Leadership Lessons for 2004
By Steve Powers

(Business 2.0) – We know times have been tough, but we had no idea the world had run so low on role models. The industry that churns out inspirational books about business leaders--and, in the past, served up such heroes as Lee Iacocca and Sun-tzu, as well as Jack Welch and Attila the Hun--seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. This season's crop of alpha males includes the CEO of a company most people have never heard of, a fictional TV mobster, and an accident-prone, unelected president. Perhaps you'll find their stories inspiring. But our guess is, you'll wish the authors had aimed higher. What's next? Accounting tips from the CFO of Parmalat? -- STEVE POWERS

Guts! Companies That Blow the Doors off Business-as-Usual by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg (Currency/Doubleday, January 2004)

Philosophy: Rebel against the status quo. Enjoy yourself. Be confident in your beliefs. Love your employees.

Role Model: Roy Spence, president of GSD&M, the nation's third-largest advertising agency.

Money Quote: "You have to be gutsy enough to stand up to those who stand in your way. You have to be big enough to admit your mistakes. You have to be vulnerable and say 'I don't know.'"

Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss by Deborrah Himsel (Dearborn Trade Publishing, December 2003)

Philosophy: Set clear goals, then use lavish rewards and severe punishments to underscore who's in charge.

Model: HBO's Tony Soprano, a fictional, foulmouthed Mafia boss.

Money Quote: Chapter titles include "The Strategic Goal Is to Make Shitloads of Money" and "Understanding Your Deeper Need to Kill the Competition."

The Accidental Leader: What to Do When You're Suddenly in Charge by Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley (Jossey-Bass, October 2003)

Philosophy: You may feel like a quivering bowl of jelly, but when you suddenly end up in charge, take the reins maturely.

Role Model: Former president Gerald Ford, the classic accidental leader.

Money Quote: Pardoning Richard Nixon was essential, because by "pulling the hook from the big fish's lip, [Ford] bought time and space for his own presidency."