Robert Bruce Shaw’s business book is part examination of three high achievers, part instruction manual on how to understand employees who are “all in” to the point that they pay serious consequences for their devotion to the business.
The triumvirate of acclaimed CEOs he initially holds up includes: Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla), and the late Steve Jobs (Apple). Shaw uses them as examples of relentless, obsessive, not-always-nice innovators. While wildly successful, each paid a steep price, suffering consequences such as health issues, debilitating stress, unhappiness, minimal down time with family, and loss of important relationships. The central theme of Shaw’s book is that, while focus and drive are essential in achieving “the extraordinary,” the challenge of businesses is “to take what obsession offers while minimizing its very real downside.”
Shaw notes that “[a]lmost all significant achievements in business are the result of small groups of people working in a focused and collaborative manner.” Thus, organizations that can’t scale obsessive employees who may “lack the managerial or emotional skills needed to attract, motivate and retain a high performing team” will likely fail over the long term.
Throughout the book, Shaw effectively layers in lessons we can learn from the iconic high-achievers he profiles. For example, he details how Bezos replaced the well-entrenched – and arrogantly complacent – Barnes & Noble as the leader in bookselling by being nimble and “customer obsessed.” “Even when you don’t yet know it, customers want something better,” Bezos said. “And your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.” By contrast, he also shows how Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick’s aggressively competitive personality led to destructive ends: unethical and potentially illegal actions and a hostile work environment.
Readers will enjoy learning about these leaders and the lessons they impart in this intriguing book.
Also available in paperback, ebook and audio book.