HW Crocker, a longtime student of Robert E. Lee, embarks on a story of his teacher Lee in the book; Leadership: Executive Lessons in Courage, Character, and Vision. Crocker uses the life story of Robert Lee to pinpoint important observations that would change the lives of many people who come across this inspiring read. The book which is organized in eleven chapters begins with accomplishments made by Lee. Through these success stories, Crocker manages to establish an initial image of Lee as a unique leader who is governed by high moral principles, and to ensure this comes out clearly as intended, Crocker puts primary focus on three important periods in the life of his subject. These periods begins with the life of Lee as a soldier in the Mexican-American army where success was his story. This evolves into the second period of Civil War, a time of turmoil in the history of America, and a time when Lee led the Confederacy Army. Finally, Crocker crowns the book with Lee as the President of Washington University. Through these three areas of interest, Crocker manages to bring the kind of character that any modern leader would want to emulate his rich character traits and personality. Through these stories, Crocker remains particularly keen on bringing to reader's attention key elements that make a leader great. The lessons are even much easier to learn and articulate since they are indicated at the end of every chapter. While the lessons are outlined to show what Lee learned from every experience, Crocker is interested in making his readers learn and contemplate on issues raised in each chapter. This way, the knowledge and expertise required for good leadership progress as the chapters unfold. This is what gives Crocker's book an edge over other books that talk about the similar issue on leadership.
The chapters in this book are arranged in a chronological order which is to the advantage of the reader. Actually, after establishing Lee as both successful and unique in his manner of leadership, Crocker continues in subsequent chapters by beginning his tale from the most basic level of leadership he ever knew of his former teacher. Here, we get to see leadership as being shaped by experience and thus one can quickly distinguish it from knowledge which is studied professionally. In fact, the entire book is about Lee's experiences and each experience came to impact his leadership style and expertise, Lee begins as being naive but ends it in greatness. The admiration that any reader of this develops for Robert Lee is the direct result of a carefully written biography that also combines elements of history, leadership as well as a business success story. However how wide knowledge may seem to be, nothing hangs because Crocker was particularly careful while releasing such a large chunk of information in bits by organizing his work in chapters and concluding each with keynotes.
Apart from the books organization and careful crafting, it is quite clear that the contents are directed toward modern leaders who are called upon to emulate the hero in the story. This could be said to be more of a teaching or guide on leadership that uses stories to make each lesson memorable. It is not only one of the strengths of the book that is quite notable but is also the epitome of a story that inspires and instills confidence to take on the unique leadership styles. The chapters have an overarching story from which the author demonstrates how Lee managed to get through such. The lessons thus come in handy, and a reader does not have to struggle to see what quality leadership entails and how such feat as Lee's can be achieved by anyone who bothers to.
There are quite many books on leadership, but this title is an outstanding one in its approach to the subject matter. While many authors take an explicit approach to present issues in leadership, Crocker has combined both implicit and explicit approaches into a single piece tied together. Concrete leadership principles come in handy from the stories. But should a reader bypass anything important, there is nothing to worry about because lessons from the story will be summarized at the end of each unique story. Apart from making it easier for readers to articulate all the information in quite a wide book, chapter by chapter organization is central to the readability of this book while also offering quite many qualities to handle numerous unique situations. So, while Lee is well known for his leadership in the Army during Civil War, Crocker has made it clear in this book that it was not all about the battlefield; it is as well about how one lives his or her everyday life as a leader of courage, moral character, and shared vision of his or her subjects. These three elements are what Crocker saw that Lee think best defines what good leadership entails.
Needless to say is that Crocker's book is primarily focusing on young leaders or rather new minds in the field of leadership and who are most likely looking for avenues to begin. Reading this book will save every young leader or a graduate who wants to make a big leap into leadership. The book equips readers with most basic yet very critical qualities that should inform decision-making in any arena. For instance, burnout is one thing that is known to most people, but one of the basic issues that can be mitigated against is through taking time to recharge after working for a while. A continuous reading is one important factor that must be considered by young leaders. In short, the book could be more suitable to the youthful than we can say of amateurs.
At this point, it is important to shift focus to major lessons that justify the authorship of Crocker's book. Among the many lessons that Crocker intended for his audience, the following four stand out: (1) leadership at its initial stage calls for a substantial following; (2) leadership calls for care for and understanding of one's subjects;(3) a leader must be ready to own up even for mistakes not actually done by them but by those under their leadership; and (4) a leader must work hard to meet goals but also get a good rest. On what a leader requires, Crocker draws attention that it must be the initial feeling of a group of people that they need you as a leader to set the ball rolling. Of course this is true as without people's will there is no leadership. A person must be responsible for a group of people to be called a leader. Similarly, a leader is only validated if at all it is not an imposition but something supported by the majority. In other words, Crocker supposes that leadership requires a people's buy-in.
Secondly, a leader must recognize that he or she is dealing with human beings with emotions. A leader must thus attend to this nature of a person to get angry, happy, joyful or withdrawn. A leader must take time to know each individual under him or her and always that their interest are taken care of. This is a very important step toward becoming a prudent leader who neither shows insensitiveness nor lack of receptivity. Receptivity is particularly important trait that enables a leader to evaluate his or her subjects and get a thorough understanding of who they are. This calls for spending quality time with subjects and getting to know them personally, understand what bothers and try to build that rapport and trust with them. This level of care is another key issue that Crocker highlights in the book.
Third, one problem with many leaders today is passing blames to their subordinates when a problem arises. Crocker advises that a leader must be ready to own and address any shortcomings with the kind of approach they deserve. He focuses on how the generals who worked under Lee were treated by their boss in a very fair but firm approach. Lee did not forget that he was a leader and as such he is called upon to bear all the burden on behalf of his subjects. This is what most leaders find very difficult to do but Crocker shows how it is a quite achievable thing and one should be willing to live as Lee did.
Finally, the fourth important take-away is the need for a leader to work hard to meet goals within the set period of time, but in this endeavor, a leader must not forget to rest well too. This is one way to mitigate against burnouts that were discussed earlier in this review. Burnouts cause frustrations and frustrations distract people from their course and lead them into mistreating their subjects. In essence, a hard work without good rest may not be very beneficial for a leader. To avoid the frustrations that give birth to many others vices, it would be very important for 21st-century leaders to consider having time out of their routine duties and take on leisure and good rest to get recharged and re-energized
While this title is a great read with important lessons for young leaders as well as amateurs in any field of practice, it is also appropriate to point out that it has inherent weaknesses. These weaknesses were not any deliberate but are facts that emerge because this review and critique is done in a completely different setting and time. As such, some character traits and leadership approaches may seem behind time. For instance, there are some form of authoritative leadership applicable in earlier armies but may not be amusing to both soldiers and their commanders. Moreover, some of the leadership styles are quite specific and may not necessarily result in quality leadership. Save for the few weaknesses; the book is a powerful one that takes a unique approach to helping out young leaders of today and thus fit for college students and undergraduates.
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