Jack Shakely, Internet Review of Books:

Near the end of Sander Flaum’s remarkable little leadership primer, he reveals one of the constant, but seldom acknowledged, problems with books written by leaders about leadership. Written by a group of people notoriously lacking in introspection, and done through a rear-view mirror that should read “warning: images and egos appear larger than actual size,” the aspiring leader often gets a warm and fuzzy rendering of the leader as likeable, motivational coach.

Flaum, who has had an enormously successful career in advertising and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry and who heads the Leadership Forum at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business, makes BIG SHOES come alive by telling us the truth about leadership, warts and all. Leadership really isn’t for everyone, Flaum reminds us and quotes journalist Lucy Kellerman’s observations, “You need to have a huge amount of personal ambition to climb the ladder; you will work so hard and so intensely that you will have little time or energy for anything else; you will have an inordinate amount of attention placed on you; and the overwhelming likelihood is that your stay at the top will end in failure.”


Sort of peels some of the paint off that corner office, doesn’t it?

Actually Flaum, who with his son Jonathan wrote the New York Times best-selling book on generational variations in leadership, The 100-Mile Walk, is devoted to the concept of leadership as a way of life, not just a position. But it’s tough and all-consuming, and starts before your first day on the job.

Among the many merits of Flaum’s book, in fact, is his willingness to descend a couple of rungs on the leadership ladder and tell us what to expect the day the new leader arrives, the first hundred days on the job (forget that “honeymoon”), how to convince your board and superiors that you are worthy of their trust and large salary, and how to deal with some of the great leadership conundrums. You are, for example, supposed to build a team, gain respect from your employees, then fire a few of them from time to time (it has to do with the eighty-twenty rule, and it’s not designed to make you popular).

BIG SHOES is a highly practical book that deserves more than just a place on your bookshelf. It’s a handbook that you might want to stick in your pocket as you climb the leadership ladder.

—Reviewed by Jack Shakely, (from Internet Review of Books) president emeritus of the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles and senior fellow at the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

“The ABCs of business success for new leaders beg, borrow, or steal this book if you want to get ahead in your career.”

Howard Safir, Chairman, Safir Rosetti; Former Commissioner, New York City Police Department

“Nobody tells it better than Sander Flaum when it comes to getting the best out of your people and the best out of your own performance.”

—Robert Essner, Retired Chairman and CEO, Wyeth

“Timeless advice and wisdom about the art and science of leadership.”

–Christine A. Poon, Dean, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University

“Flaum has remarkable insight into leadership practices. You’ll begin to make changes the day you start reading this.”

—Robert G. Smith, Senior Vice President, American Management Association

“When it’s about your future success in business, Big Shoes is news we all can use. It’s a trend in itself.”

—Faith Popcorn, Founder, Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, trend expert and author of The Popcorn Report

“Subtitled “How Successful Leaders Grow Into New Roles,” this book aims to help rising stars who are moving into their first big executive posts. The author lays out a set of no-nonsense priorities, such as valuing clear focus and superior quality over multitasking and “making deadlines no matter what.”

—Greg Hack, KansasCity.com

In today’s volatile economic environment, the strategies offered in Big Shoes are more relevant than ever. The advice for finding success with a new company, with a new department, and in constantly changing market conditions is as timely as it is timeless.


Sander A. Flaum, the CEO of Flaum Partners and former chairman of the Euro RSCG Becker advertising agency, has a proven track record as a leader and corporate executive. He was named Man of the Year in the healthcare marketing industry in 2002.

Big Shoes is based on Flaum’s personal leadership philosophy and lessons learned from experience. It is intended to be a short playbook on succeeding in the role of a leader. Chapters follow the order of the leadership cycle, from the initial few months on the job, to engaging and motivating staff, growing the business and staying ahead of the competition, and finally, to succession planning.

Flaum, who co-authored The 100-Mile Walk, urges new leaders to make the most of their first 100 days in their new position. He cites as an example the changes President Obama implemented during his first few weeks in office. He tells leaders to do their homework and to “hit the ground running,” so that they can demonstrate tangible results to increasingly impatient stakeholders. “In today’s economy, if you haven’t done something, you’ve done nothing,” he writes. “So even while you’re formulating and executing your long-term plansÂ…you should be striving for ‘early wins’ on the job.” Although the book doesn’t present any new ideas for business, it hits its mark by targeting the areas that will help leaders succeed in the current business environment.

After surviving a decade of flagrant corporate greed, Flaum encourages leaders to apply their efforts to making their business and the world a better place. He relates numerous examples of leaders making a positive contribution. For example, former J.P. Morgan executive Jeff Flug quit his job and co-founded Millennium Promise, a non-profit group that helps Malawi villagers avoid famine and develop medical facilities. The book references other successful executives, including Jack Welch of GE, Meg Whitman of eBay, Steve Jobs of Apple, and Alan Mulally of Ford.

Also valuable are his discussions of building a memorable legacy through superior “A+” work and grooming future young leaders to continue the mission. Flaum even shows the importance of gaining perspective through “brainrest.”

To Flaum, wearing the big shoes means being a humble, innovative, and adaptive leader who guides his company to success and leaves a lasting legacy.

Written in true executive style, the message is direct, concise, and to the point. There’s a lot of practical wisdom packed into this small book, which makes it a handy guide for busy executives.