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Leading Through Disruption by Andrew Liveris - A Timely Book for Leaders Navigating Uncertain Times

Leading Through Disruption: A Changemaker's Guide to Twenty-First Century Leadership

Author: Andrew N. Liveris


Published by Harpercollins India

Pages: 240

MRP: Rs. 499/-

Book Review in association with HarperCollins India and Book Reviewers Club.

In his latest book Leading Through Disruption, former Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris provides timely and insightful advice for business leaders on how to steer their organizations through the tumultuous changes of the 21st century.

Drawing on his extensive experience leading a major global company for over a decade, Liveris argues that the old rules of leadership no longer apply in today's volatile, complex world. The challenges business face today - from climate change to geopolitical realignments to digital disruption - require a completely new toolbox.

The book is structured around some of the major forces reshaping business and society. In the opening chapters, Liveris makes a compelling case for why traditional leadership models are obsolete. Factors like the retreat of global leadership, the false promise of globalization, endemic short-termism and the rise of digitalization have combined to create a fundamentally new operating environment. In this ambiguous context, leaders can't rely on the practices that worked in the past.

A key message is that leaders today need to expand their perspective and "go wide" by considering the full range of economic, political and social factors impinging on business. Liveris stresses the importance of incorporating diverse voices and focusing on win-win solutions that benefit business, government and society.

Some of the most insightful chapters deal with the new prominence of ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors in business strategy. Liveris recounts how sustainability became core to Dow's operations under his watch. He outlines practical steps leaders can take to embed ESG principles across their organizations. This includes benchmarking stakeholder expectations, partnering with NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and linking executive compensation to longer-term ESG metrics.

The author also devotes considerable attention to geopolitics. He argues convincingly that traditional country affiliations are being replaced by more fluid regional trading blocs and strategic partnerships. For multinationals, identifying the right allies and ecosystems is now an essential leadership capability. Liveris shares valuable insights into navigating the shifting power dynamics between the US and China.

In discussing the epidemic of short-termism in business, Liveris provides an enlightening account of how he steered Dow toward long-term innovation, despite pressure from activist investors focused on quick returns. He offers sage advice on how leaders can engage with activist hedge funds constructively while staying focused on their long-term vision.

In terms of actionable advice, the book offers leaders several useful mental models and frameworks. For instance, Liveris proposes a "New Toolbox for the 21st Century Leader" centered around ten megatrends. He also outlines a compelling vision for tomorrow's "Enlightened Board", which embraces qualities like rigor, inclusiveness, diversity and long-term orientation.

One of the book's great strengths is Liveris' willingness to draw candid lessons from his own leadership experience. He recounts navigating a coup attempt and near-bankruptcy during the financial crisis. By being open about his own development as a leader, Liveris makes the book feel less abstract and more grounded in the hard realities facing today's executives.

While aimed primarily at CEOs and boards, the book contains invaluable insights for leaders at every level. Liveris writes in an accessible, conversational style, seamlessly blending analysis and storytelling. The only slight drawback is that the argument can feel repetitive at times.

Overall, Leading Through Disruption provides a timely strategic compass for leaders seeking to thrive in an era of exponential change. Liveris avoids simplistic formulas, recognizing that navigating today's challenges requires nuance and sophistication. Both new and experienced leaders will find in this book a valuable framework for leading fearlessly yet thoughtfully through the turbulence ahead.

Key Highlights:

  • Traditional leadership models are outdated in today's volatile, complex world. Leaders now need to "go wide" and consider the full range of factors affecting business.

  • ESG factors like sustainability are becoming integral to business strategy and operations. Leaders should benchmark stakeholder expectations and link executive compensation to longer-term ESG performance.

  • With the rise of new regional trading blocs, leaders must become adept at identifying the right geopolitical allies and ecosystems.

  • Short-termism is endemic in business today. Leaders should engage with activist investors while staying committed to long-term innovation and vision.

  • For continued relevance, boards must embrace qualities like rigor, inclusiveness, diversity and long-term thinking.

  • By being candid about his own leadership lessons, Liveris makes the book feel grounded in the realities today's executives face.

  • Leaders at all levels will find in the book a valuable framework for leading through the turbulence and uncertainty ahead.

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