LEADING MINDS: An Anatomy of Leadership by Howard with Emma Laskin Gardner

LEADING MINDS: An Anatomy of Leadership

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A leading psychologist deploys his theories of perception and creativity to explain the success of prominent 20th-century leaders. Gardner (Harvard; Multiple Intelligences, 1993, etc.) links his theories of childhood perception to the practice of leadership in adults. In arguments that call to mind the classical tradition of rhetorical scholarship, he stresses the sheer importance of effective storytelling. His great leaders are capable of persuading and motivating diverse audiences with a variety of rhetorical techniques. Some of their most successful stories go beyond words to actions, gestures, and images and resemble the stories used by five-year-olds to organize their perception of the world. Gardner's stress on storytelling is worked out in biographical sketches of (mostly American) leaders, including Margaret Mead, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Alfred P. Sloan Jr., George C. Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King. Thrown in to give his argument a cosmopolitan dimension are Pope John XXIII, Jean Monnet, and Margaret Thatcher, but the focus remains firmly Western, despite allusions to Gandhi. Simple stories are often the most effective, according to Gardner, who is a good storyteller himself. His tales of 20th-century leaders are simple but memorable. But his principle of selection remains puzzling: His list appears to have been chosen from those who have appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Furthermore, the beneficial influence of these leaders is taken for granted. Gardner quite rightly dismisses populist critics who downplay the importance of leadership. But he never addresses skeptics who take a dim view of the disastrous consequences of 20th-century military and geopolitical leadership, or the modern national security state that some of Gardner's heroes worked hard to create. With its reverence toward leadership, this celebratory book will be useful for seminars and conferences for aspiring leaders.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1995
ISBN: 0465082807
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Basic