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George Washington on Leadership Hardcover – May 13, 2008

ISBN-13: 000-0465003028 ISBN-10: 0465003028 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the guise of a management consultant, historian Brookhiser informs readers that George Washington used the hub-and-spoke system; was a shrewd talent scout; handled smart people well; was on top of essential details; and mastered his temper. Author of several superpopular titles about the Founders, Brookhiser, with casual diction and his customary wit, distills leadership lessons from Washington’s three occupations—business operator, military officer, and politician. Noting the universal problem of leadership, choosing from competing advice for dealing with problems, Brookhiser elaborates on how Washington did so by ranging across Washington’s life, collecting disparate incidents from youth or maturity to make a common point. Washington made his share of mistakes, admits Brookhiser, but learned from them and appreciated the value of effective PR. He famously melted the hearts of mutineers in 1783 by apologizing for going blind in the service of his country—and putting on spectacles they’d never seen. Could a CEO squelch a boardroom rebellion with the same stunt? While leaders glean Brookhiser for practical advice, history buffs will be intrigued by his biographical insights. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

"Booklist"
"While leaders glean Brookhiser for practical advice, history buffs will be intrigued by his biographical insights."

"National Review"
"In Richard Brookhiser's hands, Washington remains as glorious as ever -- and if some of that glory brushes off on us lowly readers, all the better."

"Wall Street Journal"
"There is inspiration here for all of us, CEO or not..."

"Forbes"
"This is one book on leadership that's well worth the read."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465003028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465003020
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,031,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Often, these books are a little too clever for their own good.
Amazon Customer
George Washington was an amazing leader and this author does a good job of tying leadership principles to his life examples.
Jacob Paulsen
I'd read this type of book again, being interested in history and leadership.
Robert W. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Maslanka on July 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Big Idea of this book is that Corporate America can learn a lot about leadership from George, the CEO of two startups:The Revolution and the first administration. And we can. What comes through, again and again, is that Washington put the enterprise ahead of his own needs. He subordinated his ego to what was effective.When some officers were plotting against him ,trying to get Congress to oust him, he remained calm, thought through what to do(he named the game to one in a short note), and it got resolved. He could easily have lashed out, but he did not: he restrained the desire because it would not have moved the ball forward. He never made enemies, taking the long view, knowing that today's enemy is tomorrow's friend. Sort of a cousin to Seinfeld's "friendemy." Good section on how he, as did President Kennedy, asked of others what they could do for their country, telling them at times of crisis, "My brave fellows", meaning "My fellows, be brave" trying to pull the best out of them, knowing he could not do it alone. Though a man of few words, he knew how to use them, and the writing on his address at Newburgh where he snuffed out an impending revolt of unpaid officers has the book's best writing. The idea tails off at the end, with a pointless side trip on "Sex...and Drugs" but still a worthwhile read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mike Dillemuth on March 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is mostly a collection of short stories about George Washington. The author, Richard Brookhiser, uses these stories to highlight specific leadership characteristics. Unfortunately, his efforts are only marginally successful. In several cases, the connection between the story and a leadership trait is somewhat superficial. Often, the leadership trait is presented in the briefest of detail at the end of the chapter.

On a positive note, the book is well written and easy to read. The chapters are relatively short and frequently subdivided into smaller parts. For example, the chapter on "Enemies" is divided into "Living with Enemies" and "Learning from Enemies." Thus, the reader can stop and start again with relative ease, always beginning at a new part.

The last section of the book has a better focus on leadership. The author attempts to tie the book together by referring to previous chapters. For example, on pg 216, he states (see Chapter 11, Failure and Betrayal). This writing technique allows the reader to easily go back and refer to the story being evaluated. Some of the final chapters go beyond Washington and discuss the traits of Presidents Nixon, Truman, Johnson, and Roosevelt. Although the author is trying to make a point, he only succeeds in dragging the reader all over the map.

Bottom line: This book is a satisfactory collection of stories about George Washington. It is mildly entertaining and moves along quickly. As a study in leadership, however, it is somewhat lacking. The author makes a good attempt but the analysis is weak. The connections between the stories and various leadership traits are tenuous at best. Nevertheless, this book still provides interesting insight into our country's first president and Commander in Chief.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Monty Rainey VINE VOICE on September 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Contemporary American historian Richard Brookhiser established himself as an authority on George Washington a decade ago with his biography, Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. I contend it is one of the best accounts written on the father of our country. In GEORGE WASHINGTON ON LEADERSHIP, Brookhiser combines his admiration and in-depth knowledge of Washington with a common sense interpretation of his leadership skills and shortcomings.

I think it is safe to say Brookhiser is not attempting to transition into a business guru. Clearly his passion and expertise is in 18th century American history and should remain there. Here, he simply makes observations of one of the great leaders of our history and provides analysis and overview of the lessons leaders should take away from his life.

Since first reading Brookhiser's work a decade ago, he has been one of my favorite contemporary historians and has only let me down once. His book, What Would the Founder's Do, contained far too much editorializing and commentary with very little factual evidence to support it and much to dispute it. That left me somewhat skeptical of future Brookhiser writings, but I must say this book has restored his position with me as an exceptional writer. His writing flows very well and holds the reader throughout.

This volume is a great historical recap on the life of Washington that history buffs will enjoy. If you are looking to the book strictly as a way of learning leadership qualities, it falls a little short here as each lesson Brookhiser conveys is a multiple page recounting of events, typically followed by a single paragraph of summation.

Those who know his work know Brookhiser is a huge fan of Washington; however he disallows his admiration from causing omission of some of Washington's shortcomings. Great as he was, Washington wasn't perfect and there is as much to be learned from his failures as from his successes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fine account of Washington's trials & tribulations during the birth of our Nation as culled from his (and other's of that time) writings; an inside look at the leadership "chess moves" facing political statesmen. This account ranks up there with Machiavelli's "The Prince"...
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