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 inHigher 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.

The Authors

Higher Ambition was researched and written by a highly collaborative team of authors with deep experience in leadership, organization and strategy. Scroll over the picture for each author’s bio.

Michael Beer
Michael Beer is the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and chairman of the TruePoint Center.  Mike’s 40-year career, beginning at Corning in the 1960s, has been dedicated to understanding and improving the way businesses enhance performance while building capability and commitment. He is renowned and honored in several business disciplines — including management, organizational design, strategic human resources, organizational psychology and organizational development. Mike is an award-winning author or co-author of many books, including High Commitment, High Performance and The Critical Path to Corporate Renewal (with Russ Eisenstat).
Tobias Fredberg
Tobias Fredberg is Associate Professor of Management at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, and a fellow at the TruePoint Center.  Since the late 1990s, Tobias has researched and consulted in a vast array of industries. His research focuses on strategic change and the management of innovation. He currently heads two large projects in those areas, as well as an international network on innovation research. He is an author of July 2008 Harvard Business Review article, “The Uncompromising Leader” (with Beer, Eisenstat, Foote and Norrgren) and has published in a larger set of books and journals.
Nathaniel Foote
Nathaniel Foote is Managing Director of TruePoint and a former partner at McKinsey & Co.  For more than 25 years Nathaniel has focused on the linkage between strategy and organization in creating high-performing enterprises — how adaptive, iterative approaches to strategy, organization design, and knowledge management help complex businesses perform amidst rapid change. In his 19 years with McKinsey & Co., Nathaniel served many roles including leader of McKinsey’s Organization Design practice, Director of Knowledge and Practice Development, and leader of the European Organization practice. Nathaniel has published articles in  Harvard Business Review, McKinsey Quarterly, and other publications.
Flemming Norrgren
Flemming Norrgren is Professor of Management at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Director of the TruePoint Center in Europe.  Flemming has spent more than three decades developing management skills, building industrial R&D functions, and coordinating large international R&D projects in pharmaceuticals, technology, and other knowledge-intensive industries. During the 1980s he spearheaded a number of large change projects within the manufacturing industry that encompassed the redesign of factories, work organizations, and logistics. As a researcher, Flemming is founder and associate director of the Fenix Executive Ph.D. program and research center. He has led more than 30 different management research projects – in change management, industrial R&D management, project management, leadership and socio-technical systems design – for leading companies such as AstraZeneca, Ericsson, TELIA and Volvo.
Russell Eisenstat
Russell Eisenstat is the President of TruePoint and Executive Director of The Center for Higher Ambition Leadership, and a former member of the faculty of the Harvard Business School. For nearly three decades Russ has partnered with senior leaders to achieve breakthroughs in large-scale organizational change and innovation, strategy implementation, and the design of complex organizations. Russ also spent five years as Senior Organizational Fellow at McKinsey & Co. Russ has written extensively for Harvard Business Review, McKinsey Quarterly, and other publications. He is the co-author (with Michael Beer) of the award-winning book The Critical Path to Corporate Renewal.

Higher-Ambition CEOs

The authors of Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value interviewed, engaged with, learned from, 36 CEOs who come from many countries and cultures and have varying educational and professional backgrounds. They lead companies from many different industries. They all had, however,  important characteristics in common — a great degree of humility about themselves and their companies, a personal clarity about their values (what they do and don’t do), and a definition of corporate success that combines financial and social worth.

To find these CEOs, they relied on recommendations from trusted colleagues, their own direct experience in working with some of these leaders, as well as the lists of most admired companies and best places to work.

In addition, the authors applied two tests:

  • The company had a compounded annual growth rate in revenues, profits, and market capitalization that exceeded the fiftieth percentile of industry peers between 1997 and 2006, or for the CEO tenure. Corresponding figures for public or privately held organizations were used.
  • The CEOs were concerned with developing a people-centric, high commitment culture, based on evidence from the public record, including articles, speeches, and views of those with direct knowledge.