This is not the book I thought it was I thought it was written by Walter Isaacson It s many authors Some stories are good, most average Or maybe I was just to disappointed to appreciate it. What Made FDR A Successful Leader During The Depression Crisis Than Hoover Why Was Eisenhower Effective As Supreme Commander During World War II Than He Was As President Why Was Grant One Of The Best Presidents Of His Day, If Not In All Of American History What Drove Bobby Kennedy Into The Scrum Of Electoral Politics Who Was Pauli Murray And Why Was She One Of The Most Decisive Figures In The Movement For Civil Rights Find The Surprising And Revelatory Answers To These Questions And In This Collection Of New Essays By Great Historians, Including Sean Wilentz, Alan Brinkley, Annette Gordon Reed, Jean Strouse, Robert Dallek, Frances FitzGerald, And Others Entertaining And Insightful Individually, Taken Together The Essays Represent A Valuable Set Of Reflections On The Enduring Ingredients Of Leadership The Focus Of An Introduction By Walter IsaacsonThis Book Is A Treat For Lovers Of Fine History It was your average history book, emotionless and very little synopsis at the end of each chapter Each chapter was a sort of essay written by a different historian, hoping to gain some good advice from the book I was simply only told what that person did, not how their leadership was effective or of the different styles they took The advice that there is no set definition for gaining leadership I believe was true but in the end all it did was tell the story of great leaders in a bland sense with no moral at the end. The third book in my leadership series discusses the profiles of leaders after going through the prevalent leadership models or approaches and evolution of leadership over the course of time Since leadership in simple words is also what leaders do so it was logical to see what they do, how they do and how they are judged by history No better place to start than the United States of America, the biggest democratic experiment , a melting pot and a country which achieved greatness in shortest possible time There might be contest on ethical dimension of greatness but not much when it comes to the economic prosperity , military might and popular culture.Walter Isaacson was another reason for choosing this book The celebrated historian and biographer has chronicled the lives of Greats ranging from Da Vinci to Benjamin Franklin and from Henry Kissinger to Steve Jobs His particular interest in creativity and innovation makes his books a compulsory readings in leadership He assembled a group of historians to comment on the Greats of US It was pity however that he did not contribute a piece himself but just edited the volume The book has thirteen profiles starting from George Washington to Robert Kennedy Apart from Politicians, it has civil rights activists, an Indian chief, a money man and a basketball coach The style and approaches of profiles differ as each author takes the subject in own way Some sketches are analytical and some just descriptive Americans are attuned to excessive use of word great as interchangeable with leadership, a debatable construct in itself but serves the purpose here nonetheless What are the takeaways generally from the quality of leadership spanned over one and half centuries, and keeping the theories of leadership in the background Firstly no worldly leader is or can be perfect A leader should be judged on what he does achievements and how he does process ethics than who he is George Washington comes close to being perfect though he was known for having no or few flaws than having abundant qualities There are hardly leaders without baggage which makes sense because now it is accepted that leaders are made or developed , not just born and the process of making is often tumultuous and erratic Grant, the general and president was an officer then was found selling firewood and in few years was leading union armies in civil war Secondly, leadership is about adaptability , flexibility and pragmatism and less about talent Leadership is about willingness to correct oneself without compromising on values The essay on comparison of Presidents Herbert Hoover and FDR is the best and a case in point Hoover the academic , idealist and a systems man was a failure while FDR an averagely talented without much convictions has now been rated as the greatest president of 20th century on the strengths of pragmatism and flexibility Same is the case with the Indian Chief Joseph who instead of taking his people to destruction surrendered and salvaged as much as possible Another extension of flexibility is compromise which Washington achieved when the structure of United States was being formulated The quest for change, reform mindedness and transformation also get reinforced as the essential qualities of leaders We have here Charles Finney the preacher whose theology focused on the social reforms, the idiosyncratic Wendell Willkie with his ahead of time approach to global issues, Robert Kennedy and his vision for social justice and JP Morgan with his strategic vision and the grasp for bigger picture Then one looks at the lives of great leaders and one wonders that one life is too long Eisenhower remained a middle level a colonel for two decades , Washington s war strategy was not wining one epic battle but surviving and Morgan s father made him study languages in Europe before launching him in business The road to greatness has many milestones Finally, history has been called the best judge of character but even history has its twists and turns Grant is a case in point, left office as a disaster and banished from the hall of fame only to be revived a century later Chernow s Book on Grant has been a recent success and an indication of his rising fortunes Eisenhower on the other hand entered office as most popular and left as a credible balancer Only recently his evasiveness on the greatest moral issue of the time i.e civil rights has been called into question Personally I am intrigued by the popularity of Barrack Obama whom I consider overrated instead genuine, manufactured instead of charismatic and divisive instead of a unifier There would be work perhaps that will explain how he has unwillingly contributed to rise of Trump and failed the liberal dream despite the best of intentions Anyways, this book is interesting and informative read One gets to know that before Trump, a wall street businessman almost made to white house though he was prescient and open minded and one cannot but regret the loss of last moral leader US saw in the form of Robert Kennedy or feel awed at the relentlessness and struggles of black civil rights activists. This isn t really a series of profiles on leadership, but rather a collection of actions from people the various authors appreciated with no clear connection to the elusive quality of greatness. An excellent portrait of leaders through America s political, military, sports, and civil rights legacy. This was a good and enjoyable read essays by excellent historians about notable Americans I now want to read about some of the essay subjects and I learned enough about the others. The concept was good, but somewhere along the way the essayists missed the point as they reverted to their familiar personae as historians and biographers The actual leadership qualities became lost to me in the biographical details of most of the essays The surprise subjects didn t help at all why John McGraw the obnoxious NY Giants Manager was included is beyond me and why include a chapter on certain US Presidents on how they failed to lead in a book that is supposed to be about profiles in leadership I agreed with the choices for that chapter, by the way, just not with their inclusion Probably, I misread the subtitle and was hoping for examples of great leaders and the qualities that made them so.My favorite essays and those that seemed to actually define some personal qualities of leadership in their subject s profiles, were about Ulysses S Grant by Sean Wilentz , Dwight D Eisenhower by David M Kennedy , and Robert F Kennedy by Evan Thomas The last, on Kennedy, was excellent and I have never been a Kennedy fan Much of the rest were empty for me Thus, I was somewhat disappointed in this book. A solid if uneven as multi contributor volumes often are book focused on the leadership both images of greatness and of failure of a host of well known figures in politics, finance, social change and religion The chapter on Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Alan Brinkley, which contrasts their very different approaches to the resolution of Depression era issues, is among the highlights of the book David Levering Lewis chapter on the improbable rise and presidential run of Hoosier Wendell Willkie is another gem, and Evan Thomas poignant essay on Robert Kennedy makes one ponder the question, What if he had lived and won the general election of 1968 Where might America have gone An interesting collection of essays The best ones IMHO were the essays by Dallek, Gil, Wilentz, and Strouse They were the ones that most stood out in my mind, either because their subject was someone that I didn t previously know much about or the essay provided a fresh perspective on a figure that I already knew a good deal about The essay about John McGraw, the baseball manager, though done well seemed out of place in this collection to me Overall, though, an interesting read.
Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine He is the author of Steve Jobs Einstein His Life and Universe Benjamin Franklin An American Life and Kissinger A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men Six Friends and the World They Made He lives in Washington, DC.
- 336 pages
- Profiles in Leadership
- Walter Isaacson
- 18 February 2019 Walter Isaacson