Executive Warfare: 10 Rules of Engagement for Winning Your War for Success
by David F. D’Alessandro and Michele Owens
This book was recommended to me by a long-time colleague who knew I would enjoy it. He was indeed correct. However, he also voiced his opinion that I probably wouldn’t want to review it for our readers because it focuses exclusively on senior managers and executives only. However, after reading the book, I feel anyone who aspires to be an executive, works or lives with an executive, or is simply interested in the politics of the workplace would find the authors work not only intriguing and insightful but also very useful in many ways.
Books are written every day expounding the attributes of tips, tools and strategies to succeed in the workplace but very few address the need to be politically savvy, the relationships you build with people of influence, or survival tactics for your journey to success.
Note that both the title and subtitle suggest direct correlations between the battlefield and the business world. The first few lines of the book give you an idea of the on-going focus and direction of the content.
Legendary bluesman B.B. King begins one of his many famous songs with the lyric: “Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’ too.”
Much of the content I discovered with the 266 pages of Executive Warfare could easily qualify for the category of “what you’ll never learn in business school although you’d be much better off if you did.” Not a catchy category title but very descriptive and precisely on point.
I worked many years with an associate who despised corporate politics and, as a result, refused to participate. He chose, instead, to focus on his career. Little did he know that the choice was not his. We’re all in the game whether we choose to participate or not.
Note the obvious: The single greatest reason why otherwise talented people get stuck in mid-career is because they believe that the same rules that applied for the first part of their careers still apply. They don’t. (That reminds me of another great book title: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!) You have to master a much subtler set of rules. The same skill sets, aptitudes, and mind sets must now be replaced and re-trained toward the new goal.
By the time you reach the executive level, it’s no longer enough to be smart, hard-working and able to show results. Most of your peers can do that very well at this stage. What really sets you apart is the relationships you build with people of influence. These people can include your peers, your employees, your organization’s directors, reporters, vendors, and regulators, as well as the people directly above you in the organizational hierarchy.
To truly attain the success you seek you must now learn how to acquire the global perspective your peers lack, when and how to deliver bad news, when to take a shot at your rivals and when to be gracious, and, most important, how to handle the many new influences on your career trajectory.
The authors offer concrete advice for handling all of them, including:
- YOUR PEERS: They are the most valuable of allies or the most dangerous of enemies.
- THE CEO: His/Her office is often where the real fairy dust is kept. Make sure you have a good relationship here.
- THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS: They won’t judge you fairly if all they see of you is your PowerPoints.
- YOUR DIRECT REPORTS: They are your vital organs, so treat them accordingly. And if you find a blood clot among them—excise that person before he kills you.
- YOUR RIVALS: It’s not always wise to shoot at them, but if you do, do not shoot to wound.
The way to the top is filled with pitfalls and dangerous routes, and this book teaches us to avoid or survive them to fight another day. It teaches us which battles are worth fighting and winning to ensure that we win the war.
The authors offer sound advice that will allow the reader to balance impeccable integrity with essential “street smarts.” Alessandro seems to capture all the key issues of avoiding corporate exile and the slow death of a manager.
I especially appreciated the one or two “nuggets of knowledge” which appear on every single page of the book in a special illustrated graphic box.
(This book review was originally published in 2009 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 19.)