Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness [NOOK Book]

Overview

The best historians in the land consider examples of great leadership, well known and surprising, from Washington to Willkie and more.


What made FDR a more successful leader during the Depression crisis than Hoover? Why was Eisenhower more effective as supreme commander during World War II than he was as president? Why was Grant one of the best presidents of his day, if not in all of American history? What drove Bobby Kennedy into the scrum of electoral politics? Who was Pauli ...

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Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness

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Overview

The best historians in the land consider examples of great leadership, well known and surprising, from Washington to Willkie and more.


What made FDR a more successful leader during the Depression crisis than Hoover? Why was Eisenhower more effective as supreme commander during World War II than he was as president? Why was Grant one of the best presidents of his day, if not in all of American history? What drove Bobby Kennedy into the scrum of electoral politics? Who was Pauli Murray and why was she one of the most decisive figures in the movement for civil rights?



Find the surprising and revelatory answers to these questions and more in this collection of new essays by great historians, including Sean Wilentz, Alan Brinkley, Annette Gordon-Reed, Jean Strouse, Robert Dallek, Frances FitzGerald, and others. Entertaining and insightful individually, taken together the essays represent a valuable set of reflections on the enduring ingredients of leadership—the focus of an introduction by Walter Isaacson.



This book is a treat for lovers of fine history.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Booklist
“Incisive and shrewd, this eclectic collection offers rich food for thought for students of history and management alike.”
Library Journal
Isaacson (Benjamin Franklin: An American Life) introduces a welcome collection of new essays by both academics and popular wordsmiths on their choices for U.S. pacesetters as examples of leadership. Most of the subjects are white men who surmounted personal obstacles, although Native American Chief Joseph and African American civil rights pioneers W.E.B. DuBois and Pauli Murray are also included. Selections range from Giants baseball manager John J. McGraw (chosen by Kevin Baker), evangelist Charles Grandison Finney (Frances Fitzgerald), Wendell Willkie (David Levering Lewis), and J.P. Morgan (Jean Strouse) to such usual choices as General George Washington, FDR, General (not President) Eisenhower, and Ulysses S. Grant as a better than previously considered President. Isaacson maintains that astute leaders are not necessarily the most brilliant people but have the traits and skills to balance pragmatism with principle, listen to disparate opinions, and weld them, through effective communication, into working coalitions. Readers might want to compare these ideas with those on transformational leadership in James MacGregor Burns's Leadership. VERDICT Isaacson asserts that this collection is simply meant to be illustrative and thought-provoking. It succeeds in that and will meet the expectations of general history enthusiasts, while practitioners may prefer interpretive biographies.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress
Kirkus Reviews

Renowned historians describe the leadership secrets of presidents, generals, preachers, a baseball manager and others.

This bright anthology from the Society of American Historians gathers essays from top-flight historians—Sean Wilentz, David M. Kennedy, Jean Strouse, Alan Brinkley, David Levering Lewis, etc.—on the leadership skills of an array of Americans. As Isaacson (Einstein: His Life and Universe, 2007, etc.) notes in his introduction, a major theme is that the greatest challenge of leadership is knowing when to be pragmatic and when to adhere to principle, which is nicely illustrated by Brinkley's piece contrasting Herbert Hoover as "a victim of his convictions" and Franklin Roosevelt as the experimenter. Kevin Baker shows how the celebrated baseball manager John Joseph McGraw shined as a master clubhouse psychologist. Evan Thomas points to Robert Kennedy's insecurities as the source for his empathy for the downtrodden. David M. Kennedy finds that the ever-optimistic Dwight Eisenhower's ability to elicit cooperation served him well at war and in the White House. Two pieces stand out, both on lesser-known historical figures. Frances FitzGerald vividly evokes the life of Charles Finney, an upstate New York evangelist of the 1800s, whose emotional preaching upset the established clergy and inspired temperance, abolition and other major reform movements. In a wonderful essay on Pauli Murray, an early civil-rights champion, Glenda Gilmore shows how this remarkable African-American—feminist, lawyer, poet, ordained Episcopalian priest and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt—relied on persistence and self-invention to become a powerful opponent of Jim Crow. Other essays cover Ulysses S. Grant, J.P. Morgan, Joseph (Chief of the Nez Perce Indians), W.E.B. Dubois and Wendell Willkie. In an analysis of leadership failures, Robert Dallek explains why our optimism over new presidents invariably leads to disappointment as they craft poor policies and stumble over foreign crises.

Good bedside reading for history buffs.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393080537
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/18/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 888,469
  • File size: 1,010 KB

Meet the Author

Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson lives in Washington, DC, where he is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He is the author of acclaimed, best-selling biographies of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger.

Biography

Rhodes Scholar, historian, and bestselling author Walter Isaacson began his distinguished career as a journalist -- first for London's Sunday Times, then for The Times-Picayune/States-Item, published in his hometown of New Orleans. He joined Time magazine in 1978, working his way up from political correspondent to managing editor in a little less than two decades. He served for two years as chairman and CEO of the cable TV news network CNN; then, in 2003, he became president of the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization "dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue." In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he was appointed vice-chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and he serves on a number of policy-making boards and councils.

In literary circles, Isaacson is best known as the writer of magisterial biographies, scholarly and meticulously researched, yet immensely entertaining. His first book, however, was a collaborative effort. Co-written with award-winning journalist Evan Thomas, and published in 1986, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made explores the lives of six men who shaped government and public policy in the years following WWII. Examining an era too recent to be called history and too distant to qualify as current affairs, the book received mixed reviews but was universally praised for its ambitious scope and elegant style.

Isaacson's subsequent biographies, all solo efforts (and all critically acclaimed), have chronicled the lives of such disparate figures as Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. He explains what has drawn him to such widely divergent subjects -- men, who on the surface would appear to have very little in common: "I like writing about people with interesting minds. I try to explore the various aspects of intelligence: common sense, wisdom, creativity, imagination, mental processing power, emotional understanding, and moral values. Which of these traits are the most important? How do they make someone an influential or significant or good person?"

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    1. Date of Birth:
      May 20, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Orleans, LA
    1. Education:
      Harvard, B.A. in History and Literature, 1974; Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 21, 2010

    A Good Read

    A very good book. Very nicely written and edited. A lot of information about leadership. I highly enjoyed it. The chapters on Grant and Chief Joseph were well done. Of course, my favorite was the piece on Washington.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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