Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seven Lessons of Leadership

David Gergen's 2000 book, "Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton", describes his inside knowledge of how the four presidents who he worked for operated and used presidential power. The book is not a memoir, but rather it attempts to compare and contrast the leadership styles of these four presidents. In the last chapter, Gergen then summarizes his findings in a list of seven core principles which he deems important.

The bulk of the book is rather dull, and frankly, I think a personal memoir wold have been more interesting. However, the last chapter gives this book lasting value. I will list his 7 principles.

1. Leadership starts from within. Gergen says that "the inner soul of a president flows into every aspect of his leadership far more than is generally recognized". Personal integrity is the most important quality for a president to have.

2. A central, compelling purpose. The great presidents all had this, and poor ones have often lacked it. When talking about the great ones, we can usually say in a single sentence what each presidency was all about. And it is apparent that this is Obama's greatest failing as a leader, in that he has not articulated a clear, central purpose for his presidency.

Gergen goes on to say that a president's central purpose must be rooted in the nation's core values. He quotes Chesterton as observing that "America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed." The great presidents have always operated with our founding documents uppermost in mind, and based their central purposes on these documents.

3. A capacity to persuade.

4. An ability to work within the system.

5. A sure, quick start.

6. Strong, prudent advisers.

7. Inspiring others to carry on the mission.

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