A tightly written and superbly designed publication, The Leader’s Checklist reads like an adventure yarn, but packs a goldmine of scholarship and tested observations, that surrounds a list of fifteen principles that guide and teach managers to make on-target, effective business decisions, under real pressure.
Michael Useem is director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management and William Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
On his journey to this publication, Useem authored or co-wrote notable business books like The Leadership Moment, Investor Capitalism, The Go Point and, last year, produced the amazing The India Way. Each is stamped with a signature style that shares the excitement he and his colleagues felt as they unearthed yet another useful tale of notable success (and failure) among world business leaders. Their research also encompassed historic figures, even controversial ones.
The Leader’s Checklist is a bold effort. From its title onwards, to the checklist and its mighty cluster of conclusions, examples, and instructions, it's worthy of being ‘ticked off’ on their reading lists, by aspiring decision makers. Useem’s list resembles in principle, the flight take-off checklists de rigueur for airline flight crews and surgeons. The author describes the book this way: “a complete set of vital leadership principles that are tried, tested, and true.” Only a professor of self- confidence and eminence could pen such words.
These guidelines from Useem and the Wharton team’s experiences and the testing of their findings with current business and other leaders, begin with this instructional item: “1. Study leadership moments”. It passes through 13 fascinating points (read them; they sparkle) and then loops high and long over expansion and clarification - to land at a final checklist item: “15. Place common interest first (self interest last).” At the rounding off point, Professor Useem dives provocatively, back to the Civil War and a controversial decision by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
The book features a ’list maintenance’ section and adds The Owner’s Manual -- a guide to reshaping the principles that will serve Checklist readers well, in changing times like today’s. Those hard-won, tirelessly probed and refined principles, Useem asserts, will function at their most fruitful, where intense turbulence has now become the norm. It is a pity, to my mind, that Fukushima, Egypt, and Libya and so on, have now come upon us all, and that sadly, no heroic manager has yet emerged, eager and competent to make fruitful decisions. So we must await a new Useem book to possibly unearth one. Fortunately, the relative speed of production and distribution of e-books and other e-media, favors another such Wharton Digital Press endeavor, quite soon.