Snippets from captains, kings and trailblazers throughout history.
Executive and entrepreneur Harpool (The Little Book of Planning Wisdom, 2013) has compiled bite-sized quotations on leadership from more than 185 sources, ranging from ancient Chinese philosophers to 21st-century business moguls. Harpool promises that contemplating them will yield a “great return on investment” for aspiring leaders. The book has no narrative; instead, the quotations are neatly classified by origin. One chapter, for example, is devoted to U.S. presidents and world leaders. Abraham Lincoln’s gravitas—“Important principles may and must be inflexible”—finds a home in the same chapter as a stirring exhortation from Winston Churchill: “Never…Never…Never…Never Give Up!” Given the subject, most of the sources are predictable. No book on leadership would be complete without the eloquence of John F. Kennedy or a few salty words from George S. Patton; even Yoda’s Jedi wisdom finds a seat: “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” The less familiar sources, however, often provide the most practical advice. A Japanese proverb offers a remedy for dysfunction: “Fix the problem, not the blame.” As diverse as the sources are, recurring themes suggest leaders share common traits such as passion, creativity and perseverance. Above all, heroic leaders are people of character who see their powerful positions as a way to serve their fellow man. Regrettably, the book suffers from a weakness common to compilations: lack of context. The index provides only scant biographical data and no clues about what challenges these leaders overcame. When Hannibal says, “I will find a way, or make a way,” readers are expected to know that the Carthaginian warrior crossed the supposedly impassable Alps to invade Italy in 218 B.C. Pairing the quotes with a sentence or two describing a noteworthy accomplishment would have made the text more potent. Despite this flaw, the book offers quick inspiration—perfect for a dose of fortitude before that make-or-break meeting.
Though small in size, this book steals the secrets of giants.