In the Introduction, Garten explains that his objective is to share "the most important thoughts that run through the minds of some of the world's leaders as a group. I was looking for patterns from which to draw conclusions, patterns derived from what was said and what wasn't." He interviewed 40 prominent CEOs worldwide who include C. Michael Armstrong (AT&T), Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg L.P.), Richard Branson, (Virgin Management Ltd.), Stephen M. Case (American Online, Inc.), Michael S. Dell (Dell Computer Corporation), Roger A, Enrico (PepsiCo, Inc.), Andrew S. Grove (Intel Corporation), Rupert Murdoch (The News Corporation Limited), Hiroshi Okuda (Toyota Motor Corporation), Jurgen E. Schrempp (DaimlerChrysler AG), George Soros ((Soros Fund Management LLC.), and John F. Welch, Jr. (General Electric Company). "I tried to come to grips with what I thought of the environment CEOs faced, how they were dealing with it, and what more, if anything, they ought to be doing."
This is a very revealing statement because it correctly suggests that the mind of Jeffrey E. Garten is as much involved in this book as are the minds of those CEOs he interviewed. Indeed, Garten shares several judgments of his own. For example, Garten asserts that global CEOs are not nearly as powerful as many people now assume as they struggle with three kinds of challenges amidst the third industrial revolution: "First, they have their hands full with the central strategic problems of how to take advantage of the Internet and the global economy. Second, they face certain everyday dilemmas of leading and managing corporate Goliaths.. And third, they have roles to play on the world political, economic, and social stage."
In the final chapter, Garten suggests that the three challenges "will be assessed by historians as having been too difficult for most CEOs to successfully handle all at once." This is especially true in larger organizations as their structures become "flatter", as delegation of authority becomes both wider and deeper, as "virtual" operations expand, and as strategic alliances (even with traditional competitors) proliferate. What intrigues me, frankly, is the relevance of the suggestion to owners/CEOs of small-to-midsize companies who, also, find many challenges "too difficult...to successfully handle all at once." Bennis and others have correctly identified the inadequacies of the authoritarian leadership style. In their book whose title is especially appropriate, O'Dell and Grayson suggest what could be accomplished in collaboration "if only we knew what we know." CEOs in years to come will have (indeed must have) quite different values, perspectives, and mindsets than those which today's CEOs possess. As indicated in what they say and do not say to Garten, many of today's CEOs agree.