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Executive Warfare: 10 Rules of Engagement for Winning Your War for Success Hardcover – Jul 1 2008
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From the Back Cover
Raise Your Rank on the Business Battlefield
With the "New York Times" Advice Bestseller!
D'Alessandro is that refreshing rarity: a businessman who tells it like it is.
When it comes to straight talk about what it really takes to thrive in business, no one does it better today than bestselling author David D'Alessandro. "Executive Warfare" is the most compelling installment of his Warfare trilogy.
-James M. Citrin, bestselling author, "The Dynamic Path" and Senior Director, Spencer Stuart
"Executive Warfare" is a rare find a management skills book which provides excellent advice and is a good read at the same time. David looks at what it takes to climb the corporate ladder and tells it like it really is: the good, the bad and the ugly.
-Judith A. McHale, former president and CEO of Discovery Communications"
About the Author
David D'Alessandro is President of John Hancock Financial Services, both the youngest president in the company's history and the only marketer ever to rise to the top of a major life insurer.
Top Customer Reviews
D'Alessandro focuses on the adjustments any executive must make as she or he assumes increased responsibilities during an incremental ascension to higher levels of management. His observations and suggestions indicate that he is an empiricist in that he is especially alert to context as well as to significant details, a pragmatist who prefers to focus on what does - and does not - work and has little, if any patience with "woulda/coulda/shoulda," and he has a unique ability to recognize what is most important among whatever options may be available.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
D'Alessandro focuses on the adjustments any executive must make as she or he assumes increased responsibilities during an incremental ascension to higher levels of management. His observations and suggestions indicate that he is an empiricist in that he is especially alert to context as well as to significant details, a pragmatist who prefers to focus on what does - and does not - work and has little, if any patience with "woulda/coulda/shoulda," and he has a unique ability to recognize what is most important among whatever options may be available. He seems determined to share what he has learned so that his reader will be able to balance impeccable integrity with "street smarts." His advice concerns do's and don'ts of when responding to challenges such as these:
Managing increasing complexity at various stages throughout a "career trajectory"
Excerpt: "It's not just that the pyramid narrows and the competition toughens as you rise. It's that the game changes fundamentally...[and, to repeat] In my experience, the single greatest reason why otherwise talented people get stuck in midcareer is because they believe that the same rules that applied for the first part of their career. They don't. You now have to master a much subtler set of rules."
Dealing with rivals
Excerpt: "It is far better to be a steady incremental player who wins, in the end, by impressing people all along the way than to be the kind of hothead who tries to force a quick culmination." Years ago, someone whose name I do not recall invoked a metaphor to make the same point: "Be a Bunsen burner, not a sparkler."
Building a team
Excerpt: "If you are not picking your own team, you are going to be handed some turkeys. When one of those turkeys screws up, you own the turkey...Having a reputation as somebody who not only can build a strong team but also can bring in people who can build strong teams is extraordinarily valuable...The most valuable employees are those willing to rain on your parade when it's necessary - willing even to rain on a parade they organized themselves."
Earning the trust of direct-reports
Excerpt: "Most of your rivals will treat the people who work for them like children. You can win incredible loyalty simply by treating people like adults who can accept the truth. You will also build a team that way because your key people now all share the same information and can work together to act on it...It's important that your employees see that you are [decisive but] not heartless."
Rising into the senior ranks
Excerpt: "You must become a person of presence." How? "First of all, you have to offer something substantial and not just self-importance. Second, "you have to be true to yourself and the things you believe in." And thirdly, "is perspective - and you cannot develop perspective if your entire life revolves around your job...To get to the top - and stay there - you need to be able to lead human brings. And, the only way to learn how to lead is to live."
I realize that these brief excerpts are taken out of context and that D'Alessandro's key points may seem simplistic. They are offered merely to suggest the thrust of his insights and the flavor of his prose. Moreover, I hasten to add that his observations and suggestions are fully developed within an extended narrative that is both cohesive and comprehensive. Also, although much of his advice concerns challenges that C-level executives face, those who do not as yet occupy a position at that level will nonetheless derive a substantial benefit from understanding those challenges because (a) such understanding will improve their relationships with C-level executives in their own organization, and (b) they can prepare themselves adequately for a time when they most respond to them.
David D'Alessandro begins his book with a disclaimer that also serves as an appropriate conclusion to this review: "If you are not interested in success, put down this book and buy a latte."
The key item here is to remember that the rules we know to get to where we are are no longer applicable when we are aiming for the corner office. The same skillsets, aptitudes, and mindsets must now be replaced and re-trained toward the new goal. It's focusing on making sure that we take the right steps, such as:
1. Making a win-win business deal with our bosses along the way.
2. Taking appropriate & calculated risks.
3. Winning enough support from our peers and subordinates.
4. Mastering our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, since the stakes are now high and our competitors will do anything in their power to win.
5. Knowing our strengths and making sure that we find the right place at the right time to improve our chances to shine the brightest.
As indicated in the introduction of this book, if you are already happy with your current position, then there are other readings available. On the other hand, if you're interested in getting to the next level, and eventually to be the one in charge, this book is a must have.
This is certainly not the kind of book you'll see recommended as textbook by MBA programs, although it should. D'Alessandro's style is the most direct I have ever read from a business author, and yet not without a lack of humor. On the contrary, the author weaves spectacular stories from the corner offices with an unexpected, colorful and refreshing writing style.
It is more than a mere book rich in form either. If I were of the "hard work is your one key to success" mindset, finishing this book cured me from such simplistic thought. D'Alessandro's anecdotes and insights towards the hidden motivation of power players in big organizations are too real and, once explained, too recognizable to nit be admitted as truth.
And the truth is this: that there indeed exist a complete underlayer of ultra-competitive political game being played in corporate executive offices, that ignoring and foregoing playing this game will guarantee your career stagnation, and that reading this book will supply you with the indispensable rule book on how to learn and ultimately be proficient in it.
D'Alessandro has written a sort of The Art Of War for upper management. Everything I read in his book is something I can directly relate to my own experiences and probably would have been good advice at the time. Executive Warfare is a little touchy-feely after a read like Hubbard's How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of "Intangibles" in Business, but Hubbard would probably even agree that, at some point, it's not all about measurements and advanced methods. No matter how competent and sophisticated a manager method's are, some issues are about raw survival. While it might seem there are many books on a similar topic, only D'Alessandro seems to capture all the key issues of avoiding corporate exile and the slow death of a manager.
David tells you to put on your helmet and man your foxhole. It's your career and you have a finite amount of time to win the war before you retire at 1/3 of what you can't live on now, so get moving.
Working for the good of the corporation is akin to everyone being trained in fire suppression at sea. When on the boat, you've got to keep it afloat. Plan for port, and when at port, find the right boat for you. Capt Ahab does exist, as does Leona Helmsley. David's advice is real and as practical as having a condom to keep the dust out of the barrel of your rifle. Wisdom pops from every page without the sugary coating that is so much the cereal of the ever hopeful.
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