major issue is to connect the internally controlled culture of technology push with the externally controlled world of market pull in order to achieve a culture of inventiveness. The push of technology needs to help companies decide what markets they want to be pulled by, and the pull of the market needs to help them know what technology to push. The organization’s success depends on this integration.

Tim Morris, founding entrepreneur and managing director of MMP Business Management, has made this reconciliation the core of his success. MMP provides backoffice services to a diverse range of businesses; thus, one of the primary dilemmas Morris helps his clients reconcile is the need for control of key business processes and the need to let things go in order to be able to focus on key business. Morris moderates the control “freaks” (who think their simplistic administrative systems give them power), by constantly informing them of the variables beyond their control, which cannot be changed or stopped, but that can be responded to and used to their advantage. And, he moderates those entrepreneurs who want to leave everything for “lesser beings” to handle by giving them access to innovative Microsoft Office products that let them know how much cash they have, what payments are due in the near future, and who their debtors are.

Inner-directed, technologically minded Royal Dutch Shell Group had done its homework, costing out all the options of disposal of Brent Spar, an obsolete oil storage and loading buoy in the North Sea, and calculating them from multiple perspectives, including the environmental impact. Even the British government had endorsed the disposal, in a deep undersea trench, as being the best alternative for all stakeholders. However, when Greenpeace wrongly accused Shell of leaving 4000 tons of oil sludge and sediment in the core of the spar, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of the company’s Committee of Managing Directors (CMD), was forced to stop the initiative. Although he believed, and still believes, that Shell’s approach to disposing of Brent Spar was technically correct, he understood that Shell must withdraw from that solution. He reasons that, “I learned that one can be absolutely right technically but that real decisions must take account of [outside] personalities, agendas, emotions, beliefs, symbols, and appearances.”

When Sergei Kiriyenko, former prime minister of the Russian Federation became president of NORSI Oil, he understood that Russian people both yearn for and dread change. He knew that the inner-directed younger generation, motivated by success, would create black markets and Mafia-type environments if they were not restrained, and that the outer-directed older generation would wait for some directive from above to save them. Thus, he achieved reconciliation by abolishing the company: “There is no company or edict coming to save you—only what you yourself create.” This forced everyone to negotiate new and better agreements that would allow them to avoid loss, make a profit, and survive.

In their research, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner found that the reconciliation of the various aspects of time is crucial. Keeping the traditional products that made a company’s name can jeopardize the creation of new products. And, organizing time sequentially makes a company efficient but not very effective. Long-term and short-term thinking must be integrated on a higher level.

Karel Vuursteen of Heineken, approached the dilemma of past and future needs of product development exceptionally well. He needed to integrate Heineken’s tradition of stability with the future needs of the company, and he needed to integrate the traditions of the Heineken product with the need for innovation in the area of specialty beers, which are now jeopardizing the established names in the industry. Thus, Vuursteen embarked on two forms of relatively safe innovation: Process innovation searches for new and better means of creating the same result, and product innovation allows new drinks to be created from scratch without involving or risking Heineken’s premium product.

By sponsoring empowered teams, Martin Gillo, AMD’s (Advanced Micro Devices) vice president of human resources in Europe, created reconciliation of the extremes between the need for the sponsor to be responsible and the need for the team to have the time and freedom to be creative. When AMD, the large U.S. microchip maker, decided to build a mega-factory (the Fab) in the Dresden region of what was once East Germany, Gillo realized that trying to import and impose the company’s American culture on Dresden would be a mistake. Thus, he has done everything possible to preserve and develop “natural groups” that have learned and experimented together. As a result, these groups have grown in their ability to innovate, and this ability has made a big difference in increasing the Fab’s yield.

* * *
References by chapter and a subject index are provided.


Reading Suggestions & CONTENTS

“ ‘Universal’ rules inevitably encounter exceptions, but if we celebrate the exceptional, we can better revise and improve [the universal].”
“The diffuse and spontaneous flow of ideas that characterize complex, adaptive teams reaches the heights of excellence and quality only if carefully monitored and corrected by specific feedback.”
“[Sequential and synchronous views] can be integrated, as occurs when by synchronizing processes just in time, you ‘shorten the racecourse’ by way of parallel processing. … We called this flexible manufacturing or, in a market context, ‘pull strategy.’ ”
According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, business has reached such a level of complexity that issuing directives is rarely effective today. Instead, leaders must “manage culture” by reconciling opposing values and then letting the culture run the organization. Thus, good leadership can be defined as the ability to resolve value dilemmas in such a way that contrasting objectives are reconciled and turned into a single system that learns from its own activities. The authors believe that leaders who recognize, respect, and reconcile value differences are more successful than leaders who do not. This “transcultural competence” represents “through-through thinking,” which goes beyond either-or thinking and, even, and-and thinking to synthesize seemingly opposed values into a coherent process.

In their research of successful leaders worldwide, Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner found seven major dimensions of differences, each with contrasting “value poles,” that best account for the major differences between national cultures. These dimensions are: universalism versus particularism, individualism versus communitarianism, specificity versus diffusion, neutrality versus affect, achievement versus ascription, inner-direction versus outer-direction, and sequentialism versus synchronicity. It is the authors’ premise that when these dimensions are polarized, dramatic, and sometimes, tragic, contrasts result. However, when they are integrated and synergized, transcultural competence is achieved.

