September 6, 2001
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Leading Up
If I were asked to sum up Michael Useems writing, I would say: This guy can really tell a story. His previous book, The Leadership Moment, was a very well-written book telling stories about real-life people caught in a moment of crisis and how they came through that crisis, successfully or unsuccessfully. Based on the premise that lessons on how to handle this same type of critical pressure in the business world can be extracted from these stories, this book was a successful blend of creative non-fiction and leadership guide. My one complaint about that book (which is a very minor one since the book was a very enjoyable read and has continued to be a consistent 800-CEO-READ best-seller) is that the stories were great, but how to actually apply the lessons learned in an organizational way was difficult to see. This book takes a much more targeted approach. All throughout these stories, Useem offers perfect little two-line take-aways, called Lessons in Leading Up.
In addition to Useems storytelling talents, what makes this book notable is the subject matter. This is not your average book on leadership that guides the higher-ups on how to manage the lower-downs. It is also not a book that plays on the vanity of most business leaders by giving them more ways to be in charge. Instead, Useem suggests pushing aside all vanity, all old hierarchical definitions of leadership. Businesses are changing, and hierarchies are changing, and to survive, leadership is needed at all levels. This book is about that other side of leadership, about how to lead you boss to get the support you need. Useem tells eight true, though unconventional, stories, ranging from the Civil War, the Old Testament, the genocide in Rwanda, and companies like CBS and British Airways, to bring to life leading up. One of my favorites is the tale about David Pottruck and Charles Schwab. Pottruck, once a John Wayne-type that was the first guy up the hill, discovered greater success by leading from the middle, because then those above and below were all working together around a strong nucleus, and ultimately everyone could take the hill together.
Finally, a business book that is written by a real storyteller while offering extremely valuable take-aways. Youre going to enjoy this one.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.