Roberts, Wess 1946-
Roberts, Wess 1946-
(Wesley K. Roberts)
PERSONAL: Born Wesley K. Roberts, October 8, 1946, in Cedar City, UT; son of Lester W. and Lura V. Roberts; married Cheryl L. Barron, March 22, 1968; children: Justin, Jaime, Jeremy. Education: Southern Utah State College, B.S., 1970; Utah State University, M.S., 1972, Ph.D., 1974.
ADDRESSES: Home—UT. Agent—Richard Pine, 1780 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer, producer, and business executive. Courseware, Inc., San Diego, CA, project director and instructional psychologist, 1976-78; Northrop Service, Inc., project engineer and training systems specialist, 1978-79; American Express, New York, NY, director of operations training, 1979-80, director of human resources in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1981; American Express Travel Related Services, New York, NY, vice president of human resources in Ft. Lauderdale, 1982, vice president of human resources, travelers’ check products, and domestic operations training, 1982-83, vice president of human resources and domestic operations training in Salt Lake City, UT, 1983-84, vice president of human resources and administration in Salt Lake City, 1984-85; Fireman’s Fund Insurance Companies, Novato, CA, vice president of management development and training, 1985-86, vice president of human resources, beginning 1987. Executive producer of instructional business films, including Join the Leader and College Recruiting. Consultant to Utah State University Development Center, 1970-75, and Naval Instructional Technology Development Center, 1975; evaluation committee director, Columbus College’s Rape Crisis Counseling Workshops, 1975. Member of board of trustees of Ft. Lauderdale Discovery Center, 1981-82; member of board of directors of Nova University’s Executive Council Forum, 1981-82, and Health Plan of the Redwoods, 1987; member of board of advisors of Westminster College’s School of Professional Studies, 1983-84, and University of Utah’s Institute for Human Resource Management, 1983-85; member of communications committee of Great Salt Lake United Way, 1984; member of dean’s advisory council of Utah State University’s College of Business, 1984-85. Adjunct professor, Nova University, 1981-85; human resources executive, Salt Lake City, UT. Military service: Utah Army National Guard, 1970-73; U.S. Army, 1973-76.
MEMBER: American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, American Society for Personnel Administration, Kiwanis.
AWARDS, HONORS: Bronze medals, International Film and Television Festival, 1982, for The United Way: Broward County and WROC: Blue Chip Leadership, and 1983, for The United Way: Salt Lake City; patriotic service award, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1984; merit award, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1985, for You and U.S. Savings Bonds: A Winning Team; professional achievement award, Utah State University’s College of Business and Alumni Association, 1986; silver medal, Chicago International Film Festival, 1986, for The Insurance Story; finalist certificate, International Film and Television Festival, 1987, for Join the Leader; certificate for creative excellence, U.S. Film and Video Festival, 1988, for College Recruiting; named to U.S. Army Field Artillery OCS Hall of Fame, 1995.
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, Lester Group (Sandy, UT), 1985, reprinted as Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun: A Metaphorical Primer, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Straight A’s Never Made Anybody Rich, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Bill Ross) Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek, the Next Generation, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.
It Takes More Than a Carrot and a Stick: Practical Ways for Getting Along with People You Can’t Avoid at Work, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.
(Editor and compiler) The Best Advice Ever for Leaders, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.
(With John C. Doc Bahnsen, Jr.) American Warrior: A Combat Memoir of Vietnam, Citadel Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including American Psychologist, Educational Technology, and Military Review.
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun has been translated into Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Norwegian, German, Portuguese, and Swedish.
SIDELIGHTS: Wess Roberts is a psychologist and human resources executive who is probably best known to the general public as the author of the book Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun: A Metaphorical Primer, which provides readers with examples of basic management skills. “Attila is the perfect paradigm for modern executives,” noted Roberts to Stephen Madden in M: The Civilized Man. “We don’t know much about Attila, but he does have a reputation for being daring, determined and a bit ruthless, something today’s leaders need to be, too.” Roberts added that by writing the book from the fifth-century warlord’s perspective, he was able “to impart some basic fundamentals of leadership in an interesting and offbeat way.”
