Book Review: What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman


You cannot be a great manager (or at least sustain being a great manager) unless you read. I've decided to use these blog posts to review books I have read.


This week I finished "What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence" by Stephen A. Schwarzman. When I read books from successful leaders, I am not only interested in their life, but I am hoping that they provide some great information on how I can change or adapt my behaviors. In that regard, this book disappointed me. Those items were there, but they were buried in stories and hard to pull out. He tried to summarize them in an appendix, but at that point it was way too late and not helpful.


There is no doubt that Mr. Schwarzman has had plenty of success in his life. Much of it is probably well deserved. However, the book quickly became a series of telling how much success he had. Towards the end, it seemed almost Forest Gump-ish. He was involved in every major thing happening in the world, where everyone was coming to him for advice. He always seemed to have the right answer that the person took and appreciated. I can't say if any of it was untrue, but it does come off as unbelievable.


I always take something away from a book. What I took away here was that urgency is good, but not at the expense of excellence. He gave several examples where he moved fast, when he could have moved slower, and that getting it done benefited him when the environment changed.


Overall, I would give this book a 3 out of 5 stars. It was an easy read, but not as helpful or engaging as it could have been.