Business Books

B-School Reading List: The Secret to a Successful Career? Don't Be Passionate or Demanding


Stealing the Corner Office: The Winning Career Strategies They’ll Never Teach You in Business School, by Brendan Reid.

Admit it, at some point in your career (maybe even today?) you’ve wondered about a colleague or a member of the senior staff: “How did that boob get promoted? I’m smarter and work harder.”

See, that’s your problem right there. You need to follow author Brendan Reid’s advice: Study the moves of the average or subpar manager—you know, the “Incompetent Executive.” Every company has them; they survive layoffs, reorganizations, and mergers—climbing the corporate ladder while you’re stuck at the same level, griping to your friends.

You may be tempted to write off Stealing the Corner Office as yet another in the overworked you’ll-never-learn-this-in-B-school business book category. That would be a shame. You’d miss the fun of mapping Reid’s fictional examples of how someone handles (or mishandles) a particular situation to managers you’ve worked under. (Personally, I’ve worked with a lot of “teflon” executives—current employer excepted, of course.) And if you’re self-honest, you will notice in yourself traits that Reid maintains hold you back. I certainly did.

This is not a snarky teardown of corporate life. Reid is serious about his suggestions—and they make sense with the proper perspective. Here’s a sample: Results orientation is a universally accepted management mantra, but Reid points out that no one really cares if your résumé notes that you increased sales 34 percent at a company you worked at seven years ago. Better to point out that you learned a new selling approach or developed your negotiating skills. “Results have a short shelf life,” he writes. “Skills have value of many years and roles.”

Whether this is a winning strategy that will propel you into the C-suite remains to be seen. Reid says he spent the past 10 years testing the tactics of the Incompetent Executive, distilling the species’ moves down to seven lessons that will “kick start your career.” At the very least, this unconventional wisdom appears to have worked for Reid—he’s a vice president of marketing. And now a book author.

Sager is director of special projects for Businessweek.com.

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