No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Book review: ‘Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty…’


'Title: Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty: The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times'
Author: Ram Charan
Publisher: McGraw Hill

Whilst the sub title of 'Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty' reads 'The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times', it is more a narrative by the author Ram Charan than 'rules' per se. Nonetheless, the narrative is effective, well directed and most pertinent to today's business leaders. Written in the first person, it could at times be likened to lecturing – this should not be taken as a criticism as once one gets used to the author's style it in fact becomes quite evocative.

Although Charan does not say so, this is a book for CEOs and the senior management of organisations. For instance, it has specific chapters for the CEO and the heads of sales and marketing, finance, operations, R&D, the supply chain and the staff functions. There is even a chapter for the board. Each chapter has key actions that leaders in each of these areas can apply. Because of the writer's style, a summary of the key points at the end of each chapter would have been useful to aid memory and assist implementation.

If you are looking for an understanding of the principles that underpin organisational success, this book has the answers.  For example, in the chapter for chief financial officers, the writer describes two types of CFOs. One type are those who look outwardly toward investors and make sure the company's debt ratings, price/earnings ratio and financing/refinancing of debt structure are adequate and appropriate. The second type of CFOs are those who work more internally in partnership with the CEO in managing financial performance and maintaining the company's sound financial health. These types are not mutually exclusive, but the discussion and the tips for managing both aspects in tough times, would be useful to both CEOs and CFOs. In this chapter, Charan also has some great tips for managing the finances throughout the organisation by "educating the troops in liquidity, most of whom do not have a clue about liquidity".

It's easy to see that Charan has a good handle on day-to-day corporate life – he is not just a theorist. For example, his keen understanding that "CFOs have a tendency not to trust line managers to do the right thing in all cases and therefore put some resources in reserve without telling anyone in case the company looks like it might come up short at the end of the quarter" will resonate with most senior financial managers.

Charan also has great tips for the other senior corporate managers. In the chapter on operations, he covers both product and service type organisations. He provides an excellent example of how tough times can affect service delivery in the airline industry. With the downturn in business-class travel, some airlines' capacity dropped by as much as 70%. This left the same number of cabin crew to service far less customers. One would expect customers to get far more attention. What often happened was that customers actually received less attention - because there were less people to serve, cabin crew took up the idle time by talking more amongst themselves. Charan's advice is to make sure your service functions are appropriately staffed and the need for service is stressed even more in these times.

Charan also has good news for trainers. Instead of cutting the training budget, he suggests that it should be more focused. "HR needs to create and deliver the appropriate materials and methods in areas such as contract negotiations and price setting, with an emphasis on collaboration. You will get a big return on investment if you recruit your own senior executives to teach some of these sessions by using actual information, problems and challenges.  Not only will such sessions bring home the reality of why people need to master these skills, they will give the 'teachers' a fresh insight into their own psychology and valuable input from people on the line."

From an organisation development perspective, one initial concern I had about the book was the number of times senior leaders were advised to communicate directly with the board. Does this hint at a lack of role definition between CEO and the board? How should the CEO handle his/her direct reports communicating directly with the board? This concern was not evident however, in the chapter written for the board which focused on the board/CEO relationship. Perhaps this role definition could be better spelt out. I was impressed with some of the common sense advice for the board, such as having a cocktail party for 20 senior managers the day before a board meeting. This meeting is not intended to provide further corporate information for the board, rather it is to enable the board members to gauge the morale of the organisation.

This would be a great book for anyone in a senior management role. For trainers, it could be very useful for two reasons – self-education to get a real handle on perhaps some unfamiliar areas of corporate life and as pre-reading for senior management and leadership development programmes. For coaches of senior executives, various chapters could be really good resources for clients' personal development. It's also recommended reading for anyone in a staff function wishing to improve their personal credibility within the organisation.

Bob Selden has been a career trainer for more than 30 years – in fact it's his lifetime passion. Bob can be contacted via - he would be happy to help or advise with your career questions. If you'd like to see where his training career has led, check out the website for his book 'What To Do When You Become The Boss' at 

No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!