Although Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun eventually became a Publishers Weekly bestseller, it was initially rejected by many publishers. In 1985, Roberts arranged for a modest publication of the volume and then distributed copies to prominent business executives. The book quickly found favor with maverick business leader H. Ross Perot, who heartily endorsed it to others. Because of enthusiasm within the business community, the book was reprinted in 1989 to more widespread success. Perot later stated in Success magazine that Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun “illustrates that in a rapidly changing world, the principles of leadership are timeless.” Another executive, Robert L. Crandall, told Success: “It’s the rare executive who chooses to be identified with Attila. But after reading Wess Roberts’ book, and appreciating its wisdom, you become a little more open-minded.” Norman R. Augusttine, a top executive at the Martin Marietta Corporation, wrote in Success that Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun is “fun to read and full of very sound information.” A Publishers Weekly critic concluded: “Businesspeople and others seeking counsel could do worse than to heed their inner Hun.” In a review for Fortune, Mark Alpert noted that “the book has gotten huzzahs from a horde of modern business warlords.”
In Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun, published in 1993, Roberts offers readers a sequel to the popular Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. Continuing with the premise of the previous volume, he attributes strategies for success to the warrior techniques of Attila the Hun, couching his lessons as lectures from Attila to his various chieftains on the verge of entering into battle. In one example, Attila assures his warriors that it is acceptable to refuse an assignment if they feel they are not capable of succeeding to the standards set by their leaders. The author also includes information on how to divide the spoils of war and the importance of loyalty to the group as a whole. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly observed that the book “offers appropriate rules and admonitions” to anyone intent on honing their business skills.
Roberts turned from historical to fictional inspiration in Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek, the Next Generation, written with Bill Ross. The book enlists Captain Jean-Luc Picard as a guide through detailed lessons in leadership. In each chapter, a specific episode of the show is used to illustrate one of nine particular leadership traits: focus, urgency, initiative, communication, competence, politics, intellectual honesty, interdependence, and resilience. Each chapter includes a narrative of the episode from Captain Pi-card’s point of view, plus discussion of the lessons to be learned from the episode. “You do not have to be a fan of Star Trek to appreciate the authors’ insights into how specific Star Trek episodes offer lessons for us all about leadership,” wrote Becky Oliphant in the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management. For Oliphant, “the one criticism that may be made of the book is that it spends too much time on the narrative of each episode and too little time discussing the lessons and observations.” However, Oliphant observed, this could also be seen as a means of helping readers unfamiliar with the series to grasp the importance of the ideas being covered within the context of the Star Trek universe. Debra Phillips, in a review for Entrepreneur, observed that “even sci-fi illiterate entrepreneurs will benefit from reading Make It So.” Phillips concluded that the captain’s “handling of crew and crises alike makes for interesting case studies in leadership.”
Protect Your Achilles Heel: Crafting Armor for the New Age at Work uses the famed Greek warrior Achilles, a hero of the Trojan War, as a springboard for Roberts’ business advice. Describing the warrior’s strengths and weaknesses, Roberts comes up with nine characteristics, or “shields,” he feels one should concentrate on in order to achieve one’s goals. A reviewer for the Quality Digest Web site found the volume’s principles sound, but noted that “the uniqueness of this book lies in the medium, not the message.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1995, David Rouse, review of Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek, the Next Generation, p. 22; May 15, 1998, review of Make It So, p. 1609.
Entrepreneur, April, 1997, Debra Phillips, review of Make It So, p. 146.
Fortune, July 3, 1989, Mark Alpert, “I Enjoy Being a Hun,” p. 137.
InfoWorld, October 15, 2001, Bob Lewis, review of It Takes More Than a Carrot and a Stick: Practical Ways for Getting Along with People You Can’t Avoid at Work, p. 54.
Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, summer, 2000, Becky Oliphant, review of Make It So, p. 190.
Library Journal, September 15, 1997, review of Protect Your Achilles Heel: Crafting Armor for the New Age at Work, p. 117.
M: The Civilized Man, June, 1989, Stephen Madden, review of Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, pp. 62-64.
Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1993, review of Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun, p. 66; August 7, 1995, review of Make It So, p. 455; June 24, 1996, review of Make It So, p. 56; April 28, 1997, review of Protect Your Achilles Heel, p. 67; July 3, 2000, “Revival of the Fittest: Leadership Wisdom from Attila the Hun for the Twenty-first Century,” p. 30; August 13, 2001, review of It Takes More Than a Carrot and a Stick, p. 298.
Quill & Quire, January, 1996, review of Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, p. 23.
Science Fiction Chronicle, October, 1997, review of Make It So, p. 50.
Success, March, 1989, review of Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, pp. 52-55.
Quality Digest Web site,http://www.qualitydigest.com/ (June 1, 1997), review of Protect Your Achilles Heel.*