With universalism and particularlism, the contrast is between the desire to make, discover, and enforce widely applicable rules, whether they are the rules of science, law, morality, or industrial standards, and the desire to be exceptional, unique, and unprecedented. The U.S., Finland, Canada, Denmark, and the U.K. rank high in this desire. In contrast, South Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, and France are all relatively particularistic. However, effective leaders know that these values are complementary and that the secret of creating wealth lies, not in making rules, nor in making the exception, but in integrating the two. This integration involves noting the exceptions and revising the rules, accordingly, so as to improve these rules and developing exceptional abilities by noting the highest standards and exceeding them. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner found that “the capacity to reconcile rules and exceptions [correlates] positively and consistently with the capacity to reconcile several other dilemmas crucial to leadership and cultural effectiveness.”

With individualism (widely advocated in Canada, the U.S., Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, and the U.K.), personal fulfillment, enrichment, expression, and self-development are exalted. With communitarianism, favored in India, Japan, Mexico, China, France, Brazil, and Singapore, the benefits accrue to the group, community, or corporation. In their extremes, both views hide the reality. For example, though Americans are individualists, they tend to create more groups for more reasons than most other societies. And, despite the fact that the main objective of these groups may be to advance personal interests, these personal interests have important group expressions. Thus, transculturally competent people understand that “individualism versus communitarianism” is a false dichotomy, and that wealth-generating solutions lie in the interactions between the values of the individual and the group. Good leadership nurtures individuals so that they serve groups in a process of “collaborative competing.” Accordingly, the authors found that the most effective jobs are those that allow everybody to work independently and give individual credit to the best team player, and those where neither too much individual creativity nor excessive “groupthink” is the norm.

Business cultures that prefer specificity, such as in the U.S. and the Netherlands, emphasize things, facts, “hard” numbers, and analysis. Cultures, such as Japan’s and Singapore’s are more diffuse, preferring relations, patterns, configurations, connectedness, synthesis, and “soft” processes. However, highly effective organizations develop ingenious ways to synergize both approaches. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner found that the most effective work environments are those in which colleagues know each other personally and use this knowledge to improve job performance, as well as those in which coworkers respect each other’s work and are, therefore, able to offer each other help in private matters. It is the optimum situation in which specific and diffuse sources of knowledge are combined in either order: by commencing from a diffuse orientation and accommodating the specific, or by commencing from a specific orientation and accommodating the diffuse.

In the neutral-versus-affective dimension, emotions are either inhibited or expressed. However, the authors note that this dimension has more subtleties and variations than the others. There is strong disagreement concerning what one should be neutral or affective about. For example, Americans tend to be moderately affective, despite their Puritan origins, and will show enthusiasm for products, visions, missions, and projects. However, they are less expressive with each other. They approve of positive emotion, but not necessarily of negative emotion such as anger or grief. They will talk about how they feel in vague “therapeutic” terms, but will rarely show how they feel by actually exploding in anger or dissolving in tears. The British may use humor to relax an audience; however, Germans and the Swiss may view this approach as frivolous. And, the Japanese and Koreans will get drunk together as a means of revealing a desire for intimacy, while Germans prefer to express feelings of intimacy by baring their souls and sharing their philosophies of life.

Wise leaders make the greatest possible use of emotional range by operating in two contrasting realms. They use calculated reasoning, which can require that emotions be temporarily suppressed, and they use a “wisdom of the heart,” which understands that emotional expression can heal, inspire, enthuse, and comfort. The authors have found that the most valuable pathways to integration in this dimension are to think first and then let out the emotions at the right time, and to feel first and then think seriously about how to express this feeling to the best effect.

With achievement and ascription, the contrast is between being esteemed because of one’s success and track record, or being esteemed because of one’s potential, as it is measured by one’s age, family, education, etc. Immigrant nations (e.g., the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) tend to have strong preferences for achievement, as do Norway, France, Sweden, Ireland, and the U.K. Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and Singapore are among the countries whose cultures ascribe status. However, they are not against achievement, they merely approach it differently.

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner note that individuals from these different societies are often at odds when they first meet. When, for example, Americans first visit East Asia with a product or proposal, they automatically “put their cards on the table,” and talk achievement—the deal, the costs, the opportunity, the profits, etc. This is extremely offensive to cultures that ascribe status, for they seek first to know who people are, who they are related to and connected with, what their backgrounds are, and whether they are gracious, polite, and hospitable. Many hours or days may be spent on this kind of small talk as a means of establishing trust. However, these differences are just a matter of priorities. Americans believe that once they decide to do business with someone, and a deal is imminent, it then makes sense to get to know the person, deepen the relationship, and check references. In contrast, East Asian executives will only turn to business after a personal relationship has been established. Each accidentally offends the other by not understanding this sequence and by not recognizing that ascribing status and achieving status are complementary. The authors’ research confirms this, for they found that when people are trusted highly respected, heightened productivity and achievement emerge.

