Harlan Steinbaum decided it was time to share some of his lessons learned from a lifetime of leading big businesses. “Tough Calls from the Corner Office” is an attempt to share some of his experiences as a CEO. But it also contains advice from other CEOs that Steinbaum has spoken with, resulting in a comprehensive look at executive leadership.
“These are stories told by CEOs that they really experienced,” says Steinbaum, who once served as chairman at Express Scripts and chairman and CEO at Medicare-Glaser Corp. “These are stories about hard-won victories. These people are not bragging about their experiences. A lot of them went through crisis and many challenging times.”
What is the No. 1 thing you want readers to take from your book?
They’ll get many things. They’ll learn in my opinion what it takes to become a successful CEO. I found that these CEOs had a number of traits in common: Strong leadership, ethical behavior, they were strong planners and they knew themselves. They knew their strengths and weaknesses and they were able to manage risk. These CEOs would never stop learning. They would go to the mountain and they would want to know what was on the other side. They took responsibility for their actions.
What does a CEO need to do to be an effective leader?
A CEO needs to be somebody who can lead others in the sense that they have to show strong leadership. They have to be able to set a direction and set a tone. They have to make the tough decisions. Some people can be a good No. 2 guy, but when it comes to making that very tough call, there is something innate in the CEOs that I talked to that allows them to do it.
It allows them to carry the burden on their shoulders and still be able to move forward and analyze the situation and weigh the risks involved and then make that tough call or tough decision. It allows them to mitigate the negatives of a decision. When you’re managing, any management is managing risk. Any time you manage a business, it’s trying to make the best decisions you can after you weigh all the factors that come into play.
What other ways can your book help a CEO be a better leader?
The reader can read something and say, ‘Boy, that’s something that happened to me and here’s how he handled it.’ The stories of these people are fascinating. You see how people had similar circumstances, but approached the decision making completely differently. Like when people were changing the culture of a company.
You can look at how different CEOs approached changing the culture with different strategies. Each one worked for them, but they were different.
What is a section of the book you are really proud of?
At the end of my book, there is a section called “Advice and Wisdom.” These CEOs talk about the advice and wisdom they would give to the reader. It’s one of the most inspiring lists in all of business. I’ve read any number of business books in my career and I’ve never seen a list of advice and wisdom like this from 39 CEOs who really in an unabridged way, give people the benefit of their knowledge.
How to reach: Harlan Steinbaum, www.harlansteinbaum.com