Winston Churchill, CEO: 25 Lessons for Bold Business Leaders

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 August, 2009, 12:00am

Winston Churchill, CEO: 25 Lessons for Bold Business Leaders
by Alan Axelrod
Sterling, HK$185

The self-improvement/management market is huge, but it is becoming harder to find something original to say. A hook, so to speak. And credibility can be hard to sustain.

Former General Motors president and management guru Alfred P. Sloan was the rock star in management circles for a big chunk of the 20th century. It is only in recent years that people have questioned his methods and the bureaucratic behemoth that he helped create.

Take, for example, John Gray's seminal work Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. He has branched out with Mars and Venus on a Date, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, Mars and Venus Starting Over and much more (we're still waiting for the merchandising line, particularly Mars and Venus - Soap on a Rope). Gray realised his first book in the series struck a chord and plucked that same chord with minor variations year in, year out.

Alan Axelrod is cut from the same cloth. In Winston Churchill, CEO, he has recycled chunks of the life of a man who is, arguably, Britain's most revered prime minister of modern times. Interspersed with the tired re-telling of Churchill's life, readers benefit from Axelrod's 'insights'.

For example, he advises them to emphasise their own identity as CEOs because if they don't define themselves others will. 'Build yourself into a brand, an identity that marks you as both unique and valuable.' Show more initiative. Or as Axelrod would put it, be more proactive. 'Problems are invitations to action. Take ownership of a problem and you suddenly own a stake in the enterprise.'

The trouble with books like this is they add nothing to the collective corporate management knowledge base. They are attempts to cash in on the selling power of people such as Churchill, in this case, or of Elizabeth I (yes, he has done Queen Bess as well). According to the internet he has inflicted dozens of publications on the world, including What Every American Should Know about American History (2008), Blooding at Great Meadows: Young George Washington and the Battle That Shaped the Man (2008), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy and The Real History of the American Revolution: A New Look at the Past (2007). He is prolific, putting out these books in a short time.

Axelrod does for historical research what Raymond Kroc did for haute cuisine. Save your money, save a forest and read some of the excellent and original biographies of Winston Churchill instead.