With control and effective direction from within, versus control and effective direction from without, the question involves whether it is virtuous to be one’s own person or to respond to one’s environment. Americans, with their tendency to plan and then make those plans work, to rely on ability rather than luck, and to prescribe taking control of one’s life, are joined in this strong preference for inner directions by Norwegians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Australians, and the French.

The authors note that no concept better reflects the grip of inner directedness on the American business imagination than inner-directed strategy (strategy designed at the top of the organization), but that this predilection presents a problem. Top managers are usually the farthest from those on the front line who must implement the strategy and farthest from the customer. In contrast, East Asian executives believe it is prestigious to be outer-directed. They listen while subordinates initiate hundreds of suggestions and strategies. This, however, is not to say that outerdirection is better, but that top management can create grand strategies out of the initiatives that emerge from the grass roots. The transculturally competent leaders Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have studied integrate outer direction with inner direction. They do what Mintzberg calls crafting strategy—they carefully appraise the strategies that emerge from outside their immediate scope and weave them into a designed, inner-directed synthesis.

Time is perceived as a “race,” with passing increments (the sequential view), or as a “dance,” with circular iterations (the synchronous view). Whereas managers in America, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, and the Philippines take a sequential approach to time, managers in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, and France take a mostly synchronous approach. The authors note that synchronous cultures have a logic of their own that typically makes their participants run late and then overstay their welcome in order to compensate for their tardiness: Synchronous people dislike waiting in line for service and would rather form into seemingly ineffective, time-consuming jostling crowds. They tend to interrupt the work of others and are easily distracted themselves, doing several things at once—another time-consuming practice. They “give time” to people they consider important, and if there is an ample amount of these important people, that causes more delay. Top people are given more scope to synchronize their face-to-face engagements, which means their subordinates must wait for them to arrive. And, synchronization is often symbolized by time-eating bowing, nodding, or exclamations of assent, as if everyone were on the same wavelength.

In contrast, people in sequential cultures respond to an “inner clock” rather to the individual. They hurry from one place to the next, never stopping to interact. They are so immersed in their work that they ignore people. They seem to want to stand in front or behind, but never side by side with others. They refuse to abandon their plans in the face of unexpected meetings. And, they are impatient with politeness. Because of these differences, each culture commonly views the other as being “rude.”

Although sequential time and motion studies have made valuable contributions to the efficiency of mass production, pure sequentialism dehumanizes the work force and its goals are short term. By the same token, though synchronous just-in-time and parallel processing have also affected mass production beneficially, pure synchronicity seems haphazard, inefficient, episodic, and lacking in purpose. Thus, transculturally competent leaders reconcile sequentialism with synchronicity in order to obtain the advantages of both, without the limitations of either—each corrects for the potential excesses of the other. The fast sequencing of industrial processes saves considerable time, but doing these processes in parallel and synchronizing them saves even more time. This, say the authors, is what modern manufacturing, as well as reducing time to market, is about: “ever faster sequences with ever finer synchronization.”

Book Review: 21 Leaders for the 21st Century - How Innovative Leaders Manage in the Digital Age - Introduction

Reading Suggestions & CONTENTS


According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, because business cultures around the globe can be so different as to be diametrically opposed, a different managerial-leadership process is needed. This process must be driven by the kind of thinking that reconciles seemingly opposing values in a way that allows them to integrate objectives and deliver results that create wealth. Through their extensive research and close partnering with client companies, the authors have identified this new, overarching process as transcultural competence.

21 Leaders for the 21st Century presents a practical operational framework that shows how outstanding leaders manage knowledge effectively by reconciling the major value dilemmas, arising from cultural differences, that organizations must resolve when faced with the need to integrate people and systems. At the core of this framework are 21 case studies that provide a roadmap for learning from successful transculturally competent leadership behaviors.

Book Review: Put the Moose on the Table - Lessons in Leadership from a CEO’s Journey Through Business and Life - by Randall Tobias with Todd Tobias


Some problems are like having a moose in the room; the more one tries to ignore it, the more of an issue it becomes. Thus, the best thing to do is to confront it—to put the moose on the table—and look for a solution in dealing with it effectively. This is just one of the lessons on leadership Tobias learned during his tenure at AT&T, at Eli Lilly and Company, and as a member of various corporate boards. In Put the Moose on the Table, he recounts his journey through life and the vicissitudes of corporate leadership in late 20th century America and explores the compelling lessons he learned along the way about the challenge and hope of unprecedented and continuous change.

“Leadership is a mysterious quality, hard to define, but maybe we always know it when we see it … even as kids. … I credit my mother’s early influence for any particular skills I might have for listening to, learning from, and encouraging and respecting others.”
“My involvement in extracurricular activities had at least as much to do with the development of the skills that helped me become a corporate leader as the lessons I learned in the classroom. And I don’t think the importance of having those skills will diminish anytime soon.”
Tobias was born in the small town of Remington, Indiana during the 1940s. In this “Marcus Welby” time and place, he learned the lessons that have stood him in good stead throughout his life. He learned that a commitment made is a commitment kept; that nothing is more important than integrity; and that family and community are responsibilities to be taken seriously. Growing up, he had some extraordinary mentors who also taught him how to relate to people and get the best out of them by treating them with dignity and respect. However, the person who had the most lasting influence on his personal and professional development was his mother.

