The Soul of a Leader: Character, Conviction, and Ten Lessons in Political Greatness

Overview

What are we looking for in a leader?

Has the meaning of leadership changed?

Can history provide guidance for the leaders of a rising generation?

What defines the soul of a leader?

In The Soul of a Leader, political scientist and cultural commentator Waller R. Newell offers a fascinating perspective on the role of leadership in American life today. From the birth of ...

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The Soul of a Leader: Character, Conviction, and Ten Lessons in Political Greatness

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Overview

What are we looking for in a leader?

Has the meaning of leadership changed?

Can history provide guidance for the leaders of a rising generation?

What defines the soul of a leader?

In The Soul of a Leader, political scientist and cultural commentator Waller R. Newell offers a fascinating perspective on the role of leadership in American life today. From the birth of democracy in Periclean Athens to the Founding Fathers' view of statesmanship, from the experiences of Abraham Lincoln to those of modern presidents, this far-reaching and provocative new book explores the many and diverse elements of good statesmanhip, including the timeless qualities all good leaders share. As Newell plumbs the depths of history, he illuminates the moral, psychological, and intellectual resources we inherit from the traditions of the West—traditions steeped in the experience and reflection on statecraft from ancient times onward—and offers a compass for the challenges America's next generation of leaders will face.

In this engaging blend of character portraiture, historical perspective, and contemporary political insight, Newell proposes a bold new perspective on the evolution of the modern American presidency, from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush. He steps back in time to evaluate the clashing models of Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, as they captured the struggle for the soul of the American Republic. And, in an essay of masterful historical reach, he contemplates the roots of modern leadership in the story of what he calls "the West's first superpower conflict"—the epic battle between Athens and Sparta, with its echoes of both Vietnam and Iraq. Finally, he draws from these stories ten lessons in political greatness—lessons the next American president will be wise to heed.

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Editorial Reviews

Francis Fukuyama
“The Soul of a Leader is an important book that probes deeply into the question of what makes for greatness among democratic statesmen. Turning for inspiration to sources from Lincoln to Pericles, Newell understands the present through the lends of politics, philosophy, and history.
Norman Doidge
“A book of wisdom about the eternal questions that a great leader must face…A book with many treasures.”
David Frum
“A lively and enthusiastic application of classical political theory to the practical problems of political leadership.”
Charles H. Fairbanks
“Newell is the only writer who can make pop culture and Roman history highlight the leadership dilemmas of the next administration. His enormous learning lightens the narrative…While provoking reflection—particularly on the strange fate of honor—Newell’s book will delight readers.”
Conrad (Lord) Black
“A well-written and imaginative study of an immensely important and elusive subject [that] and represents years of diligent and original scholarly research and contemplation by a distinguished academic. It is a useful as well as a very interesting read.”
Harvey Mansfield
“Waller Newell’s fine book shows the love of honor at work in democratic times, when honor is disguised, diminished or eclipsed. Yet where is greatness without honor, and who can live without some share of greatness?”
Andrew Stark
“Newell brings a unique combination of historical knowledge, narrative skill, intellectual depth and political shrewdness to his study of the qualities that make for a great leader.…brimming with memorable insights, The Soul of a Leader will be a valuable resource for leaders—and aspiring leaders—in any walk of life.”
Publishers Weekly

Most readers will enjoy this thoughtful evaluation of history's famous leaders, such as Pericles, Caesar, Napoleon, Lincoln and Reagan (Newell, a political scientist, served on Reagan's presidential transition team). This is not written as an uplifting chronicle but as a serious overview of how great leaders rule. In the first of three sections, about presidents from FDR to Bush, Newell stresses that the greatest triumphed in foreign policy and war. Yet, he notes, most historians give FDR higher marks for handling the Depression than WWII and believe LBJ's domestic achievements trump his Vietnam debacle. The second section is a long, adulatory evaluation of Lincoln. The third delivers a detailed history of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) as an example of how democratic leaders (in this case, of Athens) can self-destruct. Newell draws a parallel to the Vietnam War, but passes over the invasion of Iraq. These are meaty chunks of stimulating, conservative-oriented great man history that concludes with lessons for success (in short: be ambitious; be moral, "but only in moderation"; make correct decisions at the beginning of a career, save mistakes for the end). (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Newell (political science & philosophy, Carleton Univ.; The Code of Man) suggests, tongue in cheek, that the West Wing character Josiah Bartlet may offer the best example of what we're looking for in a leader, and he argues that the traditionally desired presidential qualities are unlikely to be found in one person. Newell first discusses the modern American presidency from JFK to George W. Bush, looking at the qualities demanded of a superpower leader in an era when nonstate terrorist threats create new challenges. Then Newell looks back to the influence of Napoléon on 19th-century leaders, especially Lincoln, and to the "First Democracy," Athens, examining differences in the prudent leadership of Pericles and the imperialistic Alcibiades. In an analysis of the Athenians' desire for comfort and luxury and willingness to engage in the use of force to expand their influence, Newell shows how this pattern recurred throughout history in Rome, Paris, and Berlin, among other places. Finally, he offers "Ten Secrets of Leadership," which should help any leader approach the perfection embodied in the fictitious president Josiah Bartlet. Recommended for public and academic libraries with large political science or political philosophy collections.
—Jill Ortner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061238543
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 9.26 (w) x 6.26 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Waller R. Newell is a professor of political science and philosophy at Carleton University. A member of Ronald Reagan's presidential transition team, he is a longtime political and cultural commentator, and the author of previous books, including The Code of Man and What Is a Man?: 3,000 Years of Wisdom on the Art of Manly Virtue. A contributor to the Weekly Standard and other publications, he has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and a John Adams Fellow at the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London.

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Table of Contents

Introduction What Are We Looking for in a Leader? 1

I A Generation Bids Farewell: The Saga of the Modern American Presidency 37

The Titans: Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt 44

Passing the Torch: John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson 58

The President as Enigma: Richard M. Nixon 69

The President as Penitent: Jimmy Carter 78

New Day in America: Ronald Reagan and the Evolution of a Statesman 85

Why Was Reagan So Successful? 89

Reagan's Foreign Policy 104

The Uncertain Successor: George H. W Bush 107

Return from the Wilderness: Bill Clinton 111

Fortunate Son? George W. Bush and the End of a Saga 119

The Presidential Algorithm 125

II Democracy and Empire: Lessons in Leadership, from Napoleon to Lincoln 129

The Tribe of the Eagle: Political Honor in a Democracy 136

Leadership Ancient and Modern: The Dilemmas of the Founding Fathers 149

Abraham Lincoln and the Soul of a Leader 162

Lincoln's Political Principles 170

The Great Antagonist: Robert E. Lee 186

The Inner Lincoln 196

A World Imperial Republic? 206

III The First Democracy: Pericles, Athens, and the Challenge of Freedom 211

The Two Superpowers: Athens and Sparta 228

The Proxy War: Corinth Versus Corcyra 232

The Conference at Sparta and the Widening Conflict 238

The History of the Cold War 250

Pericles' Funeral Oration and the Plague 256

Dealing with Allies: The Revolt of Mitylene 268

The Human Equivalent of the Plague: Civil War in Corcyra 273

Nemesis: The Melian Dialogue and the Sicilian Expedition 276

Back to the Future: Where Do We Go from Here? 302

Conclusion: The TenSecrets of Leadership 311

Index 329

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