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Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness Paperback – October 17, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (October 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393340767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393340761
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and of Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although academic history has become a specialized enterprise, there has been a resurgence of interest in popular histories and biographies as Americans seek to understand their past. This new book of essays edited by Walter Isaacson, "Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness" consists of thirteen essays by as many different historians on the contributions and leadership styles of important Americans, some of whom are less well known than they deserve to be to today's readers. Isaacson is the director of the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.. He has written biographies of Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger, among others.

In the book's title and in the good introductory essay, Isaacson notes that the quality of leadership is "elusive" and nonformulaic. He draws a broad distinction between those who become leaders by articulating and staying with a principle and those who are flexible and pragmatic and respond to their perception of immediate need. This distinction is valuable, but it does not capture the many different qualities of leadership illustrated in the book. I have enjoyed reading the short biographies in the American President's series edited by Scheleisinger and Willenz for their insights into the leadership qualities of the presidents. But, intellectuals, ministers, financiers, activists, and baseball managers, as well as politicians, can show leadership. What is leadership and when is it effective?

In preparing this book, Isaacson and an organization called the Society of American Historians asked several leading historians to write about whatever interested them on the subject of leadership. The result is a diverse series of thoughtful essays from a variety of perspectives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sergio on October 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read Walter isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs which I loved. This a compilation of mini bios are from other historians (not WI) and they feel like a Wikipedia article. The stories don't go deep in analyzing events that made those individuals strong leaders at their time.

Jp Morgans and RFK profile are worth the read.
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16 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Kirk VINE VOICE on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished this book and I have to be completely honest. I was severly disappointed and felt like I was taken. I enjoy American history and leadership books and I thought this was going to be a great example. Even Walter Issacson was involved and I loved his Benjamin Franklin book. Well, luckily after only 300 pages I finished this loosely organized, liberal slanting book MOSTLY on historical civil rights issues. What a great leadership book this could have been, to use Americans that have demonstrated just great leadership skills. I have nothing against the summarization of great civil rights leaders, but this book certainly doesn't advertise itself that way. So, my summary is be very careful before spending your hard earned money on this book if you are looking for business oriented subject matter relating to great American leadership.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By raymond j. vercruysse, cfc on April 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a good read on the topic of leadership. It would be worth any ones read on the topic.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on September 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This Book is not written by Isaacson. Don't be fooled like I was. It's a pathetic collection of high school essays
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