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Return on Character: The Real Reason Leaders and Their Companies Win
Fred Kiel

Retail Price: $30.00
LS Price: $21.00
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Format: Hardcover, 272pp.
ISBN: 9781625271303
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Pub. Date: April 7, 2015

Average Customer Review:
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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

Does the character of our leaders matter?

You may think this question was answered long ago. Countless business authors and analysts have assured us that great leadership demands great character. Time and again, we’ve seen that truth play out, as once-thriving organizations falter and fail under the guidance of leaders behaving badly. Why, then, do so many executives remain skeptical about the true value of leadership character? A winning strategy and a sound business model are what really matter, they argue; character is just the icing on the cake.

What’s been missing from this debate is hard evidence: data that shows not only that leadership character matters for organizational success, but how it matters; and concrete evidence that it leads to better business results. Now, in this groundbreaking book, respected leadership researcher, adviser, and author Fred Kiel offers that evidence—solid data that demonstrates the connection between character, leadership excellence, and organizational results.

After seven years of rigorous research based on a landmark study of more than 100 CEOs and over 8,000 of their employees’ observations, Kiel’s findings show that leaders of strong character achieved up to five times the ROA for their organizations as did leaders of weak character.

Return on Character goes on to reveal:
  • How leadership character is formed, how it creates value, and how that value spreads throughout the organization
  • How low-character leaders undermine the success of even the best business plans
  • How leaders at any level can develop the habits of strong character and “unlearn” the habits of poor character
The book also provides a character-building methodology—step-by-step advice and techniques for assessing your own character habits and improving your performance and that of your organization.

Return on Character provides the blueprint for building your own leadership character and creating a character-driven organization that achieves superior business results.


“This book breaks new ground. Its central finding: organizations led by a CEO and executive team of high character will, on average, produce a materially higher ROA than other organizations. Readers will find the results convincing and the suggestions for how to attain that kind of leadership quite valuable.”
—Irvine Hockaday, former President and CEO, Hallmark Cards

“This book is an extraordinary source of insight about how the personal characteristics of leaders translate into significant economic consequences for the organizations they lead. The examples are concrete, the chapter takeaways are penetrating, and the guidance for becoming a ‘Virtuoso leader’ is essential reading for anyone with leadership aspirations or responsibilities.”
—Shane S. Dikolli, Associate Dean for Faculty Engagement, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

“Fred Kiel's breakthrough research demonstrates that character is a leadership differentiator that resonates with employees and has a positive impact on business results. His findings clearly illustrate that greatness need not be achieved at the expense of virtuosity, and that the self-focused CEO will always be part of our history but does not need to be part of our future.”
—Yvonne K. Franzese, Chief Human Resources Officer, Allianz of America

“Fred Kiel provides inspiration for both current and future leaders to live and act on their values and to empower their organizations to do the same. A great contribution to the study of leadership.”
—David Kenny, Chairman and CEO, The Weather Company

“Fred Kiel, the global dean of CEO coaches—in the masterpiece of his career—argues two truths gleaned from his practice and scholarship: 1) High personal character in corporate leadership yields far higher ROI and ROA for the company; and 2) Growth in character is a matter of choice and discipline and, as such, available to us all. Thirty years of clinical practice built into a playbook for leaders and their teams.”
—David G. Bradley, owner and Chairman, Atlantic Media

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About the Author

Fred Kiel, PhD, is a founding partner of the leadership development and strategic analytics firm KRW International and a pioneer in the field of executive coaching. For more than thirty years, he has helped Fortune 500 CEOs and senior executives build organizational effectiveness through leadership excellence and mission alignment. His rigorous data gathering and customized development process provide executives with transformative feedback.

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