David Gergen is probably the only person to have served at high levels in both the Reagan and Clinton White Houses--not to mention his posts in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He's a consummate Washington insider, a man who appears regularly as a centrist political commentator on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and works as editor at large for U.S. News & World Report. Eyewitness to Power, his first book, draws upon this unique experience. It's part memoir, part political history, part portrait of White House culture, but it's mostly a meditation on what it takes to be a great political leader. Gergen focuses on the four presidents he has known best--Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton--and offers pointed assessments of each. He calls Reagan "the best leader in the White House since Franklin Roosevelt," and says Clinton "is one of the smartest men ever elected president and has done some of the dumbest things." Gergen does not hesitate to offer harsh criticism: Nixon was hateful, Ford was overwhelmed by his predecessor's scandals, Reagan was often detached, and Clinton was not in control of his appetites. Yet there's a reflective admiration for each man.
What makes this volume rise above the mountain of books on leadership (usually written for executives) is its spot-on observations about the way Washington works, drawn from years of experience: "Republicans like hierarchy and order; they're not like Democrats, as I saw later on, who thrive on chaos and creativity"; the Nixon view of Watergate "was the same as the Victorians had of adultery: the sin was not in the doing of it but in getting caught"; "In most institutions, the power of a leader grows over time. A CEO, a university president, the head of a union, acquire stature through the quality of their long-term performance. The presidency is just the opposite: power tends to evaporate quickly."
Gergen concludes by describing the seven leadership qualities a great president must have: personal integrity, a sense of mission, the ability to persuade, the ability to work with other politicians, a strong start after inauguration, skilled advisers, and the ability to inspire. Those traits, of course, will serve people well from all walks of life--and Eyewitness to Power will appeal not just to readers interested in the presidency but to anyone occupying a position of responsibility (or interested in getting there). --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Few observers are as qualified to comment on the merits of presidential leadership as is Gergen, having served as a speechwriter and adviser to fourchief executives. In these finely etched tales of his time with Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, Gergen not only explains what made these men tick but also draws broader lessons on what makes for presidential greatness. It begins, he says, with strength of character; then a president must have a clear and compelling vision of what he wants to accomplish, and must be able to communicate this vision to the American people. Organizationally, he must be able to work with other centers of political power, particularly Congress; be decisive in his early actions in office; and have around him strong and prudent advisors. Finally, he must inspire. This is a lot to ask of any leader, and Gergen admits that none of those for whom he worked quite had it all, though in his estimation Reagan came closest. Both Nixon and Clinton were men of brilliance, he says, yet harbored deeply flawed characters; Ford was honest and capable but never quite defined his goals. Reagan, for all his considerable virtuesAcourage, conviction, visionAtoo often allowed his inattention to detail and hands-off management style to derail his intentions. While some may debate Gergen's assessments, his own eye for detail and knack for narrative are to be admired. He brings to life the everyday world of the presidency and provides telling portraits of these fallible yet fascinating leaders. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
David Gergen is an interesting person in American politics as one who basically comes from the Republican side of the equation, but was prepared to join the Clinton White House... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Karlis Streips
Great read. Allows one to reflect on areas that one needs to improve if one aspires a leadership role.Published 5 months ago by Cardo R. Martinez
I would say that the lessons in this book are pertinent for all people entering leadership positions. A really good read.Published 6 months ago by Christian Kyamatare
David Gergen provides important insights into leadership. He was worked for several Presidents and has observed what creates successful leaders. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Leon Czikowsky
Eyewitness takes you through ups and downs in corridors of power in bygone era, essence of which resonates even now, and giving us lasting benefits.Published 14 months ago by Hari Nair
Davis Gergen has outdone himself in writing up his experiences in various administrations but particularly the Reagan administration. Read morePublished 18 months ago by JD
For the reader of presidential histories, be sure and enjoy this insightful book. Dozens of books have been and will continue to be written about the administrations of Presidents... Read morePublished 18 months ago by V. L. Wilson
Phenomenal book. Gergen does a great job and provides excellent insight on some key attributes to be a successful leader.Published 18 months ago by Kyle Dranchak