Mrs. Tobias, who taught sixth grade at Remington’s elementary school, exchanged classes with the fifth-grade teacher in order to avoid any appearances of nepotism when her son was ready to enter that grade. Thus, one of the earliest lessons he learned was the importance of avoiding the slightest appearance of any conflict of interest—even if it means undergoing a great deal of personal inconvenience. Tobias also gained his first respect and appreciation for working women from seeing the sacrifices his mother made in order to balance her work and home life. However, it was her attitude toward learning that made the greatest impression. Mrs. Tobias stressed the importance of being sensitive to, and respectful of, everyone—neighbors, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. Her belief that “Everyone has something to teach, so keep your ears open” showed Tobias that leadership is as much about listening, building relationships, and providing encouragement, as it is about communicating one’s own ideas.

From his father, he learned to “take the job seriously, but never yourself. And, at the end of the day, always make time to separate the two.” Moreover, as the son of a farmer, the elder Tobias understood that many of the bank’s customers could not leave their farms during banking hours to conduct their business. So, whenever anyone needed his professional help, he made himself available in the evenings, setting up “shop” on his back porch and giving his son a key lesson about the value of trying to do whatever the customer needs.

Tobias’s first money-making venture came at the age of 10, when he began mowing lawns and learning the importance of taking responsibility for completing any assignment he agreed to take on. As he got older, he occasionally took on other odd jobs, one of which was as a corn detasseler for a farm that produced hybrid seed. It was a back-breaking occupation that taught him to appreciate some of the challenges people face when working in repetitious manufacturing operations.

Nonetheless, his first “real” job came at age 14, when he began working as a grocery clerk and learning some of the essential aspects of running a business, such as inventory control and marketing. It was also his first experience in customer relations—in dealing directly with customers and learning how to handle the disgruntled ones with finesse. The management style Tobias acquired here was, to a large extent, the one he carried to AT&T and Eli Lilly and Company.

Beginning with the summer before his freshman year in high school, and continuing through the summer following his junior year in college, Tobias worked at a summer camp, performing every task imaginable—potato peeler, swimming instructor, plumber, bedspring repairman, campfire ukulele player/singer, and pancake chef. Thus, he got his first experience in having to deal with broad, ambiguous responsibilities. Job descriptions did not matter; everyone was required to do what was necessary—sometimes at a moment’s notice, despite having no prior experience.

In 1960, Tobias entered college at Indiana University, having no firm notion of what career he wanted to pursue. Almost immediately, however, he became involved in the school’s many extracurricular activities, including: pledging a fraternity, becoming subcommittee chairman of the IU Fall Carnival (a major campus event), winning a seat in the Student Senate, being elected president of the senior class of 1964, and cohosting a student-run program that aired on two local radio stations. These activities allowed him to gain his first taste of what it would be like to be a business executive. (Although both law and broadcasting had been intriguing possibilities, he was ultimately attracted to the School of Business, where he majored in marketing and advertising.) In every instance, he was required to accept new challenges, manage multiple activities at the same time, lead people with competing and often conflicting ideas, and cope with responsibilities in areas where he had little prior knowledge or expertise to guide his actions and decisions.

Because Tobias participated in the university’s ROTC program, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the field artillery branch of the U.S. Army when he graduated from IU in June 1964. However, before reporting for duty at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in October, he joined the Initial Management Development Program (IMDP), a unique initiative instituted by AT&T’s Indiana Bell subsidiary. Those chosen for this program were seniors who had demonstrated “significant peer-supported leadership outside the classroom and had done so while performing well in the classroom.” The idea was that if an individual had emerged as a leader as team captain, class president, dorm leader, fraternity president, etc., he would likely emerge as a leader in AT&T.

In October, Tobias reported to Fort Sill, along with a hundred or so other young officers. They had all attended ROTC classes for four years, where they studied military history, law, and courtesy; leadership; and many other subjects. And, they had spent six week on active duty (i.e., boot camp) during the summer preceding their senior year. After basic training, some were sent to other military installations in the U.S.; some were sent to units in Europe and other places around the world; and some were sent to Vietnam. Tobias was assigned to duty as an instructor in Fort Sill’s Communications and Electronics Department.

Again, it was an experience that later served him well in his business career. For almost two years, he taught officers who often outranked him and had more practical experience than he. But, it was this trial by fire that allowed him, when he became a corporate executive, to be comfortable testifying before Congress, addressing security analysts, presiding over annual stockholder meetings, and generally communicating with audiences, whether friendly, hostile, large, small, formal, or informal. In September 1966, Tobias accepted a job as the Indiana Bell Telephone Company manager in Lebanon, Indiana.

“The more I think about leadership, the more I realize that leaders are not necessarily born—they are made. I think experiences are extremely important in shaping a leader.”
“When one is in the midst of enormous change and all of the ground rules are being thrown out the door, it’s absolutely essential to ask—and to answer: What businesses are we really in?”
“As I define it, communications is ... the sum of all the activities that demonstrate, through words and actions, what a leader—indeed, what a business—really is about.”

