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Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times

Nancy Koehn

What do such disparate figures have in common? Why do their extraordinary stories continue to amaze and inspire? In her “enthralling…fascinating look at a varied group of heroes” (Publishers Weekly), Nancy Koehn offers a remarkable template by which to measure our aspirations and, also, to judge those in our time to whom we've given our trust. Featuring “five stand-alone case studies that are well-written and interesting” (The New York Times), Koehn begins each section by showing her protagonist on the precipice of a great crisis: Shackleton marooned on an Antarctic ice floe; Lincoln on the verge of seeing the Union collapse; escaped slave Douglass facing possible capture; Bonhoeffer agonizing over how to counter absolute evil with faith; Carson racing against the cancer ravaging her in a bid to save the planet. Readers then learn about each person’s childhood and see the individual growing—step by step—into the person he or she will ultimately become. Significantly, as we follow each leader’s against-all-odds journey, we begin to glean an essential truth: leaders are not born but made. In a book dense with epiphanies, the most galvanizing one may be that the power and courage to lead resides in each of us. Providing both great insight and exceptionally rendered human drama, Forged in Crisis is “a highly engaging (and well documented)…book that quietly surpasses many so-called leadership tomes”

Posted Friday, February 16, 2018


Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace

Leon Panetta

The inspiring and revelatory autobiography of the defense secretary and CIA director who led the intelligence war that killed Bin Laden, among many important roles in a legendary career It could be said that Leon Panetta has had two of the most consequential careers of any American public servant in the past fifty years. His first career, beginning as an army intelligence officer and including a distinguished run as one of Congress’s most powerful and respected members, lasted thirty-five years and culminated in his transformational role as Clinton’s budget czar and White House chief of staff. He then “retired” to establish the Panetta Institute with his wife of fifty years, Sylvia; to serve on the Iraq Study Group; and to protect his beloved California coastline. But in 2009, he accepted what many said was a thankless task: returning to public office as the director of the CIA, taking it from a state of turmoil after the Bush-era torture debates and moving it back to the vital center of America’s war against Al Qaeda, including the campaign that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. And then, in the wake of bin Laden’s death, Panetta became the U.S. secretary of defense, inheriting two troubled wars in a time of austerity and painful choices. Like his career, Worthy Fights is a reflection of Panetta’s values. It is imbued with the frank, grounded, and often quite funny spirit of a man who never lost touch with where he came from: his family’s walnut farm in beautiful Carmel Valley, California. It is also a testament to a lost kind of political leadership, which favors progress and duty to country over partisanship. Panetta is a Democrat who pushed for balanced budgets while also expanding care for the elderly and sick; a devout Catholic who opposes the death penalty but had to weigh every drone strike from 2009 through 2011. Throughout his career, Panetta’s polestar has been his belief that a public servant’s real choice is between leadership or crisis. Troubles always come about through no fault of one’s own, but most can be prevented with courage and foresight. As always, Panetta calls them as he sees them in Worthy Fights. Suffused with its author’s decency and stubborn common sense, the book is an epic American success story, a great political memoir, and a revelatory view onto many of the great figures and events of our time.

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror

Michael V. Hayden

For General Michael Hayden, playing to the edge means playing so close to the line that you get chalk dust on your cleats. Otherwise, by playing back, you may protect yourself, but you will be less successful in protecting America. "Play to the edge" was Hayden's guiding principle when he ran the National Security Agency, and it remained so when he ran CIA. In his view, many shortsighted and uninformed people are quick to criticize, and this book will give them much to chew on but little easy comfort; it is an unapologetic insider's look told from the perspective of the people who faced awesome responsibilities head on, in the moment. How did American intelligence respond to terrorism, a major war and the most sweeping technological revolution in the last 500 years? What was NSA before 9/11 and how did it change in its aftermath? Why did NSA begin the controversial terrorist surveillance program that included the acquisition of domestic phone records? What else was set in motion during this period that formed the backdrop for the infamous Snowden revelations in 2013? As Director of CIA in the last three years of the Bush administration, Hayden had to deal with the rendition, detention and interrogation program as bequeathed to him by his predecessors. He also had to ramp up the agency to support its role in the targeted killing program that began to dramatically increase in July 2008. This was a time of great crisis at CIA, and some agency veterans have credited Hayden with actually saving the agency. He himself won't go that far, but he freely acknowledges that CIA helped turn the American security establishment into the most effective killing machine in the history of armed conflict. For 10 years, then, General Michael Hayden was a participant in some of the most telling events in the annals of American national security. General Hayden's goals are in writing this book are simple and unwavering: No apologies. No excuses. Just what happened. And why. As he writes, "There is a story here that deserves to be told, without varnish and without spin. My view is my view, and others will certainly have different perspectives, but this view deserves to be told to create as complete a history as possible of these turbulent times. I bear no grudges, or at least not many, but I do want this to be a straightforward and readable history for that slice of the American population who depend on and appreciate intelligence, but who do not have the time to master its many obscure characteristics."

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

Robert Gates

From the former secretary of defense, a strikingly candid, vivid account of serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House, he thought he'd long left Washington politics behind: After working for six presidents in both the CIA and the National Security Council, he was happily serving as president of Texas A&M University. But when he was asked to help a nation mired in two wars and to aid the troops doing the fighting, he answered what he felt was the call of duty.

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet (Jewish Lives)

Jeffrey Rosen

According to Jeffrey Rosen, Louis D. Brandeis was “the Jewish Jefferson,” the greatest critic of what he called “the curse of bigness,” in business and government, since the author of the Declaration of Independence. Published to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his Supreme Court confirmation on June 1, 1916, Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet argues that Brandeis was the most farseeing constitutional philosopher of the twentieth century. In addition to writing the most famous article on the right to privacy, he also wrote the most important Supreme Court opinions about free speech, freedom from government surveillance, and freedom of thought and opinion. And as the leader of the American Zionist movement, he convinced Woodrow Wilson and the British government to recognize a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Combining narrative biography with a passionate argument for why Brandeis matters today, Rosen explores what Brandeis, the Jeffersonian prophet, can teach us about historic and contemporary questions involving the Constitution, monopoly, corporate and federal power, technology, privacy, free speech, and Zionism.

Posted Friday, June 10, 2016


Repeatability

Chris Zook with James Allen

Is radical reinvention the key to winning in today’s fast-paced world? Not judging by the results of some of the world’s best-performing companies. In Repeatability, Chris Zook and James Allen—leaders of Bain & Company’s influential Strategy practice—warn that complexity is a silent killer of profitable growth. Successful companies endure by maintaining simplicity at their core. They don’t stray from, or regularly discard, their business model in pursuit of radical renovation. Instead, they build a “repeatable business model” that produces continuous improvement and allows them to rapidly adapt to change without succumbing to complexity. Based on a multiyear study of more than two hundred companies, the book stresses the value of repeatability in business, showing how the “big idea” today is really made up of a series of successful smaller ideas driven by a simple and repeatable business model. Zook and Allen show how some of the world’s best-known firms combine a core differentiation model with speed, adaptability, and simplicity to land them at the top for long periods of time. These firms include: Apple, Danaher, DaVita, IKEA, Nike, Olam, Tetra Pak, Vanguard, and others.

Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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