Leaders

Myth and Reality
Length: 17 hrs and 4 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (553 ratings)

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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

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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Leadership is a Journey

I loved it. The book provided great examples of Leadership... Highly Recommend reading for Growth...

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Important Update to Plutarch's Lives

Terrific work with meaningful analysis of contrasting leaders for each chapter. The contributions by these three authors to the compendia of literature on the subject of leadership is important. This work provides a wide range of updated historical figures where the relevant information regarding their particular social and personal circumstances is available to be plumbed.

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good stories but overall premise feel short

It was easy to listen to because the reader is my favorite. with that said the generals argument fell a little short for me. I agree that there isn't a mathematical objective formula that can adequately explain why some men and women are great leaders. I do not however agree with the general's assessment that these individual leaders are made somehow less important by their character flaws. Leaders are imperfect like everyone else and by definition could not be great leaders without great supporters and great followers but this doesn't diminish the value that a single individual can bring to any organization or cause when transformation is required.

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I wasn't expecting a book this good

I think the book works perfectly, the combination of historical figures and the process of picking apart their contributions and other traits helps paint a picture of the ever shifting notion of leadership in a light that I've never found this familiar before. Must read for acne business leader

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Panoramic (& FUN) view of the topic and history

—Enlightened my understanding of leadership AND history with examples of leaders of which I knew nothing or very little. Actually FUN reading (listening) because of all the detailed stories and the amazing correlations he discerned between past and present. —Uplifted me to know what an inspiring mentor General McChrystal must have been to our troops when he served in the Army. —Narrator, Paul Mitchell, hit exactly the right tone with the perfect camber of his voice. —I will recommend to my bookclub.

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disappointed

curious how they determined who to examine?? what was the criteria?? didn't like: points deducted for into, the jumping around was confusing as all, how they hooked you to the people they discussed but the way they organized the book/what they decided to talk about just confused all the information they gave you, no clear thread through-out the entire book that left you with takeaways. liked: intro and the epilogue was probably the most powerful part of the book for me and yet they could not duplicate that power throughout the rest of the book. disappointed.

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Read the last two chapters

The last two chapters are worth the read. If you have time you can read the rest of the book.

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Insightful and informative

Excellent book. I certainly learned a lot I didn't know about these lives, and the considerations from the authors about leadership theory are extremely insightful. A must read if you are interested in a refreshing and intelligent perspective on how people work.