THE SUPER CHIEFS by Robert Heller


Today's Most Successful Chief Executives and Their Winning Strategies for the 1990s
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 The British author of The Decision Makers (1989) and other wry commentaries on big business now offers a tattered appreciation of the managerial talents required to prevail in the three-way battle for world economic dominion. Heller bases his wide-ranging (albeit essentially sketchy) canvass on an elegant conceit--that the US-led coalition's victory in the Persian Gulf War was a model enterprise. He even comes up with a Desert Storm Decalogue that is apparently designed to show that, if corporate America but heeds the executive-suite lessons to be learned from a notable military triumph, it can compete effectively against EC and Pacific Basin rivals in world markets. Heller divides his text into ten putatively illustrative sections- -investing in leadership; adding power to responsibility; mastering new modes; achieving prime performance; etc. But the author's messages are largely lost in a litter of short-take yarns (most of which have been recycled from secondary sources) and banal pronouncements on commercial wins and losses. For example, he supplies once-over-lightly briefings on how the folks running Apple Computer, Campbell Soup, GE, General Foods, Merck, Nintendo, Phillips Electric, Xerox, and a host of other multinationals have measured up (or failed to) in recent years. Included as well are obligatory swipes at bureaucratic leviathans (like GM); the complaisance of rubber-stamp boards; the risks involved in ceding the low end of almost any outlet to Japanese vendors; and other well-worn targets. In cautionary, if not always consistent, fashion, Heller also debits and credits the accounts of John Akers (IBM), Robert Calvin (Motorola), Roberto Goizueta (Coca-Cola), Katherine Graham (the Washington Post), Lee Iacocca (Ford as well as Chrysler), Steven Ross (Time Warner), Donald Trump, and a flock of less celebrated CEOs. Armchair reportage that adds up to little more than an anecdotal patchwork, conspicuously deficient in unifying threads.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1992
ISBN: 0-525-93548-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992