Hit the Ground Running: A Manual for New Leaders
Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2009)
Through a rigorous process of elimination best explained in the book, Jennings and his associates selected nine exemplar companies and their CEOs and explains how each of the nine combinations (i.e. company and its CEO) demonstrates an especially important “Rule.” Jennings devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten, the last being “Be a Fish Out of Water.” His focus is primarily on the nine CEOs and suggests that the best way to measure the performance of a CEO and compare one anther to each other is to calculate the total amount of economic value they created. “We defined economic value as the sum of the profits generated, dividends paid, increases in sales and profits, and the increase in the company’s share price during the CEO’s tenure.” After all of the nine CEOs who took over companies because of death, retirement, resignation, or the poor performance of their predecessor, they hit the ground running and “almost doubled revenues, more than tripled earnings per share, nearly tripled EBITDA, and doubled their company’s net profit margins.” How did they accomplish these exceptional results? Jennings provides the answer in this book.
The focus in this book is primarily on the first-year performance of nine CEOs: Patrick Hassey (Allegheny Technologies), Marshall Larsen (Goodrich Corporation), Frederick Eppinger (The Hanover Group), Howard Lance (Harris Corporation), Jeffrey Lorberbaum (Mohawk Industries), Ronald Sargent (Staples), Keith Rattie (Questar), Mike McCallister (Humana Inc.), and finally, Tim and Richard Smucker (The J.M. Smucker Company). After lengthy interviews, Jennings notes an obvious connection between and among them, one overpowering characteristic that all the CEOs shared: “They told the truth. None of them deceived themselves about anything, nor did they surround themselves with executives who did; they all practice the Golden Rule; and as a result, they’ve become the best performing CEOs in the nation.”
All of them stressed the importance of others’ contributions to the success achieved. Each reveals highly developed emotional intelligence as well as a profound appreciation of those with whom they are associated each day. That attitude explains how Eppinger gained credibility when he became CEO of The Hanover Group and why Lance asked his associates for their assistance when he became CEO of Harris Corporation. As is also true of the CEOs of the eleven “Good to Great” companies that Jim Collins interviewed, the nine that were interviewed by Jennings and his associates (notably Laurence Haughton) indicate almost no personal ego. They seem almost totally obsessed with the success of their companies but insist that that success is not about them. This is authentic humility, not false modesty, and (in my opinion) helps to explain why certain CEOs who are otherwise rather ordinary people have led their companies to achieving and then sustaining extraordinary success.