APWA Book Review

In the Face of Uncertainty: 25 Top Leaders Speak Out on Challenge, Change, and the Future of American Business, by Martha I. Finney

Change has long been accepted as a necessary, if not always welcome, part of success in business and fulfillment in life. The weakened economy, the events and impact of September 11, Enron, and a questionable recovery have all altered our very conception of change—let alone how to manage it. Change is now not only inevitable, but also impossible to control. Across America, businesses are grappling daily with news of the unexpected—on Wall Street, in international trade, and in the machinations of major corporations. People are asking: How can we reclaim our innovative spirit and our competitive edge, our sense of purpose and our hope for the future?

In the Face of Uncertainty: 25 Top Leaders Speak Out on Challenge, Change, and the Future of American Business shares the insights and convictions of leading minds in industries across the board who have thought deeply about change since September 11. An accomplished business journalist, Martha I. Finney mined the upper echelons of finance, technology, education, social activism, politics, and entertainment for a philosophical perspective on how to confront change and deliberately create a future that fully realizes our hopes and potential.

"It is not my mission to make everyone feel certain," Finney declares. "We may never be certain again. But it is by embracing rather than fearing this reality that we best equip ourselves to shape the future of our businesses as well as our lives."

In the Face of Uncertainty presents in-depth, heartfelt interviews with more than two dozen visionaries on timely topics from globalism to philanthropy, from entrepreneurship to anti-Americanism. What does "investing in the future" mean now? What is the U.S. corporation's new role as corporate citizen? How can leaders foster a motivated workforce when priorities and objectives are subject to change daily? What is the essential ingredient for resilience? These are among the questions with which Finney challenged leadership in government, private enterprise, academia, and the nonprofit world. Here are a few choice excerpts from the compelling answers.

  • "The events of September 11 have enhanced the arguments for worldwide engagement on an economic level.... Unless we're grappling, and are seen to be grappling, with the economic issues that confront the developing world, we leave a vacuum for others to fill. That vacuum can be filled by some pretty unsavory actors." — Grant Aldonas, Under Secretary, International Trade, U.S. Department of Commerce

  • "The most important characteristic of a chief executive—who embodies the corporation as the most visible element other than the product itself—is that he or she must be believable." — Christopher Komisarjevsky, CEO Worldwide and President, Burson-Marsteller

    "The pathway to good judgment is learning from bad experience.... A key responsibility of a leader is to deal with uncertainty. Leaders make risk judgments and decisions about unknowns or as-yet-unknowables. If everything was certain, you wouldn't need a leader." — Michael P.C. Carns, General (retired), U.S. Air Force

Reflecting a rich diversity of viewpoints, and resonating with optimism and confidence in the future of American business, In the Face of Uncertainty is a book to inspire, guide and bolster executives, managers, and all citizens in what will certainly be volatile times ahead. It affirms that the challenge we face is also an unprecedented opportunity to realign our goals, redesign our strategies, and bring business back—stronger than ever.

For more information on purchasing this book and other American Public Works Association books, please visit the APWA Bookstore on-line at www.apwa.net or call the Member Services Hotline at 1-800-848-APWA (2792), ext. 3560.