by Edited by Carol Zarrow

Book Reviews: Tony Soprano as IT Leader?

Mar 01, 20044 mins
IT Leadership

Looking for Leaders in All the Right Places

These two books show it’s best to look around your office?not to Tony Soprano?for leadership qualities that matter

Growing Your Company’s Leaders: How Great Organizations Use Succession Management to Sustain Competitive Advantage

By Robert M. Fulmer and Jay A. Conger

Amacom, 2004, $27.95

Here’s the problem: Because Gen X is so much smaller than the boomer generation that preceded it, the leadership pool of 35- to 44-year-olds who will fill corporate America’s top slots in the coming years is growing rapidly shallower. And the prize fish in that shallow pool know very well that they are prize fish, know they can go wherever they want and don’t?for various reasons?even know how to pronounce “loyalty.” So, if you think you’re already fighting a war for the scarce resource of leadership talent, just wait. It’s going to get much worse.

The solution, according to Growing Your Company’s Leaders, is taking succession planning seriously. And in a best-practice-based, serious-minded and well-reported and documented book, authors Robert M. Fulmer and Jay A. Conger do just that.

The book derives best practices from such leading companies as Bank of America, Dell, Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly and Sunoco. They include CEO buy-in, simple and transparent systems for identifying talent, monitoring the progress of the fish in the pool, and redesigning the system continuously to avoid bureaucratic calcification. The discussion of each best practice has an accompanying case history and metrics that prove it’s a best practice. If you believe that people are the key to any successful enterprise, then Growing Your Company’s Leaders is key reading. -David Rosenbaum

Tony Soprano on Management: Leadership Lessons Inspired by America’s Favorite Mobster

By Anthony Schneider

Berkley Books, 2004, $14

When author Tony Schneider pitched Tony Soprano on Management to his publisher, it must have sounded like a winner?a leadership guide that would differentiate itself from all the others clogging the bookshelves by leveraging the popularity of the award-winning HBO crime series-cum-domestic soap opera, The Sopranos. And couldn’t any aspiring CEO learn something from Tony, fictional though he might be? As the scriptwriters have created him, he’s an effective executive who grasps the big picture, focuses on value and builds a loyal team.

For the first few pages, the conceit amuses. Pretty quickly, however, the reader realizes that the lessons Schneider extracts from the show?make decisions, stick by them, communicate the vision, stay involved?are trite, and the fundamental cynicism of the book becomes hard for the author to disguise and for the reader to ignore. Tony, after all, is a homicidal sociopath. He’s decisive because he is, for the most part, thoughtless. He moves quickly because he lacks impulse control. He focuses on value because he’s greedy, a miser. His team is loyal in part because in Tony’s world the disloyal don’t get fired, they get whacked. As Schneider heaps praise on Tony’s management style, the reader, keeping these facts in mind, begins to grow queasy. What begins as a joke ends as a rather distasteful exercise in poor authorial judgment.

Ultimately, Tony Soprano on Management is a con, a scam Tony himself might be proud of. Which, by the way, is not a good thing. Fuhgeddaboudit! -D.R.

CIO Best-Seller List

5. Business as War: Battling for

Competitive Advantage

By Kenneth Allard

John Wiley & Sons, 2003

4. Guts! Companies That Blow the Doors Off Business-As-Usual

By Kevin Freiberg and Jackie Freiberg Currency, 2003

3. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

By Seth Godin Portfolio, 2003

2. Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron

By Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind Portfolio, 2003

1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

By Jim Collins

HarperCollins, 2001

Source: Data from January 2004, compiled by Powell’s Books, Portland, Ore.