Book Review: A valuable lesson

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-25 14:22
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Many people like to comment on values but unless they have a lot of experience their opinions are not likely to be taken seriously. Thankfully, The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life is a fully-fledged graduate of the university of hard knocks.

Book Review: A valuable lesson

The book is written by Meg Whitman, the former president and chief executive officer of eBay, who grew the company from a tiny start-up into a business worth $8 billion in annual revenues during her tenure. Before joining eBay, she worked for international companies including Procter & Gamble, Bain, Walt Disney, and was selected as the Most Powerful Business Woman by Fortune magazine in 2004.

It is not only an interesting autobiography of the ambitious and driven Whitman, showing how she balanced career and family; it can also be viewed as a fantastic management case, telling managers what values are important and how to realize them.

Perhaps the most popular definition of values emerged from the Rokeach Value Survey conducted by Milton Rokeach in 1973. According to his theory, varied values link together through a certain logical meaning and exist in specific structural levels or systems. They can be divided into two main types: terminal values and instrumental values. Terminal values refer to personal values and social values, the ideal terminal state and result of life. Instrumental values refer to virtues and abilities, using preferential modes of behavior or means to achieve the terminal values.

Whitman reveals 10 core values that guided her as a leader and could steer anyone to success in their business and personal lives: trusting that people are basically good, taking action, being authentic, conserving resources, being accountable, listening, focusing, engaging in teamwork, being courageous and being flexible. All these values belong to the instrumental values in Rokeach's theory.

Whitman believes value-focused management was a great way to lead, and gave everyone something to contribute. As she says, leaders should maintain an optimistic, open, careful and brave manner in approaching different kinds of challenges and troubles. They should insist on being surrounded by active listeners and bravely devolve power in order to effectively establish an all-win community relationship.

Many managers, especially those without plentiful experience, may find that values are possibly contradictory. That includes a focus on result orientation and profit-over-everything, which beginners may feel hard to balance. In this book, Whitman also suggests that people should first make clear the long-term and short-term objectives, the legal deadline and virtue regulation, and then they will find out the answers they crave.