John Smale was arguably the most influential corporate leader of the second half of the 20th century. He grew one great company, Procter & Gamble, more than six-fold during the 21 years he led as president, CEO and chairman of the board. He helped another great company, General Motors, regain momentum in his role as chairman of the board at a critical time in GM's history - and set a new standard for corporate governance that has since transformed the role that Boards of public companies are expected to play. He championed diversity, not only as a US priority but also as a global priority. And he defined a corporate vision for the purpose and social responsibility of business that was decades ahead of its time. And yet, John Smale is largely unknown to many leaders guiding American and global businesses today.
In this business biography book, Here Forever: The Timeless Impact of John G. Smale on Procter & Gamble, General Motors, and the Purpose and Practice of Business, author and journalist Rob Garver sets out to change that. He takes us on a journey of discovery into the life of John Smale and why his example is urgently relevant and deeply needed in today's volatile, fast-changing world. He also brings us into his own story, as his discovery of John Smale helped him navigate a devastating personal loss that changed his vision of what this book could be.
Garver captures timeless lessons from Smale's life and executive leadership that leaders at all levels and in all kinds of organizations can learn from:
- Why knowing what to do when faced with tough choices is more important than knowing how
- Why having the business mindset to think in decades is the factor that most sets great leaders apart
- Why great companies are social institutions that need to be nurtured and perpetuated over time
- Why the two greatest gifts leaders can provide are high expectations and unreserved trust
- Why leaders must champion and protect the innovators in their organization
- And, why confidence and optimism are a leader's most essential traits
John Smale's life is remarkably timeless and timely. The principles by which he lived and led are as meaningful for leaders today as they were in his time. This book will help ensure his impact and legacy will be here with us—forever.
Advance Praise for Here Forever
“John Smale was that rare leader who was sought out by other leaders, especially when they were facing the toughest of challenges. His ability to see the long view and his deep conviction about doing the right thing for the long term have had a lasting impact on me. This book is a gift of insight for everyone who never had the chance to sit and learn at John’s side, as so many of us were honored to do.” — Susan Arnold, Board Chair, The Walt Disney Company
“John Smale was one of the great business leaders of his time. This well-written biography tells us what fueled his unparalleled success — specifically, his passion for innovation and his relentless pursuit of excellence.” — Ed Artzt, Retired Chairman and CEO, Procter & Gamble
“One of my favorite definitions of leadership is found on a tombstone at Normandy. It reads, ‘Leadership is judgment, courage and carelessness of self.’ John Smale’s life and career add the one missing element: character. This is a book that needs to be read by anyone in a position of leadership. Its examples of people getting it right and people getting it wrong provide priceless lessons for all.” — Norm Augustine, Retired Chairman & CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp.
“My first reaction, as I began reading this book, was that John Smale led P&G at a time when the world was smaller and simpler. That things have moved on since. That the luxury business I work in now is more complicated and less fact-based.
“But as I kept reading, I started to see things from a different angle. I began to realize that the principles that informed John’s leadership are exactly the guiding lights that I rely on, day-in and day-out, to help me navigate the intricacies of my professional responsibilities today — doing the right thing, leadership as a service, managing for the long term, innovation as an engine of growth, focusing on the big picture without losing touch of details and individuals, boiling down thorny issues to fundamental choices, being frank and direct but always fair.
“It is on tough days — when things are complex, when analysis is unclear and decisions are difficult — that I go back to these values. Asking myself what would John Smale do is always a great way to be inspired and cut to the chase!” — Antonio Belloni, Group Managing Director, LVMH Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy
“Every person should read this book about John Smale. It’s a book about leadership, character, values and courage. He was a CEO way ahead of his time!
“I spent the formative years of my 28 years at P&G when Mr. Smale was the CEO. Until I read this book, I didn’t realize how much of who I am as a leader today directly flowed from John Smale’s DNA as a leader. John always focused on doing the right thing, identifying and growing talent, and making the hard choices that were in the best interest of the Company for the long-term, even if it meant short-term negative consequences. Everyone can learn from John Smale and this fast-paced book.” — Chip Bergh, President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co.