“In my experience, the thin line separating the winners from the losers is often determined by how well an organization chooses and structures jobs for its people in a way that is consistent with its plans for tomorrow, not yesterday.”

By 1977, Tobias’s career had taken him to the public relations department at Indiana Bell’s headquarters in Indianapolis. But, in the spring of that year, he received an opportunity that he could not have anticipated in his wildest dreams—he was being transferred to Illinois Bell in Chicago, as general manager for the North Suburban area. A transfer of someone at Tobias’s level within the Bell System, from one operating subsidiary to another, meant he was on the fast track for career advancement and that his performance was being watched by those at the very top of the parent company. With this new assignment, Tobias was to be given responsibility for all aspects of telephone service in a geographic area and would run an integrated business in which managers, engineers, salespeople, operators, service reps, and maintenance and repair crews all reported to him.

This job far exceeded the best-case career plans he could have laid out for himself when he graduated college. In fact, he had not arrived at this point as the result of any detailed career-planning strategy, but by doing the best he could every day and letting his performance speak for itself. He believes that individuals must have the ability to consistently deliver results and the opportunities to demonstrate that ability, especially at those rare, unexpected, and often unrecognized moments when career-altering opportunities present themselves. When people find themselves in the spotlight at center stage, they must be prepared to perform. And, they must also be prepared to perform at every opportunity, because they never know when a performance will determine the trajectory of their careers.

Tobias also believes that in addition to seizing opportunities, all aspiring managers can enhance their leadership skills if they focus on developing the capabilities and characteristics that are most likely to help them succeed. He says, of course, there is no magic formula, only predictors that are important and reasonably dependable indicators of leadership capacity, no matter the business or industry. And, though he does not believe that identifying leadership talent is as simple and straightforward as creating a list of attributes, he has, nonetheless, developed an ever-evolving list of indicators of future leadership potential. Tobias notes that far too many leaders refuse to communicate the attributes they believe are necessary for rising to the top and, in doing so, essentially turn these attributes into a “hierarchy of secrets.” From his perspective, this approach makes no sense in that no strategic purpose is served by preserving an air of mystery around the very characteristics needed to fill the most important positions in a company.

Thus, he delineates the following attributes as prerequisites for leadership: (1) inspires confidence, trust, and consistently displays the highest ethical standards; (2) communicates effectively, internally and externally; (3) consistently achieves superior results and produces results through others; (4) pursues continuous learning and fosters a learning environment; (5) produces other leaders; (6) develops cross-functional knowledge and versatility; (7) embraces change and seeks to use it advantageously; (8) constantly seeks innovative ideas—particularly in unlikely places; (9) builds internal and external alliances to further corporate goals; (10) balances the short term with the long term by focusing on both; (11) embraces ambiguity; (12) practices and encourages thoughtful risk taking; (13) champions cultural diversity; and (14) leaves indelible “footprints.”

Although it is important to communicate the specific qualities needed to assume positions of leadership, it is also necessary to be a role model who leads by example. One such role model for Tobias was Charles L. Brown, the AT&T chairman and CEO, who oversaw the breakup of the Bell System. Tobias believes that when Brown asked AT&T’s board to accept the terms of the divestiture settlement worked out with the Justice Department, it represented the most significant single decision in the company’s history. Thus, with this move, Brown demonstrated the key qualities of an effective change agent: He built a consensus to support a decision he realized had to be made. He effectively communicated that vision to the company, the media, and the shareholders. And, he acted quickly and decisively.

Although much has been written about that decision and its far-reaching legal, political, and economic implications, something else occurred on that day that provided a lesson in leadership that Tobias still carries with him. Tobias, who had recently been promoted to the position of corporate vice president, was sitting outside the boardroom, nervously waiting to make his first appearance before AT&T’s board with a presentation on marketing. In the midst of the intense drama unfolding behind closed doors, Brown took the time to pause and write Tobias a note, apologizing for keeping him waiting and asking him to postpone his presentation until such time as he (Brown) could give it his full attention.

Tobias framed this note, which has hung it in a place of prominence in every office he has occupied since that date. An assistant could have been sent to usher Tobias away or, given the circumstances, Tobias’s presentation could have easily been forgotten. Thus, Brown’s “instinctive unconscious gesture of leadership” made an indelible impression about the importance of treating subordinates with the same respect one shows board members. Subsequently, as the level of stress began to grow concerning the divestiture, it was not lost on Tobias that fewer and fewer notes found their way down through the ranks. “And a company whose success was once driven by the loyalty of its people began to pay a very dear price.”

When Theodore Vail became AT&T’s legendary leader, he encapsulated his vision for the enterprise in six words: “One system. One policy. Universal service.” Over the ensuing decades, these six words allowed generations of AT&T employees, at all levels, to know where the company was headed and how it would get there. This vision shaped a philosophy, which shaped a culture and defined the terms of the company’s relationship with its employees and customers. However, the decision to accept the Justice Department’s divestiture proposal “did not reflect a change in philosophy, but a change in circumstances.” And, because no new, coherent, clearly defined companywide vision emerged for the future of the business, decisions at the new AT&T were often implemented for an industry that no longer existed.

