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The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers


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About the Author

James M. Citrin, a prominent CEO and board director recruiter, leads Spencer Stuart's Global Technology, Communications, and Media practice and is a member of the firm's worldwide board of directors. He is the author of Zoom: How 12 Exceptional Companies Are Navigating the Road to the Next Economy and coauthor of Lessons from the Top: The 50 Most Successful Business Leaders in America--and What You Can Learn from Them.

Richard A. Smith is a respected thought leader and recruiter of CEOs for both public and private corporations and a core member of Spencer Stuart's Strategic Leadership practice. He has authored numerous articles on leadership and talent resource management, including the widely cited white paper, Tier One Talent: Investment Strategies for Human Capital.


Aside from some perfunctory tips on job searching, resume writing and interviewing, the authors, both consultants with the head-hunting firm Spencer Stuart, approach careers as problems in psychology and group dynamics. They urge mid-career executives with suppressed feelings of anxiety and helplessness to view a career as a free-form project of self-actualization that should fit with their personalities and inspire passion. More pragmatically, career building is also an exercise in image-management that should convey potential and experience to employers and their head-hunting consultants. This partly involves canny career moves allowing talent to shine. But climbing the ladder also requires consummate office politics-manipulating perceptions, networking with the powerful, strategic quid pro quos, gaining power by "masquerading as the leader"-all accomplished without stepping on toes, stifling subordinates or "sucking up." The authors convey these lessons in a sometimes turgid mixture of opaque managementese ("successful executives... literally achieve positive impact at an accelerating rate"), squishy survey data ("extraordinary executives... leverage both their strengths and their passions more than six times as often as average employees") and case studies in which executives move from industry to industry in a meteoric, triumphal procession of nebulous jobs in consulting, marketing and finance. The blend of motivational therapeutics and softly Machiavellian tactics may help some executives get out of their rut, but the generic, almost contentless corporate work experiences on display seem far from extraordinary. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Spencer Stuart executives Citrin (Lessons from the Top; Zoom) and Smith drew on their experience with this leading executive recruiting firm as well as its contact database to conduct research for this unique career guide. Over the course of two years, the authors surveyed thousands of successful people they have worked with and conducted some 300 in-person interviews (with Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay, for example). They then divided the respondents into three groups, including one of extraordinary executives, i.e., those who know how to perform beyond the requirements of their job and whose specific qualities they define and illustrate here. Although the title lacks the edgy feel of other career books, it is serious without being stuffy. It is also full of thorough, down-to-earth analyses supported by real-life examples and suggestions for implementation and further reading. Recommended for both academic and public libraries. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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