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George Washington and the Art of Business: The Leadership Principles of America's First Commander-in-Chief Hardcover – January 18, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While few American figures inspire like George Washington, this book's attempt to distill management wisdom from his career feels as wooden as Washington's mythic set of teeth. McNeilly, a former IBM executive with military experience, never fully applies Washington's life and lessons to current business leadership. While we learn that Washington was a successful businessman and brilliant military tactician and leader, he never fully comes to life. McNeilly spends too much of the text spinning the greatest hits of Washington's military career before dipping briefly into his career as a diplomat and, almost as an afterthought, first president of the United States. Washington's ability to organize and train the first Continental Army, comprising citizens and governed by merit, segues into a lengthy and irrelevant discussion of how Alfred Sloan created the modern General Motors and a puzzling digression about iconic automobile designer Harley Earl. McNeilly's generally-agreed-upon-best-business-practices lack novelty. We learn that Washington was not alone in scoring by collecting good intelligence on his enemies: McDonald's and Staples employed similar strategies against their competitors. This is a missed opportunity to present provocative and insightful ideas about the key to a legend's success. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Author of the phenomenal, trend-setting Sun Tzu and the Art of Business, Mark McNeilly now turns his sights to the first commander-in-chief, revealing how Washington's self-discipline, persistence, character, and organizational skills offer a working model for success in today's business world."--Steven Heine, Professor and Director of Asian Studies at Florida International University, author of White Collar Zen

"McNeilly brings George Washington to life in a vivid and relevant manner by insightfully linking his leadership skills to today's business challenges."--Allen Adamson, author of Brand Simple

"George Washington's leadership traits--character, courage, vision, innovation, and wisdom--are crucial to building and growing a business. In his insightful book Mark McNeilly shows how we have taken those traits for granted, and how, by rediscovering them, we can have the next best thing to Washington himself running our company."-- Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

"As Mark McNeilly makes clear, George Washington's successes--which more often than not followed his failures--were due to one factor above others: the quality of his character. If you aspire to be a leader in business, buy this book and heed its lessons."--B. Joseph Pine II, co-author, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want

"George Washington possessed a deep, almost innate, understanding of the importance of information and intelligence-essential ingredients for all great leaders. Mark McNeilly has done a masterful, highly readable and insightful, job revealing just how much these attributes can mean to successful business leaders."--Daryl Travis, CEO and Founder, Brandtrust

"With George Washington and the Art of Business, Mark McNeilly has written the ideal primer for teaching leadership development at the highest levels."--William H. Grumbles, Jr., Executive in Residence, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195189787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195189780
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.2 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,037,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In recent years, a great deal of attention has been devoted to one or more of the founding fathers, especially Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. What we have in this volume is Mark McNeilly's analysis of what lessons can be learned from George Washington's leadership as commander-in-chief of the Colonial forces during the War for Independence and then as the new nation's first president. He responds to the question "Why George Washington?" in the Introduction and then, in the first two chapters, he examines "the foundation of Washington's leadership principles" and how the American Revolution was organized in the first two chapters. During the balance of the book, McNeilly identifies and discusses the aforementioned leadership principles and devotes a separate chapter to each.

McNeilly brilliantly juxtaposes his presentation of historical material with the business lessons he believes can be learned from it. I also appreciate the fact that he cites specific companies when doing so. For example, in Chapter 2, he reviews various competitive disadvantages Washington encountered at the outset of the war. "Could I have foreseen what I have experienced and am likely to experience, no consideration upon earth should have induced me to accept this command." Yet, despite all the unexpected problems such as the continuous expiration of enlistments that depleted his forces, the 43 year-old general did not quit. "Washington made his share of mistakes: choosing to defend New York when it was in reality indefensible, not protecting his flank on Long Island Heights, and losing Fort Washington and its garrison. Yet after setback he returned to fight again.
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Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by saying that I bought this book because I'm a George Washington buff. Working to become a Washington expert is a little hobby of mine. I read and learn as much as I can about G.W. because, to my mind, he's one of the ten most fascinating people in all of human history. Consequently, I bought this book because I’d hoped it might provide a novel take on an oft under-explored aspect of Washington's life: namely, his career as a businessman (tobacco exporter). True, the details of Washington's business career won't grip readers like his military and political careers will, but McNeilly had an opportunity here to make a novel contribution: Give us the details of a part of Washington's life that few know about, discuss what it was about Washington the man that made him a successful businessman, and then construct an argument as to how business people today can be successful in their own endeavors if they emulate Washington.

Unfortunately, McNeilly blew it. Instead of writing the more original book I just described, McNeilly went for a book that you'd see on display at B&N right next to all those evil books with titles like "The Only 50 Things You Need to Know about History, Ever". McNeilly's "George Washington and the Art of Business" is a "George Washington's Greatest Hits" -- mostly the military hits, but some political. The effect of this is that McNeilly fails to provide the kind of structure needed to carry out the book's objective. For more on this point, see the Publishers' Weekly review above; they really nail it.

And if I may, let me call into question the author’s motivation. McNeilly is a businessperson: he's had a successful career at Lenovo.
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Format: Hardcover
Mark McNeilly has done an excellent job of presenting clear, explicit points in his book George Washington and the Art of Business. By providing a direct correlation between George Washington's life and character traits with the stages of business and leadership tactics, McNeilly has shown that the main characteristics needed to create a successful business are also those which are needed to be a successful and exceptional leader. Included as well are examples of how these leadership characteristics correlate to building a strong sports team/organization. McNeilly has directly linked the battles of war with the battles of business (teams), and also explains the ways different leaders and different businesses have handled these battles.

This book is very much two-fold. On one hand McNeilly has provided the most important leadership characteristics necessary to be a successful leader in life, in business, and in sports. But also McNeilly has shown that it is not necessarily just having and upholding these characteristics but acting in the integrity of them. Although the characteristics are many and are very difficult to maintain, McNeilly provides a depiction of the stages through which individuals, teams, and businesses evolve. The journey through these stages is not always smooth sailing and prosperous, but very difficult and painful at times. Some of the most valuable lessons are learned through these failures. And a failure in and of itself is only a failure, but a failure that is used as an educational experience is a lesson with the potential to be a future success.

In addition McNeilly has provided the history of George Washington's life which steps a reader through the American Revolution. The United States was built on the results of the American Revolution.
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