Reflecting back on this period, Tobias says the key lesson is that “Without a shared vision that is compelling and truly embraced with passion, it’s nearly impossible for any organization to succeed.” Moreover, acceptance of this vision depends on the leader’s ability to build a consensus, gain buy-in, and articulate the vision with a passion that translates into credibility. Most importantly, the people must be able to see and believe that their leader is the ultimate “father,” who truly owns the vision (IBM’s Lou Gerstner, GE’s Jack Welch, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are perfect examples of this kind of father-owner). Thanks to this lesson, when Tobias accepted the challenge of leading Eli Lilly and Company through its period of massive change, he had something important to offer.

On June 25 1993, Eli Lilly and Company shocked Wall Street and its rank and file by announcing that President and CEO Vaughn Bryson was resigning and that AT&T Vice Chairman Randall Tobias (who was also an outside director on Lilly’s board) was to become the company’s new chairman, president, and CEO. Speculation was that the “telephone guy” was being hired to lay off large numbers of employees in the same manner as AT&T had done, and given the absence of information to the contrary, this theory seemed to be quite logical. The board’s terse press release, announcing Bryson’s retirement due to differences with the board over management philosophy, was carefully worded to say nothing. But, this “nothing” spoke volumes to Lilly’s employees, who appreciated Bryson for his attempts to overhaul the corporate culture, remove outdated bureaucratic processes, and encourage more open communication between management and the rank and file.

As far as the employees were concerned, differences over “management philosophy” simply meant that the board did not like Bryson’s attempts to make the company more open, and that Tobias was an AT&T “hatchet man,” hired to reinstall a command-and-control approach and to institute cost-cutting in the form of layoffs. From the board’s perspective, however, culture was not at issue; their concern stemmed from the absence of a clearly articulated and compelling vision for Lilly’s future, and the absence of a sound plan to stem the slide in the company’s stock price.

Nonetheless, the day after the big announcement, a major crisis struck. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notified Lilly that one of the patients involved in the company’s clinical trials of the potential product, FIAU, needed to be hospitalized because of profound kidney failure. Immediately, Lilly and NIH agreed to stop the trials, and the other 14 patients were told to stop their medication and report to NIH as soon as possible. By Monday morning, however, several of these patients showed early signs of serious liver toxicity. Although Tobias had planned to make an orderly transition from his AT&T responsibilities, he realized that as Lilly’s new leader he had to address this issue immediately and in person.

He understood from experience that he did not have all the right answers, so it was incumbent upon him to ask the right questions and to set the right tone. At the Monday morning meeting of Lilly executives and department heads, Tobias stated that, though he wanted to understand the potential legal and financial ramifications of the situation, the patients and their well-being were first and foremost the top priority and the driver of all subsequent decisions. He explained further the need for Lilly to communicate its desire to help in any way possible, not only because it was the company’s responsibility but also because it was the right thing to do. This theme—success in a changing environment begins and ends with a company’s commitment to treating everyone it touches with respect—was one Tobias continued to emphasize until he retired in 1998.

Seen in retrospect, the stance Tobias took that day engendered the trust of all involved, for in that instant, he moved the company past the trap of taking the easy way out by establishing boundaries based on values and proper priorities. Everyone also saw that he was not going to micromanage them, but was going to give them the lead in doing what needed to be done, within the boundaries established.

This initial meeting with the company’s senior leadership also served as a strong foundation on which to being a new policy of open and honest dialogue. For some time, Lilly’s communications policy had been one of “No comment,” concerning products, employees, and many other issues of interest to the media and public. Tobias realized, however, that analysts, local citizens, journalists, and thousands of employees and shareholders wanted to know what was going on behind the closed doors of the executive conference room. Thus, he quickly determined that his second major responsibility as CEO (after the FIAU crisis) was communication.

Nonetheless, he realized that the real challenge was not only communicating, but also integrating what he said and wrote with the way he behaved. He believes that communications must be defined as including all forms of a corporation’s behaviors toward all of its stakeholders so that it becomes another form of silo-busting, fiefdom-destroying cross-functional teamwork. Moreover, effective communication (i.e., communication that changes behavior) is more than simply delivering well-thought out statements; where, how and, above all, when, these statements are delivered, is also crucial. If bad news does not improve with age, then lack of news to those who need it is even worse. Essentially it is about meeting expectations, doing the right things right, leading by example, and making oneself credible.

Although a strong values-based foundation was already in place when Tobias arrived at Lilly, he knew that keeping these values so that they would be vibrant drivers of the way business was conducted required ongoing attention. Because the world was changing dramatically, and the pressure was on to produce (and to perhaps cut corners), he believed nothing would be more important to Lilly’s future success than nurturing well-defined, strongly emphasized values. From his perspective, Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, et al., happened because values and culture were seen as “soft” issues separate from the “business.” Moreover, he thinks that new laws and regulations will not effectively address this issue—the solution can only be found in “clearly articulated expectations of behavior, and accountability when those expectations are not met.”

Thus, during his first few weeks, Tobias became focused on the need for a new standard beyond an ethically grounded sense of right and wrong. The values of “people, integrity, and excellence” were already so much a part of the company’s culture that instead of changing them, Tobias helped Lilly to redefine them and specify what these words were to mean in the current context. In that way, the company was able to express how its past values would continue to guide the way business was done.

