Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic & Social Value by M. Beer, F. Norrgren, N. Foote, R. Eisenstat, T. Fredberg - Book review

Higher Ambition

How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value

By: Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, Nathaniel Foote, Tobias Fredberg, Flemming Norrgren

Published: September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN-10: 1422159744
ISBN-13: 978-1422159743
Publisher: Harvard Business Press

"These leaders are working to fully realize the potential of their firms to create superior and lasting economic value. At the same time, they are putting their shoulder to the wheel to create superior social value. And they seek to accomplish both goals simultaneously. That is their higher ambition", write business thought leaders Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, Nathaniel Foote, Tobias Fredberg, and Flemming Norrgren, in their visionary and transformational book Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value. The authors describe how looking beyond the very narrow focus on shareholder value actually creates even more value for everyone including the company, the employees, the customers, society as a whole, as well as the shareholders.

Michael Beer (photo left), Russell A. Eisenstat, Nathaniel Foote, Tobias Fredberg, and Flemming Norrgren understand that there exists a tremendous crisis in corporate leadership today. The excessive and narrow focus, on the short term bottom line and share value, has failed to produce the intended goals of leadership, and has more often than not, been counterproductive in the end. The authors provide evidence that a new type of leader is delivering more than simply short term profits. The new CEO is not only generating higher numbers and happy shareholders, but is also creating value for employees, customers, and the wider community. Most importantly, the author offer proof that the two goals of economic and social benefits work together to enhance and strengthen each other.

Flemming Norrgren (photo left), Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, Nathaniel Foote, and Tobias Fredberg share compelling stories from leading CEOs, who shared a strong commitment to building the company as both profitable and of social benefit that included employees, customers, and of society as a whole. These forward thinking business leaders moved well past the selfish greed scenario that has proven a failure so many formerly leading corporations. While personally ambitious, these CEOs channeled that ambition into a larger purpose, described by the authors as being one of a higher ambition. Creating superior economic value, combined with superior social value, resulted in both a stronger corporation, but also provided additional benefits to everyone involved within and outside of the company itself.

Russell A. Eisenstat (photo left), Nathaniel Foote, Tobias Fredberg, Flemming Norrgren, and Michael Beer support increasing shareholder value and corporate profitability, but move beyond those narrow goals. The CEOs profiled in the book demonstrated clearly that moving beyond the fundamentalist shareholder focus resulted in ever greater success. The key additional ingredient was the addition of seeking a higher social purpose. Along the way, these innovative CEOs discovered that their higher ambition developed a fresh corporate vision that exceeded anything that had been accepted orthodoxy in the past. The CEOs recognized as well that selfish personal goals in their part, would fail to achieve their mission toward a higher ambition. At the same time, the leaders understood that focusing only on social value would fail to reach their goals. The two pronged approach was the winning formula.

Tobias Fredberg (photo left), Flemming Norrgren, Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, and Nathaniel Foote provide the concepts and practices followed by the interviewed CEOs. The visionary CEOs achieved their higher ambition based company success thorough a series of steps:

* Forge a new strategic identity

* Build a shared commitment to excellence

* Create community out of diversity

* Develop and personify "Sisu" persevering leadership

* Commit to collective leadership

Nathaniel Foote (photo left), Tobias Fredberg, Flemming Norrgren, Michael Beer, and Russell A. Eisenstat offer an insightful, research based book that presents a fresh vision for CEOs, and for companies willing to step into a new way of approaching business. For me, the power of the book is how the authors provide real world evidence that establishing a commitment to the dual and very intertwined goals of superior economic performance combined with superior social value. The recognition, on the part of the CEOs interviewed, that simply pursuing one goal or the other is not enough for overall company and societal success.

The higher ambition must combine economic leadership, with strong social values, that consider employees, customers, society, as well as shareholders to achieve success. The older paradigm of shareholder only consideration has proven much less effective, and in many cases, damaging to the company itself. The profiled CEOs also placed their personal ambition into the service of the higher ambition, and this visionary approach created even more success for the organization and all of the stakeholders. This new visionary paradigm is both sustainable and offers real value and benefits for everyone.

I highly recommend the important and landmark book Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value by Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, Nathaniel Foote, Tobias Fredberg, and Flemming Norrgren, to any business leaders who are seeking a vision of business and society that is profitable, sustainable, and benefits everyone within and outside of the company. This book demonstrates clearly why the old ways of doing business will no longer work in today's marketplace.

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