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A Life In Leadership: From D-Day to Ground Zero: An Autobiography Hardcover – May 31, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465050549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465050543
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In November 2001, New York's Governor Pataki asked Whitehead to head up the Lower Manhattan Development Council. Although Whitehead reports that he was initially reluctant to take the job-he had just retired and wanted to spend some time traveling and catching up on reading-he eventually consented because he wanted to contribute to his city's redevelopment in the wake of 9/11. For this memoir, Whitehead trudges through the events of his life from his childhood in New Jersey and his years in the Navy to his leadership of Goldman Sachs and his part-ownership of the New Jersey Devils in tedious, meticulous detail. Whitehead observes that he learned most his leadership lessons (honesty, loyalty) from his years as a Boy Scout. He recalls how those years in scouting also led to lifelong friendships, such as the one with John McMullen, the friend with whom he later co-owned the Devils hockey team. He recalls with humor the time that he drove Henry Ford to his New York hotel in a Chevrolet, and he recounts his many years of work for non-profit organizations such as the International Rescue Committee. Finally, Whitehead offers a few lessons in leadership: "The best leaders do a lot of listening," leaders should be willing to delegate tasks and "effective leadership has to have an ethical dimension."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"If we hope to recapture a different industry ethos, this book should be required reading for all new hires." -- New York Observer, August 8, 2005

"The principles of leadership that [Whitehead] advances emerge quietly in the book as they seem to in his life." -- U.S. Naval Institute, September 2005

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alexander N. Rossolimo, Ph.D. on February 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating book will be of interest to a wide array of readers. Previously, I knew a little about John Whitehead's illustrious career of leadership in three sectors: as an icon of Wall Street, Deputy Secretary of State, and a philanthropist. Whitehead describes how his professional and personal goals were achieved. With humor and low-key modesty, he shares his experiences throughout his life, and admits to the cases of serendipity that marked aspects of his career.

Readers interested in business and finance will enjoy reading how John Whitehead realized his vision of turning Goldman Sachs & Co. into a global investment banking powerhouse by the application of straight-forward methods. With determination, clear-thinking, good planning, and honesty, he rose at Goldman Sachs from a young Harvard MBA to co-chairman in the span of 29 years.

Whitehead promoted innovations at Goldman Sachs that were later adopted throughout the investment banking industry: the first initial public offering, preferred stocks and convertible bonds. His nine-point memo with advice to the New Business Department was revolutionary at the time. It included the famous aphorism, "You can never learn anything when you're talking." The co-chairmanship of Goldman Sachs that he established with John Weinberg was a novel leadership solution, as no Wall Street firm had ever had two chairmen before. John Whitehead displayed determination and thoroughness in his work. For example, no one outside of privately-held Ford Motor Company knew exactly how big the company was. In the mid-1950s, Whitehead took the train up to Boston and personally went through the public records in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts files, to find a copy of Ford's balance sheet.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A brief summary of John Whitehead's accomplishments thus far indicates the nature and extent of his "life in leadership": most recently, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC); previously, co-chairman of Goldman Sachs and then deputy secretary of state, second-in-command to Secretary George Shultz, in the Reagan administration; also tenures as chairman of the governing boards (at one point or another) of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the United Nations Association, the International Rescue Committee, the Harvard Board of Overseers, Haverford College from which he earned a B.A. degree, and the Asia Society. It should also be noted that, during World War Two, Ensign Whitehead commanded a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) or "Higgins boat" that successfully delivered troops to Omaha beach on the first day of the Normandy Invasion.

With all due respect to Whitehead's numerous and considerable accomplishments, however, what most impressed throughout his memoirs is his passionate commitment to being an effective leader of others whose welfare has been entrusted to his care. He has always cared deeply, indeed passionately about sustaining that commitment, whatever the given circumstances may be.

As a case in point, after retiring from Goldman Sachs, Whitehead was determined to disengage himself from his various responsibilities and therefore "was dead set against" accepting New York Governor George Pataki's invitation to serve as chairman of the LMDC, following the attack on the World Trade Center. After completing a rigorous analysis of the "pros" and "cons" of acceptance, "it was clear to me that I had to say no." Then, after he looked around his office at all the photographs and memorabilia, "I took a deep breath, and I knew what I had to do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charles Sulerzyski on January 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is referenced in Sorkin's "Too Big Too Fail". It mentions this book is required reading for Goldman employees. It provides a good history of Goldman and some interesting insights into Reagan's leadership. Worth reading, easy to read and fun.

Cleveland, Ohio
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By RobFather on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am about through with the book and I normally don't make comment until I'm done with a book, but this man is truly remarkable. The author has lived a remarkable business life and the book is an inspirational biography full of relatable business lessons or nuggets. I have had a lot of fun laughing and learning from his life lessons.

On the other hand, I feel that the lesson I have learned most is that a balance of work and life is imperative to me. The author is twice divorced and I believe he dedicated more time to his work life than his family life. I think he is kinda reluctant to talk in more depth about it having only dedicated three pages to the topic. I think he would agree. Nonetheless, I have become a huge fan of John C. Whitehead.
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