Tobias also spent a great deal of time talking about the relationship of Lilly’s core values to the company’s financial success, for he believed that truly living those values would have a major impact on the successful implementation of the company’s business strategy. A new understanding of Lilly’s commitment to its people and, just as importantly, their reciprocal commitment to the company, had to be established. Although it was important to foster a culture in which employees would continue to be valued for all they had contributed and achieved in the past, the expectation also needed to be established that everyone would be measured and rewarded for what they were contributing in the present.

In its history, the company had never had a massive layoff in the U.S., and though Tobias did not see any need for involuntary job cuts in the near future, he emphasized that market success would be the real determination of the company’s stability and growth or lack thereof. Thus, he noted that any bond of reciprocity begins with the premise that in times of continuous change, there can be no guarantee of job security. Accordingly, Lilly employees have since become more responsible for their work lives, for managing their own performance, upgrading their skills, and planning their careers. Management’s part of the bargain is the provision of mentoring, career resources, and training opportunities. It is also management’s responsibility to update the personnel policies and programs that were created in an era when all families resembled the Ozzie and Harriet Nelson prototype. Thus, Lilly has initiated a wide array of work-life programs (initiatives that represent a decided competitive advantage), in order to address the reality that 82 percent of its employees now live under a different model: single people with no children, single parents, unmarried couples, dual wage earners with children and without, multigenerational families, same-sex couples, etc.

Tobias’s experience had taught him that “no matter how many important issues demand attention, everyone on the management team, without guidance to the contrary, will invariably gravitate toward the highest-profile issues. And the rest of the field will be vacant.” Because this “law” was very much at work at Lilly when he arrived, he identified six priorities: (1) getting the company under control operationally; (2) beginning with employees and the financial community, restoring stakeholder confidence in the company, its leadership, and its future; (3) moving quickly to increase shareholder value; (4) making important strategic choices; (5) rekindling and refocusing core values; and (6) strengthening and deepening the company’s leadership capabilities, throughout the business, for the present and future.

Number four, which addressed the important question of what business the company was really in, was seen as the key priority. Thus, by focusing on that issue, the company was able to make a number of decisions about Lilly’s future course. For example, the company would focus primarily on human pharmaceuticals. It would exit the medical devices business in a way that would unlock the potential shareholder value not being realized and also garner some cash to invest in the pharmaceutical business. And, the R&D efforts driving the pharmaceutical business, would focus on selected therapeutic areas that possess three essential characteristics: (1) disease categories with significant unmet medical needs; (2) categories where Lilly’s research capabilities were already capable of effectively addressing unmet medical needs; and (3) categories where the likely profit margins were attractive. In addition to these initiatives, the company also decided to develop or enhance capabilities what would be critical to its future success and to focus more strongly on building its businesses in global markets.

At AT&T, Tobias participated in a culture in which everyone was expected to conform to practices that had been “written for nearly every aspect of the business and codified in rows and rows of black binders which lined office walls.” Tobias found this same aversion to risk taking at Lilly, for over the years, the company had developed a culture in which reward was given for not failing rather than for successfully achieving. However, he understood that if he encouraged risk taking (in those parts of the business that do not have an impact on the safety and well-being of patients), Lilly would make mistakes, but the ultimate measure would be the net impact on the creation of shareholder value from everything implemented. He believes that when companies make decisions and things go wrong, not only must they evaluate the end result, but must also evaluate what they knew, when they knew it, and if they made the decision at the optimum time. They must also assess if the risk of deciding and being wrong was outweighed by the likelihood and benefits of being right. Part of being a leader is making intuitive judgments, taking informed risks, and understanding that sometimes those are the best tools available.

Tobias notes that often in the corporate world, succession planning seems not to get the attention it deserves. He found that this was clearly the reality at AT&T and Lilly. In fact, the reason he was in the role of chairman, president, and CEO at Lilly was the direct result of the company’s failed leadership selection, development, and transition process. Determined not to let this happen again, he immediately set out to develop and implement a comprehensive succession-planning process for the senior leadership and, particularly, for managing CEO succession. He believes that succession planning and implementation comprise one of the most important responsibilities of any CEO. And, to do it well sometimes require putting the ongoing well-being of the corporation above personal considerations.

Thus, on December 15, 1997, after being at Lilly’s helm for four years, Tobias announced his intention to retire, effective December 31, 1998. Of course, the question was asked as to why he would want to step down while things were going so well and the company’s future looked so promising. Equally as puzzling was the fact that he was relinquishing power and prestige at the relatively young age of 56. His answer was that the goals he had outlined when he assumed leadership of the company had been accomplished: Lilly had reached the point of being viewed as a leader in the industry on a number of fronts. Its financial performance reflected that leadership. The company had made substantial progress in the quality of its senior leadership, its core capabilities, the ability to plan and shape its future, in its progress in identifying and developing future leaders, in revitalizing its values, in recognizing diversity throughout the organization, and in recognizing the need to balance work and family. The time of departure not only suited his own objectives, but also fit well into the company’s rhythm of continued progress. And last, but not least, Tobias was mindful of Peter Lynch’s sentiment, “Nobody on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office!’ ”

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A bibliography and a subject index are provided.


