The Mask of Command: Alexander the Great, Wellington, Ulysses S. Grant, Hitler, and the Nature of Leadership

Overview

John Keegan’s brilliant look at the meaning of leadership

In The Mask of Command, John Keegan asks us to consider questions that are seldom asked: What is the definition of leadership? What makes a great military leader? Why is it that men, indeed sometimes entire nations, follow a single leader, often to victory, but with equal dedication also to defeat?

Dozens of names come to mind...Napoleon, Lee, ...

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Overview

John Keegan’s brilliant look at the meaning of leadership

In The Mask of Command, John Keegan asks us to consider questions that are seldom asked: What is the definition of leadership? What makes a great military leader? Why is it that men, indeed sometimes entire nations, follow a single leader, often to victory, but with equal dedication also to defeat?

Dozens of names come to mind...Napoleon, Lee, Charlemagne, Hannibal, Castro, Hussein. From a wide array, Keegan chooses four commanders who profoundly influenced the course of history: Alexander the Great, the Duke of Wellington, Ulysses S. Grant and Adolph Hitler. All powerful leaders, each cast in a different mold, each with diverse results.

“The best military historian of our generation.” –Tom Clancy
 
“A brilliant treatise on the essence of military leadership.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Fascinating and enlightening… marked by great intellectual liveliness… Mr. Keegan knows how to bring fighting alive on the page.” –The New York Times

A wide-ranging overview of the evolving face of leadership, focusing on four paradigmatic commanders: Alexander (hero), Wellington (anti-hero), Grant (uheroic hero), and Hitler (false hero).

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Editorial Reviews

John Gross
Each section can indeed be read simply ''for the story.'' For a start, Mr. Keegan knows how to bring fighting alive on the page. . . He also has a sure eye for the incident or quotation that conveys a man's style. . . . Unlike the common run of military history, ''The Mask of Command'' is marked by great intellectual liveliness. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
By the author of The Face of Battle, this is a study of the transformation of military leadership in the context of heroism in its broadest sense. Keegan uses as examples four commanders whose attitudes, styles and military philosophies differed drastically: Alexander the Great, ``heroic leader as conquerer''; Wellington as ``anti-heroic leader under constitutional monarchy''; U. S. Grant as ``consciously unheroic''; and Adolf Hitler as ``fake heroic.'' These four long chapters comprise a new way of explaining the political-military policies and actions of four major conductors of war across 2000 years of Western history. Taken as a whole, the sections are building-blocks leading up to Keegan's masterful closing argument warning that in the nuclear age heroic leadership of any style would lead to the destruction of civilization. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, notes the author, was conducted ``in a strictly post-heroic manner,'' and offers hope that future nuclear crises may be resolved ``as rationally and harmlessly.'' Photos. 40,000 first printing; BOMC and QPBC featured alternates. (November 11)
Library Journal
Keegan ( The Face of Battle, Six Armies in Normandy) turns his attention to command. He interprets generalship as manifesting a cultural urge to conquer. Its classical example is the heroic warrior, personified by Alexander the Great, who inextricably merged identity with performance. Subsequently, the bureaucratic state, democracy, technology, etc., subsumed the heroic leader. The 20th-century re-evoked the heroic principle, but it manifested itself in the false heroism of an Adolf Hitler. Keegan concludes by appealing for post-heroic leaders who will forswear conflict. Though Keegan's structure and models are open to challenge, this provocative book nevertheless deserves reading by any student of military affairs.Dennis Showalter, Colorado Coll., Colorado Springs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140114065
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/1988
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 253,744
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan (1934–2012), was one of the most distinguished contemporary military historians and was for many years the senior lecturer at Sandhurst (the British Royal Military Academy) and the defense editor of the Daily Telegraph (London). Keegan was the author of numerous books including The Face of Battle, The Mask of Command, The Price of Admiralty, Six Armies in Normandy, and The Second World War, and was a fellow at the Royal Society of Literature.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Pre-Heroic Leadership
1. Alexander the Great and Heroic Leadership
Alexander: the Father of the Man
The Achievement
The Kingdom of Macedon
The Macedonian Army
Alexander's Staff
Alexander and his Soldiers
Ceremony and Theatre
Alexander's Oratory
Alexander on the Battlefield
Alexander and the Mask of Command
2. Wellington: The Anti-Hero
Wellington the Man
Wellington and Western Military Society
Wellington's Army
Wellington's Staff
Wellington's Routine
Wellington and the Presentation of Self
Wellington in Battle
Observation and Sensation
3. Grant and Unheroic Leadership
Grant and the Progress of War
The Professional Career of U.S. Grant
Grant's Army
Grant's Staff
Grant on Campaign
Grant the Fighter
Grant and American Democracy
4. False Heroic: Hitler as Supreme Commander
War and Hitler's World
The War Hitler Made
Hitler's Soldiers
Hitler's Headquarters
Hitler in Command
Hitler and the Theatre of Leadership
Conclusion: Post-Heroic: Command in the Nuclear World
The Imperative of Kinship
The Imperative of Prescription
The Imperative of Sanction
The Imperative of Action
The Imperative of Example
The Validation of Nuclear Authority
Select Bibliography
Index

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