cover image The Fearless Executive

The Fearless Executive

Alan Downs. AMACOM/American Management Association, $22.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-8144-0565-9

Drawing partly on the lessons of his own career path as a human resources executive turned management consultant, and partly on his experience counseling downsized employees, Downs sets out to show executives that they are often their own worst enemy. Many remain in jobs they dislike, relying on administrative and political skills that may be their weakest, thereby setting themselves up for failure. According to Downs, executives often operate based on the ""trait of fear."" Different from the terror of, say, walking down a dark alley, it's an ongoing concern about the future or anxiety over some imagined event: ""you feel fear and avoid action altogether,"" Downs explains. He offers examples from corporate America (including the experiences of Lee Iacocca and Charles Wang) and some fairy tale anecdotes to show readers that they can break this fear cycle by ""acknowledg[ing] and confront[ing] the irrational beliefs that underlie a fear; mak[ing] a conscious effort to push past the fear and take positive action in the direction of the fear."" Although Downs's premise is intriguing, his book is a disappointment. A more cohesive structure bolstered with more practical exercises and real-life scenarios would have made it a more useful tool. (June)