Don't be deterred by the subtitle (initially I was) because, in fact, Harry and Christine Beckwith provide in this volume a wealth of invaluable insights concerning personal improvement as well as professional development rather than cynical self-serving strategies and tactics. They know exactly what Peter Drucker meant when he observed that "Each of us is a CEO." Moreover, they wholly agree with Bill George and countless others that the most effective CEOs are "authentic" leaders in that they demonstrate (in George's words) "the highest integrity, [are] committed to building enduring organizations...who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values...who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society."
Moreover, this book is not - as at first I incorrectly assumed -- a significant departure from Harry Beckwith's previously published books. On the contrary, it is wholly consistent with the values he affirms in each. For example, except for commodities, I agree that people buy from other people, not from companies. When commodities are involved, competitors (e.g. Sam's Club and Costco) must "sell" themselves because their products and prices are about the same. In this volume, the Beckwiths point out that authentic people are credible - as are companies -- because they have earned respect and trust. What individuals "sell" may be invisible (decency, character, integrity, dependability, etc.) but authenticated or contradicted by their behavior. These are precisely the same values that Harry Beckwith affirms in his earlier works, notably Selling the Invisible and What Clients Love. As with most (if not all companies), whether or not an individual achieves success (however defined) will depend almost entirely by (a) what she or he does and, more importantly, (b) who he or she is. The standard of measurement is authenticity.
Of special interest to me are the "Successes and Delightful Failures" which the Beckwiths discuss (pages 275-306) because each focuses on basic human experiences with which any reader can identify. Better yet, with two exceptions (i.e. Larry Gatlin and Arnold Palmer), those involved will be wholly unfamiliar to almost all readers. They introduce us to them as if they were close personal friends of theirs. (In fact, they are.) The Beckwiths suggest that important life lessons can be learned from each of them and these lessons are best revealed within the narrative. The book ends with "three thoughts - no, three passionate convictions." And again, yes, I will not reveal them in this narrative. That would be like opening someone else's gifts.
However, although the Beckwiths have years of experience in sales and marketing, and are knowledge leaders in those separate but related "competitive sports," their book is only secondarily about selling and promotion. The primary focus is on personal development during the journey to self-fulfillment.
By the time the Beckwiths offer "three thoughts - no, three passionate convictions" as the book ends, they have made it crystal clear that each of us must be personally and fully accountable for what our life is...and isn't, for what our life becomes...and doesn't. During any "journey" of personal development and self-fulfillment, it really helps to have companions from time to time when help is needed.
Those who read this book will be grateful to have Harry and Christine Beckwith among their companions. And grateful to them for introducing them to others who also offer valuable insights: Larry Gatlin, Morrie Wagener, Arnold Palmer and "Dr. Buck," Sheryl Leach, "Bruce" from Procter & Gamble, Raphael Asti, and Gionanni Freeli. As readers then continue their own "journey," they will be grateful for the practical and principled wisdom the Beckwiths so generously share and, especially, for the pleasure of their company.
Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Bill George's Authentic Leadership as well as True North which he co-authored with Peter Sims. Also Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, James O'Toole's The Executive's Compass and Creating the Good Life, David Whyte's The Heart Aroused, Secrets of Success (an anthology of Fortune articles), David Maister's Practice What You Preach, and Success Built to Last co-authored by Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery, and Mark Thompson.