A veteran corporate manager shares strategies for improving relationships between CEOs and board chairpersons.
In this debut business book, Nüssli draws on her own experience as chairperson of an unnamed family-owned corporation, management theory, and her own research to help readers understand conflicts between corporate leaders. She conducted dozens of interviews for this book, with leaders all identified only by their first names. The book often presents the dialogues as two-sided case studies, allowing readers to understand the perspectives of both the chairperson and the CEO involved. In this way, the author effectively shows how personality conflicts or differing thought processes can transform into ongoing feuds with negative implications for corporate performance. Nüssli also leads readers through psychological theories about leadership behavior, with a particular focus on how birth order consciously and unconsciously drives human interactions; most of her subjects, she points out, were firstborn children, or took on the traditional role of one in their families. The author acknowledges that data-driven executives may be reluctant to embrace her research: “Interpersonal dynamics and psychology are considered irrational, even ‘fluffy’—corporate governance, by contrast, seems rational and reliable.” However, she offers a convincing analysis here before turning toward possible solutions. To that end, she offers strategies for understanding one’s own behaviors (mindfulness, self-awareness, coaching) and a framework that she calls a “Chairperson-CEO Collaboration Contract,” which both parties can use to define roles and responsibilities and establish trust. Throughout the book, Nüssli’s prose is engaging (“There will come a time when you’ve forgotten where you buried the hatchet or even how to use it, and this will feel good”), and her findings may be helpful to interested readers at all corporate levels.
A useful handbook for solving conflicts among top managers.