Literature To Lead By

How to be a 21st-century boss-and how it can go wrong
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the November 2000 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

No matter how trendy the dotcoms get, these three new books show that some elements of success never change: You need good ideas and the ability to lead-and, no matter how smart or rich you are, you have to accept the possibility of failure.

If you've come across a great book that's motivated, inspired or taught you ways to grow your business better, let us know. We'll pass it on to other readers looking for solutions-or mere inspiration. Write to us at

Leading The Revolution (Harvard Business School Press, $29.95)

Forget about continuous improvement and reengineering. Those initiatives to reshape businesses ran out of steam long ago, according to strategy consulting firm Strategos' founder and chairman Gary Hamel. In the new century, says Hamel, you need radical new business concepts, à la's online marketplace and Dell Computer Corp.'s direct-marketing approach.

Hamel's sensible premise is that you'll get further, faster by making new rules than by trying to get better at playing under the old ones. But it requires committing your organization to spinning a "wheel of innovation," he says. You'll have to put your most talented people on new projects that promise to create new business models, even if those projects won't pay off for years. You'll have to stop focusing on making just money, and put the emphasis on making ideas.

If all that sounds like more push than it ought to take for a few ideas, you're right. Hamel says tomorrow's winners will produce torrents of innovations, of which a few of the most radical will provide the foundations for the Amazon.coms and Dells of tomorrow's world. Out of the torrent of business books published these days, Hamel's is one of those good, if radical, ideas.

Leading The Revolution is available at

The New Art Of The Leader (Prentice Hall Press, $23)

You might never have to lead troops into battle, but you can learn a lot from those who do. That's the idea behind this extensively updated version of the 1991 classic by William A. Cohen that explains how great military officers lead-and how you can, too. Cohen presents examples of military leaders from Sun Tzu to George Patton, including many encountered during his own days in the Air Force Reserve. New material in the latest edition includes research from more than 200 new interviews and updated exploits from such contemporaries as Desert Storm mastermind Norman Schwartz-kopf. Cohen is remarkable not only for his acumen but also his morality and humanity. Leadership does not involve manipulation, he says, and many of the greatest leaders view themselves as the servants of their followers, not the other way around.

This is no philosophical treatise, however. Cohen is profoundly practical, providing succinct, actionable advice on such topics as "How to Take Charge in Any Situation" and "How to Develop Your Self-Confidence." Where Cohen leads, any entrepreneur would do well to follow.

The New Art Of The Leader is available at

When Genius Failed (Random House, $26.95)

Lack of money and management talent are two main reasons start-ups fail. But what if you start with $1.25 billion and your staff includes two future Nobel Prize-winning economists? Could you be bankrupt in five years?

It happened to Long-Term Capital, a Connecticut investment fund started by former bond trader John Meriwether. Author Roger Lowenstein tells the fascinating tale in his latest book.

Meriwether's geniuses got Long-Term Capital off to a great start, with returns of 40 percent per year for several years. But they needed lots of leverage to do it.

Everything came to earth in 1998, when the financial winds turned against Long-Term and its 100-to-1 leverage turned golden profits into leaden losses. In September of that year, the Federal Reserve arranged a $3.6 billion bail-out of the insolvent firm.

This compelling tale offers entrepreneurs two lessons: Leverage can kill, and you're never too smart to fail.

When Genius Failed is available at

Familiar Faces

Think you can't be practical and stay loyal to your dreams at the same time? Well, maybe you should check out The Practical Dreamer's Handbook: Finding the Time, Money, and Energy to Live the Life You Want to Live (Putnam Publishing, $21.95). Written by Entrepreneur columnists Paul and Sarah Edwards, the book offers down-to-earth advice to help you reach the stars.
-Talicia A. FLint

What Are You Reading?

Business Is Combat: A Fighter Pilot's Guide to Winning in Modern Business Warfare by James D. Murphy (Regan Books, 2000)

"This book is written by an ex-fighter pilot who takes all the things he learned in the Air Force and sets them to business. The book has really helped me make it a point to set and project my company's vision and goals to all my employees."
-Mike Manclark, president of Leading Edge Aviation Services Inc., Santa Ana, California

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