BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Best in Us’

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“Finally, profit, or more generally, objective results, are understood as the quantifiable measure of the leader’s effectiveness in the growth of the people and his or her own growth as a leader. Profit is extremely important in the transformative approach, but not as an end in itself. Rather it is the by-product,” he concludes.

I will not spoil for the reader the trek Mr. Stevens leads through the list of techniques of how to achieve such a leadership paradigm that is transformational rather than transactional.

But among the key elements of that technique, the primary one, and the one most problematical, is his emphasis on a leader’s focus on the people who work for the organization in question. I say problematical, because so much of modern management under the old transactional model involves replacing human beings with technology — computer programs, robots and other “labor-saving” devices.

In addition to having a clear vision of just what the organization can optimally achieve, Mr. Stevens mandates that a successful leader must create an environment where all the members of the workforce feel an intense team membership but also that their own personal development is being enhanced in both a business and a human sense.

Other essential ingredients that seem to have dropped out of the American economic experiment are re-injected by Mr. Stevens‘ prescriptions. One is an enhanced environment that fosters risk-taking, creativity and innovation. But coupled with the emphasis on innovation is an equally enhanced standard of accountability.

So this book is both an instruction manual for the new age of doing business as well as a battle cry for a new standard of leadership.

“What we need are a few strong, smart, courageous leaders who are willing to commit themselves to the possibility that there might be a better way — a more sustainable way of making a profit (huge profits, at that), a more meaningful and productive way of working together, a better way of leading others and leading our own lives,” Mr. Stevens argues.

Agree with his conclusions or not, the author has given the reader much to think about in this accessibly-written call to arms.

James Srodes has been the Washington bureau chief for both Forbes and Financial World magazines.

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