From Publishers Weekly
In a thought-provoking book designed to reconsider the attributes of American leadership, Issacson (Einstein and His Universe), former managing editor of Time and now president of the Aspen Institute, has assembled a group of distinguished historians to address some seminal figures in terms of their vision, principles, flexibility, and pragmatism. Many of the contributors have first-rate résumés in scholarship, letters, and research, including Frances Fitzgerald, Sean Wilentz, Jean Strouse, and Robert Dallek. Quality writing, incisive analysis, and valuable revelations accompany each essay, whether it's Kevin Baker's take on the unpredictable baseball manager John Joseph McGraw, Evan Thomas's emotional deconstruction of Robert F. Kennedy, or Annette Gordon-Reed's perceptive measure of W.E.B. Du Bois. Three standout essays concern the moral and strategic strengths and weaknesses of Gen. George Washington; Joseph, chief of the Nez Perce Indians; and presidents Hoover and FDR. At a time when leadership is lacking, this memorable book culls examples from our past to reveal what makes a person stand above the rest. It's unfortunate that just one of the subjects--civil rights activist Pauli Murray--is a woman. 13 illus. (Oct.) (c)
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The qualities that define great leadership are almost as mercurial and indecipherable as those that identify great art: one notices more their absence than their presence, and sometimes a rearview mirror is necessary to determine if they ever existed at all. Isaacson has gathered preeminent writers to examine this slippery conundrum, each author portraying significant, and surprising, figures from America’s history. From historian Thomas Fleming’s penetrating review of George Washington’s military prowess to professor Glenda Gilmore’s robust depiction of civil rights activist Pauli Murray, the studies offer illuminating, insightful, and inspiring examples of valor and integrity. Likewise, biographer Robert Dallek’s judicious examination of the failures that beset successive presidents, from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, puts forth a cautionary and controversial notion of establishing a mechanism whereby officials can be recalled when they prove themselves incapable of demonstrating these requisite qualities. Incisive, shrewd, and perhaps even prescient, this eclectic collection offers rich food for thought for students of history and management alike. --Carol Haggas