“Very early in his career, John Smale convinced me, just beginning my own career in an advertising agency, that P&G was the company I wanted to work with, not just for a project or two, but for decades. The reason was simple. Though he was just starting his career, he personified P&G’s culture — its integrity, its belief in creativity, and its commitment to growing people — in a way that no one I had ever met had done. We did in fact spend decades working alongside one another, building some of the world’s greatest brands. He was a remarkable man. I was privileged to know him.” — Roy Bostock, Former Chairman and CEO, DMB&B; Former Vice Chairman, Delta Airlines
“If you want to become an impactful leader in the 21st century, read this book. Great leaders honor and learn from the past, meet the challenges of the present in a quality way, and set the table for a more prosperous future. John Smale was a great leader — arguably the best corporate leader of the second half of the 20th century. And, as I understand it, he was an even better human being. The leadership lessons of his storied career are timeless. Learn from him, grow with him, and become the leader you are meant to be.” —Douglas R. Conant, Founder, ConantLeadership; Former Chairman, Avon Products; Former President and CEO, Campbell Soup Company
“John Smale graduated from Miami University with a degree in business in 1949. At Miami, we believe that leadership requires vision, integrity, and courage. Throughout his career, John demonstrated all three attributes.
“Here Forever: How P&G’s John Smale Mastered the Art of the Long View and Shaped the Purpose of Business is an important book for all leaders to read because it reminds us of the need to lead effective organizations that contribute to the communities of which they are part, provide meaning and purpose to those who work for their organization, and constantly innovate (with a long-term view in mind) in order to ensure the organization is sustainable.” — Jenny Darroch, Dean of the Farmer School of Business, Miami University
“John Smale’s example shows that a leader’s sense of time is the hidden source of their power and integrity. Never mind today’s buzzwords — we’d all do well to follow Smale’s combination of short-term excellence and long-term values.” — Zachary First, Executive Director, Drucker Institute
“Here Forever captures an essential truth about John Smale: he was totally clear about who he was and what he valued. His commitment to innovation and to excellence never wavered, starting with himself. As a result, he built great brands, renewed great institutions, and helped people grow with confidence, optimism and courage, empowered by his trust. He was a leader we all can continue to learn from, today and forever.” — Robert Iger, Retired Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company
“I learned timeless lessons from John Smale: Be principles- and values-led; invest in innovation for sustainable competitive advantage; and focus on growth and value creation for the long term. These leadership lessons have served P&G very well, and they are and will always be relevant to many other companies across a wide range of industries.” — A.G. Lafley, Former Chairman and CEO, The Procter & Gamble Company
“John Smale was the leader we all aspire to be. He led The Procter & Gamble Company to codify its Purpose and Values during a seminal time of globalization. He embodied the company’s Purpose (improve the lives of the world’s consumers) and its Values (integrity, leadership, ownership, passion for winning, and trust). They formed his character. He exemplified this character to the employees of the company. At West Point we work to create leaders of character. That’s our mission. Character, Purpose, and Values attracted me to P&G. The desire to be part of something bigger than oneself — something that matters.
“It was my privilege to get to know John better over the last years of his life. The more I got to know him, the more I realized what an authentic leader of character he was. Today, in a world which is increasingly cynical and divisive, being a leader of character matters more than ever. The life of John Smale, captured so well in this book, is an ideal for us all.” — Robert A. McDonald, Chairman, West Point Association of Graduates; Retired Chairman, President & CEO of The Procter & Gamble Company; 8th Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs
“John Smale was one of my closest and dearest friends. He was a man of incredibly strong character and principle and I admired him as much as any man I have ever known. I also had the unique pleasure to experience the ‘lighter side’ of John when he and his wife Phyllis and my wife Marilyn and I took trips together. He had a great sense of humor. I could write a book about John but that will now not be necessary!” — Charles S. Mechem, Jr., Retired Chairman and CEO, Taft Broadcasting Company
“True leadership is putting the interest of others ahead of your own , knowing that by doing so you are better off yourself as well. John had plenty of this, and there are many lessons in the way he practiced it.
“John Smale’s character was carefully defined by strong values and consistent behavior when it counted most — a lesson all leaders need to understand and, more importantly, practice. I encourage you to read this important book. Impact guaranteed for all who simply want to be better “ — Paul Polman, Author. Net Positive; Retired CEO, Unilever
“John Smale’s life, as explored in this book, is a gift to all who seek examples of extraordinary corporate, community, and family leadership. He is an exemplar of a future-focused visionary whose exceptional skills in business building were only equaled by his uncanny ability to quickly identify and then invest in developing highly effective leaders. The very human side of John’s life reminds us that true success always entails having a deep love of and involvement in building strong communities and families. This book provides a rare look into the mind and heart of a very private, humble yet incredible person. It leaves us with inspiration that is applicable to all aspects of our lives.” — Janet B. Reid, Ph.D., CEO, BRBS World, LLC; Member of the P&G Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board