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Publisher's Summary

An instant national best-seller!

Stanley McChrystal, the retired US Army general and best-selling author of Team of Teams, profiles 13 of history's great leaders, including Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, and Robert E. Lee, to show that leadership is not what you think it is - and never was.

Stan McChrystal served for 34 years in the US Army, rising from a second lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division to a four-star general, in command of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. During those years he worked with countless leaders and pondered an ancient question: "What makes a leader great?" He came to realize that there is no simple answer. 

McChrystal profiles 13 famous leaders from a wide range of eras and fields - from corporate CEOs to politicians and revolutionaries. He uses their stories to explore how leadership works in practice and to challenge the myths that complicate our thinking about this critical topic. With Plutarch's Lives as his model, McChrystal looks at paired sets of leaders who followed unconventional paths to success. For instance...

  • Walt Disney and Coco Chanel built empires in very different ways. Both had public personas that sharply contrasted with how they lived in private. 
  • Maximilien Robespierre helped shape the French Revolution in the 18th century; Abu Musab al-Zarqawi led the jihadist insurgency in Iraq in the 21st. We can draw surprising lessons from them about motivation and persuasion. 
  • Both Boss Tweed in 19th-century New York and Margaret Thatcher in 20th-century Britain followed unlikely roads to the top of powerful institutions. 
  • Martin Luther and his future namesake, Martin Luther King Jr., both local clergymen, emerged from modest backgrounds to lead world-changing movements. 

Finally, McChrystal explores how his former hero, General Robert E. Lee, could seemingly do everything right in his military career and yet lead the Confederate Army to a devastating defeat in the service of an immoral cause. Leaders will help you take stock of your own leadership, whether you’re part of a small team or responsible for an entire nation.

©2018 Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jay Mangone (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great resource for CGSC

I’ve never liked history. I mean never, but this book weaves in historical references masterfully to teach new lessons about leadership. It forces you to look at Leadership in a new way. If you’re a person who doesn’t get excited about seeing famous people and you believe in the team mentality from top to bottom, you will appreciate this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Didn’t make his Bed that Morning!!

The general clearly did not make his bed the morning he wrote this book. It was very weak gave zero examples of leadership and was basically a series of high school level biographies of the individuals profiled. I can’t use leaders profiles because no examples of leadership were described.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Forced myself to finish...

Book is quasi academic with a dash of run on military briefing. Unless you are forced, don't do it.

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Leaders are Human

All leaders are human and as such will have weaknesses. Focusing on their weaknesses is an interesting approach to telling their stories. Success was ultimately why they were analyzed even if they ultimately failed in the end and the book fails to tell the story of the true solitude of leadership and how leadership is only granted by those willing to be lead. overall a good read.

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Does not live up to the hype...

I was a bit amazed at this book. The marketing for it was excellent. Videos of McChyrstal talking about new ways to look at leadership. The introduction was great, using big ideas from systems and systems thinking. But then the book started.

A series of thin historical essays. Not uninteresting and reasonably well written. But if you know anything of the subject you'll learn little new. Oddly there is very little identification of 'leadership' in the text of the stories. What learning there is comes at the end in summary chapters.
The selection of the subjects is interesting. But the treatment is banal. Others have commented that they were at the High School level. I'll go with that.

What I thought might happen is at least a summary of leadership principles derived from each of the stories. Not so much. In the end you are left with a collection of stories concerning some leaders that do not integrate at all. There is no capitulation of the lessons, or even of the points. Maybe it is in the last chapter?. I gave up around Boss Tweed.

The book fails to live up to its own intentions. It does not lead. it does not meaningfully instruct.

Returned.

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  • MR
  • 12-28-18

Awesome read!

this was such an inciteful book. I need to listen again and take notes for all the gems

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Captivating and Educational

General McChrystal opens up a window into our history and provides this unique and wonderful prospective only a disciple of leadership could provide. Awesome book.

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  • Scott
  • Arlington, TX
  • 12-22-18

Challenging The Norms

In keeping with his decorated history, General Mac takes on a subject ripe for inspection: Leadership itself.

I found it worthwhile and thought provoking, as well as pleasantly surprising, that such a statesman would demonstrate leadership so clearly in his continual determination to learn and grow.

Thank you, Sir!

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Unique perspective on Leadership

Like no other leadership book written. The comparison leaders are both expected and unexpected. After you finish the book, you are constantly going back and thinking about the people. For serious leadership people, a must read.

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Exceptional, engaging presentation.

When I started listening to this book, it was not what I expected. Instead I found something quite different and immediately engaging. The “case studies” used to illustrate the emergence of leaders in various times and field were outstanding and very interesting. As a student of history, and having met or seen several of the individuals, I learned learned facts and gained new perspectives about all of them. Excellent and useful presentation of blending of social science, psychology, evolving norms, technology, and motivational techniques in a dynamic environment.