Seidenberg not once but twice in the service of company shareholders and employees subordinated himself and put off taking sole leadership of the company to advance the enterprise’s odds of success. And many others in this story exhibited the same trait to help build this industry-leading enterprise.
They understood that the risk of not acting and thereby destroying value during a period of accelerating technological change and industry consolidation—a situation faced by leadership teams around the world today—was much greater than the risk of stepping in as No. 2 or co-CEO. In my 50 years of experience, it is a rare leadership team that will subordinate itself for the benefit of the industry, customers and the company. That principle, that the company comes first, the individual second, is what will define successful leadership teams of the future.
Multiple leadership principles, some new, some timeless, emerge from this narrative and will be of great use to the next generation of leaders across industries and around the world. By taking a look at a company that successfully executed exponential transformation, we can take the strategies of Verizon leaders and apply them to our own experiences.—Ram Charan
Ivan Seidenberg is the former chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications. His career began in 1966 when he started out as a cable splicer for New York Telephone. He was a key part of the leadership team that transformed Verizon into a premier global network, deploying high-speed fiber broadband directly to homes, and expanding Verizon’s global internet backbone network. Seidenberg retired from Verizon in 2011; the following year, he joined Perella Weinberg Partners as an advisory partner. He serves as a director for a number of organizations, including BlackRock Inc. and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Seidenberg earned a bachelor’s degree from Lehman College, part of the City University of New York, and a master’s degree from Pace University.
Ram Charan is a world-renowned business adviser, author, teacher, and speaker who has spent the past forty years working with CEOs, boards, and executives of the world’s top companies. Formerly on the faculties of Harvard Business School and Northwestern University, he is the author of twenty-five books that have sold more than four million copies and have been published in over a dozen languages, including the bestselling Execution, Confronting Reality, and The Attacker’s Advantage. In addition to advising and coaching leaders, Charan serves on several boards in the U.S., Turkey, China, India, and Brazil. He has received best teacher awards from Wharton, Northwestern, and GE’s learning center at Crotonville, New York. In 2005 he was elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources.
Scott McMurray is Vice President-Editorial at The History Factory. He has conducted hundreds of oral histories with CEOs and other corporate, nonprofit, and government leaders. He is an award-winning author of corporate history publications and has written books for clients including Time Warner Cable, Accenture, and Saudi Aramco. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Grinnell College, Scott has written for The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Institutional Investor.
But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?
Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:
“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”
Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?
“Satya has charted a course for making the most of the opportunities created by technology while also facing up to the hard questions.” – Bill Gates from the Foreword of Hit Refresh
The New York Times bestseller Hit Refresh is about individual change, about the transformation happening inside of Microsoft and the technology that will soon impact all of our lives—the arrival of the most exciting and disruptive wave of technology humankind has experienced: artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and quantum computing. It’s about how people, organizations, and societies can and must transform and “hit refresh” in their persistent quest for new energy, new ideas, and continued relevance and renewal.
Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, tracing his own personal journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant technological changes in the digital era. Satya Nadella explores a fascinating childhood before immigrating to the U.S. and how he learned to lead along the way. He then shares his meditations as a sitting CEO—one who is mostly unknown following the brainy Bill Gates and energetic Steve Ballmer. He tells the inside story of how a company rediscovered its soul—transforming everything from culture to their fiercely competitive landscape and industry partnerships. As much a humanist as engineer and executive, Nadella concludes with his vision for the coming wave of technology and by exploring the potential impact to society and delivering call to action for world leaders.
“Ideas excite me,” Nadella explains. “Empathy grounds and centers me.” Hit Refresh is a set of reflections, meditations, and recommendations presented as algorithms from a principled, deliberative leader searching for improvement—for himself, for a storied company, and for society.
A #1 New York Times bestseller and arguably the best business narrative ever written, Barbarians at the Gate is the classic account of the fall of RJR Nabisco. An enduring masterpiece of investigative journalism by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, it includes a new afterword by the authors that brings this remarkable story of greed and double-dealings up to date twenty years after the famed deal. The Los Angeles Times calls Barbarians at the Gate, “Superlative.” The Chicago Tribune raves, “It’s hard to imagine a better story...and it’s hard to imagine a better account.” And in an era of spectacular business crashes and federal bailouts, it still stands as a valuable cautionary tale that must be heeded.