Lessons on leadership that check all the boxes.

A leadership guide from the founding director of the Harvard Center for Public Leadership.

Gergen, a CNN analyst and former White House adviser to four presidents, has read everything on the subject, so this is as much a review of the literature as a survey of his personal advice, but there is a great deal of overlap. In three sections, the author describes the qualities of a leader, how a leader deals with others, and examples of leaders in action. Gergen fills his text with real-world examples, most of them involving largely well-respected public figures—Churchill’s name appears 76 times, Lincoln’s 50, Stalin’s 0. Donald Trump also appears (33 times) but only as a cautionary tale. Few readers will deny that leadership starts from within, and Gergen’s lessons on self-mastery ring true despite a steady stream of bromides—e.g., “stay true to your values and principles”; “discover your true inner voice.” Readers who have digested multiple leadership guides will encounter few surprises but will not quarrel with the author’s emphasis on finding a good role model, building a solid team, learning to speak in public, and determining when the “low arts” are preferable to honesty. Particularly insightful is Gergen’s analysis of how effective leaders are able to manage across a hierarchy, including colleagues, superiors, and those who report directly to them. Throughout, the author’s definition of leader is broad and encompassing. Though they didn’t necessarily command others, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was brilliant and inspiring, Rachel Carson was a devastatingly effective writer, and climate activist Greta Thunberg is charismatic and persuasive. The text also makes it clear that while leadership is teachable, pure talent is not. Like many other guidebooks, Gergen closes with key takeaways that vary from useful (“try hard things, fail, move on”) to questionable (“give 150 percent of yourself”).

Lessons on leadership that check all the boxes.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982170-57-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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