Genuinely talented and successful managers in any field—business, government, military, academia—are scarce. John Howard Burdakin was a happy exception to the norm. This engaging biography examines Burdakin’s life in the railroad industry—at Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central, and finally at Grand Trunk Corporation—during a tumultuous time in the transportation business and underscores his core principles and how he employed them in the management of people and property. Some contemporary observers may consider Burdakin’s often conservative style as quite out of date, but a more sober assessment reveals that his approach has utility in any time and in any field. An excellent resource for leadership professionals, this study focuses on Burdakin’s career in management, ever stressing his foundational convictions—how he came by them, how he employed those principles as a manager, and how they were understood by those who worked for him or with him. Through teamwork, trust, hard work, honesty, diligence, and integrity, Burdakin would become respected as one of the railroad industry’s brightest guiding lights.
“Professor Don Hofsommer, expert on midwestern railway history, adroitly examines the U.S. national railroad changes in the 1970s and ‘80s through the career of John H. Burdakin. Drawing on impressive primary research, the author concludes that Burdakin coupled his managerial skills with a willingness to embrace change to ensure his roads’ survival. The story is a riveting read.”
—James A. Ward, Emeritus Guerry Professor of History, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga