The authors of Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value, interviewed engaged with, and learned from 36 CEOs from around the world who have succeeded in creating value that sustains their companies in the short term and the long term. Indeed, their experiences prove it is possible for large corporations to consistently deliver superior economic and social value even in the face of headwinds from capital markets, rapidly changing technology, and unrelenting competition.
At the same time, their decisions were concerned with the future of the company and its future leaders. Leif Johansson, President and CEO of the Volvo Group from 1997 to 2011 and became Chairman of Ericsson in 2011, expressed a sentiment many of other CEO’s shared. “Volvo has a soul as a company that I have been able to join and be part of developing. But this soul doesn’t end with me; it will pass to the next generation and be made to work well…No matter what, I intend to leave behind a Volvo that does have soul that can march on under new leadership.”
The decision to launch the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership was a direct result of the conversations and the insights summarized in the book. Both the book’s authors and the higher-ambition CEOs they interviewed shared a strong belief in the the importance of building and leading institutions that create superior and enduring economic and social value. However, given the relentless demands for short term performance from today’s financial markets, this is not an easy task. The purpose of the Center is to increase the odds of success for aspiring higher-ambition leaders, by bringing these leaders and their companies together as part of an ongoing learning community. The CEO’s of companies featured in Higher Ambition operate in a wide variety of industries across three continents. They include private companies, public companies, large multinationals, start-ups, and nonprofits. Some of these organizations have been around for more than a century. Others were less than a decade old. Some leaders had been in their posts for extended periods of time; others were new to the job. Their family origins and countries of origin, educational experiences, and professional paths are diverse.
They share, however, certain foundational personal characteristics. None claimed to be superstars or models of managerial perfection. They spoke with candor, insight, and with a great deal of humility about themselves and their companies. They all share a distinctive approach to management summarized in five disciplines of higher ambition leadership.