By Rieva Lesonsky

AHOD3D_006In a time when employees live in fear of layoffs, All Hands on Deck is a breath of fresh air and a book that all business leaders should read. Author Joe Tye, CEO of training and consulting firm Values Coach Inc., combines fact and fiction in refreshing ways as he tells the story of fictional CEO Corey Whitaker. A stressed-out modern executive, Whitaker is about to take the helm of a big hospitality chain when he steps into a limo and meets…Walt Disney.

The spirit of Disney takes Whitaker on a trip back in time where he learns lessons from legendary business leaders including Henry Ford, Robert Wood Johnson, Tom Watson and Ray Kroc. All these successful leaders have one thing in common: They build a “culture of ownership” among their employees, treating them like adults and empowering them to treat the company as if it belonged to them.

What can a culture of ownership do for you? It can make your company more effective and productive, build worker loyalty and even make the difference in whether or not your company survives, says Tye, arguing that today’s focus on business strategy is misguided. “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” he writes. Create a strong enough business culture, and your strategic errors won’t matter.

How can you create that culture? “You can learn everything you need to know about building a great organization by studying leaders who have done it,” writes Tye. Disney shows Whitaker how IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ford Motor Co., Mary Kay and other legendary businesses grew on a foundation of mission, structure, values, trust, stories, character, creativity and volunteerism.

Traveling back in time to the founding of Ford Motor Co. may sound about as relevant to today’s business world as learning how to churn butter, but Tye grabs your interest by telling old stories in new ways. Discovering how Thomas Watson turned a train crash into an occasion for building employee loyalty, or how Mary Kay Ash molded novices into standout salespeople, will renew your faith in old values and inspire you to think about how you treat your own employees.

In the end, Disney tells Whitaker, it’s all about investing in people, taking risks and trying to change the world. “Dream big,” says the man who built The Happiest Place on Earth. All Hands on Deck is an antidote to cynicism that will have you dreaming—and doing—big things as well.