George Washington On Leadership

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Overview


In 1799, at the end of George Washington’s long life and illustrious career, the politician Henry Lee eulogized him as: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Esteemed historian Richard Brookhiser now adds to this list, “First in leadership,” examining the lessons to be learned from our first president, first commander-in-chief, and founding CEO.

With wit and skill, Brookhiser expertly anatomizes true leadership with lessons from Washington’s...

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Overview


In 1799, at the end of George Washington’s long life and illustrious career, the politician Henry Lee eulogized him as: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Esteemed historian Richard Brookhiser now adds to this list, “First in leadership,” examining the lessons to be learned from our first president, first commander-in-chief, and founding CEO.

With wit and skill, Brookhiser expertly anatomizes true leadership with lessons from Washington’s three spectacularly successful careers as an executive: general, president, and tycoon. In every area of endeavor, Washington maximized his strengths and overcame his flaws. Brookhiser shows how one man’s struggles and successes two centuries ago can serve as a model—and an inspiration—for leaders today.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
From a journalist and historian specializing in the lives of the Founders, lessons in leadership drawn from the plantation, military and political career of George Washington. Washington's colorful contemporary, Gouverneur Morris, disparaged books on leadership, dismissing them as merely "utopian," a skepticism National Review senior editor Brookhiser (What Would the Founders Do?: Our Questions, Their Answers, 2006, etc.) appears to share. But the author forges ahead, addressing his theme in topical fashion, distilling a series of maxims from a variety of problems and situations Washington handled. The vignettes are always interesting: Washington insisting on the importance of proper latrines and inoculations to ensure the army's health, diversifying crops at Mount Vernon, finessing the Continental Congress, putting down mutiny within the army and later rebellion within the young country, keeping the peace between Hamilton and Jefferson, dealing with the betrayal of Benedict Arnold. At the same time the "lessons" drawn from these and many other slices of Washington's life are problematic, if only because they are so often contradictory. Washington observed lines of authority (deferring to the advice and consent of the Senate), except when he circumvented them (seeking funding for the army). He was patient (settling on a strategy for the war), except when he was bold (seizing the moment at Yorktown). He was a hands-on manager (of his plantation), unless he was wisely delegating (speeches to Madison, artillery chores to Knox or matters of high finance to Hamilton). He made use of friends (Lafayette) until he broke with them (Knox). By the end of Brookhiser's colloquial, good-humoredanalysis, we're persuaded that, while no leader in American history may be more worthy of emulation, the mature Washington's signal virtue was his consistently sound, often spectacularly wise judgment, a faculty honed throughout a lifetime presiding over highly important matters and one not easily imitated. Apparently Gouverneur Morris was correct. Unexceptional wisdom breezily packaged. Agent: Michael Carlisle/InkWell Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465003037
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/14/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 483,818
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Richard Brookhiser is the author of What Would the Founders Do?: Our Questions, Their Answers, Founding Father—Rediscovering George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, America. He is a senior editor of National Review, and a contributor to Time. He wrote and hosted Rediscovering George Washington, a film by Michael Pack, which aired on PBS and appears frequently on the History Channel. Brookhiser lives in New York City.

www.richardbrookhiser.com

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

A Note on Style and Spelling xi

Introduction: Founding CEO 1

I Problems

1 Start-ups 11

2 Strategy 23

3 The Future 37

4 Small Stuff 47

5 Management Style 55

6 Communication 71

7 Timing 81

II People

8 Unusual People 87

9 Troublemakers 99

10 Superiors and Subordinates 113

11 Failure and Betrayal 121

12 Enemies 133

13 Allies 139

14 Sex ... and Drugs 147

15 Courtesy 155

16 Bringing Out the Best 161

17 Personnel 165

III Self

18 Identify Your Strengths 169

19 Build Your Strengths 185

20 Avoid Weaknesses 199

21 Control Your Flaws 213

22 Succession 227

Conclusion: We Must Take Men 235

Notes 239

Bibliography 253

Index 257

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2009

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    Noteworthy use of Washington as a model

    Richard Brookhiser, a National Humanities Medalist, is a popular author, journalist and biographer. Considering his stellar previous work about America's founding fathers, as well as his deep knowledge of George Washington, you would expect his book about the first U.S. president's leadership traits to be good. And so it is, interesting and full of well-told stories. Yet, it does falter sometimes. For example, the opening chapter lauds Washington's prescience for installing latrines in his soldiers' encampments. Such praise overlooks the fact that the Roman Army routinely dug latrines for its soldiers 2,000 years ago. Overall, Brookhiser usefully translates episodes from Washington's life into management lessons for today's executives, though it may strain the use of metaphor to rename his Mount Vernon plantation WashCorp and to classify the presidency as a start-up. Despite such small lapses, Brookhiser works many intriguing anecdotes into his narrative and demonstrates vividly just how Washington became such a significant leader. getAbstract welcomes his history-based examination of how to use Washington's leadership lessons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    George Washington on Leadership is a condensed, and topic specif

    George Washington on Leadership is a condensed, and topic specific approach to a biography of Washington with specific applications to leaders today, in all sorts of fields. This work avoids hagiography of Washington, but because this is not a straight biography, you end up with sections of the book that place successes together and then failures together, often not chronologically or with great context. As such, this book is ideal for leaders of organizations who want to use Washington as a case study of successful leadership for today's problems.




    Brookhiser, a writer and editor for publications like National Review, has made extensive studies of the founding generation of the American Republic, and especially how contemporary American can learn from the decisions that men like Washington and Hamilton made, and apply them for decisions that effect our future.




    In this book, he treats Washington as a start - up CEO, particularly of two start - ups, the Continental Army and the new government under the Constitution. He is not writing a traditional biography, but neither is this a traditional business book, as this work leans more heavily towards history than it does application of modern leadership studies. To his credit, the author focuses a good bit of text on Washington's failures in command, particularly his failures in military decisions and personnel and more importantly, how he handled those failures going forward.




    The Washington that Brookhiser presents as a model, had a high degree of emotional intelligence, especially of his own strengths and weaknesses and was often not surprised of his own failures but pushed to improve himself his whole life. So this work certainly is a fleshing out of how Washington's youthful Rules for Civility played out in the heavy demands of leadership he was faced with. Certainly the strength of this book is how Washington worked with his flaws to manage men for successful outcomes.

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