Put the Moose on the Table is a “journal” of the leadership lessons and experiences Tobias has garnered during a time of unprecedented change and challenge in American business. It explains how his responses to the reality of continuous change (“The fascinating thing about the current business environment is not simply that everything is constantly new but that everything is constantly renewing.”) have played a major role in determining his future and the future of the companies with which he’s been involved. But, most importantly, the book details how the character and values Tobias developed in his youth, have not only withstood the unrelenting pressure of change, but have also been strengthened in the process.

Indeed, the book’s subtitle, “Lessons in Leadership from a CEO’s Journey Through Business and Life,” essentially captures the core of Tobias’s message—that leadership is a journey of challenge and promise, is heart work, is about learning and leaving a legacy and, most importantly, it’s about (to borrow a concept from Stephen R. Covey) being “principle-centered.” Thus, this exegesis on leadership exposes no new groundbreaking idea. If you are looking for some lesson that has never been revealed, but that promises to change the heart and soul of corporate America, send the economy into stratospheric abundance, and bring milk, honey, and peace to the land, you won’t find it here. No! You will find much better than that, for Tobias reminds executives, managers, and all other stakeholders of the fundamentals of doing good business—fundamentals that obviously need to be revisited from time to time.

Like Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Put the Moose on the Table reiterates those simple, but requisite “Golden Rules” for living and working that professionals have known all along, but have perhaps forgotten to practice. However, the added value is that these timeless truths are seen through the prism of Tobias’s personal experiences, uniquely formed by the influences of his parents, education, early job assignments, extracurricular college activities, mentors, and early successes and failures. The paths Tobias takes to reach destination leadership provide as much insight, or more, than the destination itself. (Of course, as the author’s journey aptly demonstrates, leadership is not so much a destination as it is an ever-evolving state of being.” As the author’s son, Todd, notes “It’s not so much what my dad accomplished in the business world that impresses … but the way he did it.” Leadership is not readily defined, but through Tobias’s serendipitous perspective, you will know it when you see it.

As for the book’s eccentric title, Tobias has borrowed the term from David A. Nadler (Champions of Change), who borrowed it from Dennis Perkins (Leading at the Edge). Essentially, the term is an exhortation to stop ignoring the beastly issue stinking up the boardroom and address it openly and honestly before it runs completely amok. Tobias has put his moose on the table by openly examining his journey through life and corporate change. It is a journey in which he continuously strove to transform change into a competitive advantage, while always trying to do the right thing.

Reading Suggestions

Reading Time: 14-16 Hours, 295 Pages in Book

Put the Moose on the Table is essentially three books. The first 259 pages combine vignettes of Tobias’s autobiography with vignettes of the business histories of AT&T and Eli Lilly and Company. Tobias shows a great deal of compassion toward his readers by not subjecting them to full-blown, detailed accounts of every minute aspect of events and personalities of his corporate and personal lives. He keeps his focus the essential lessons (i.e., the moose) that he intends for his audience to embrace. Thus, the book is a painless, quick, and riveting read.

The last 14 pages of the main text provides a leadership “manual” that lists all Tobias’s edification on leading, vision, change, risk taking, communication, career development, organizational structure, succession planning, and other important instruction. In this section, the author has culled all the lessons discussed in the biographies, categorized them, and listed them in one convenient reference.

Because the book is so structured, you have several options in how you read it. You can skip to the “Tobias’s Lessons in Leadership” section for a summary of what the author has learned and practiced during his business career. You can pick and choose among the 10 chapters that comprise the autobiography/business history. Each chapter provides a snapshot of a particular time or event, and more or less stands alones. However, the title does not always give you any useful idea as to the specific contents of that chapter.

The last approach, and the one we highly recommend, is to read the book in its entirety and in the order presented. To do otherwise will prevent you from understanding the leadership lessons in the context of Tobias’s unique experiences and mind-set. For example: You will miss the personal and business significance of his first wife’s suicide; his unique perspective on employee loyalty, the “soft” issues of leadership, and the promise of life-long employment; and what a high-school marching band and dressing like Vanna White have to do with good business. It is these small details that make Tobias’s journey through business and life so full of engaging ideas that you may might take away and apply to your own professional circumstances.


Chapter 1: Prescription for Disaster
Chapter 2: The Ghost Ship
Chapter 3: The Opposite of Wine
Chapter 4: Small Town, Big Lessons
Chapter 5: A Complete Education
Chapter 6: The Hierarchy of Secrets
Chapter 7: Bond Traders
Chapter 8: Focusing the Boxes
Chapter 9: Risky Business
Chapter 10: When It’s Time to Go
Tobias’s Lessons in Leadership

About the Authors

Randall Tobias was chairman and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company from 1993 until his retirement at the end of 1998, when he was named chairman emeritus. Before joining Lilly, he was vice chairman at AT&T during the years following the company’s government-ordered breakup in 1984. Presently, Tobias serves on the boards of a number of major corporations and foundations.
Todd Tobias is president and editorial director of Table Moose Media and founder of Indy Men’s Magazine.
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