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History Lessons

An exploration of the leadership skills and personal qualities of some of the great leaders from history, demonstrating that great leaders come in all shapes and sizes and have faults as well as strengths – but that there are certain key abilities and characteristics shown by all great leaders. This book identifies 8 key leadership abilities: Changing the Mood; Boldness of Vision; Doing the Planning; Leading from the Front; Bringing People with You; Making Things Happen; Taking the Offensive; Creating Opportunities. Each initiative is illustrated  with an account of the actions of three great leaders from history.

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Professional Manager Magazine, Chartered Management Institute, July 2010: History LessonsWhat Business and Management can Learn from the Great Leaders of History by Jonathan Gifford sets down eight competences exemplified, often in an extreme form, by great leaders.
Each competence is put into the context of business management so that the particular abilities of the great leaders of history can be easily related to present day management situations. The competences fall into three groups.  The precursors of action – changing the mood, boldness of vision and planning;  driving action – leading from the front, bringing people along and making things happen;  and finally, building – taking the offensive and creating opportunities.
Three great leaders from world history have been selected to exemplify each competence, resulting in a fascinating range of men and women, drawn from different backgrounds, nationalities and historical eras.  For example, the leaders chosen to illustrate making things happen include Oliver Cromwell, George S Patton and Zhou Enlai – far from the usual list of individuals cited in books on leadership.
In a few pages, each individual is placed into the historical, social and political context of their time. The cultural setting of their leadership prowess is scrutinised and a compelling picture is painted for each one.  It is no mean feat to draw together so complete a picture of a person exemplifying a particular competence in half a dozen pages packed with interesting detail and insight.
The book will enthuse any reader who enjoys biographies, has a general interest in history, or is keen to improve their leadership skills.  It may appear a stretch to imagine that Genghis Khan has lessons to teach modern managers but setting aside an imperfection or two, he can be seen as the creator of an opportunity that led to kick-starting the renaissance.

New Business Magazine, Summer 2010:“Don’t be put off by the title: this – albeit unconventional – business text examines the past to provide lessons for today’s business owner. An essential element to the success of any firm is leadership. Without someone at the helm with a plan for the future of the company and the personal qualities to inspire those around them a business is likely to fail. History Lessons examines some of the greatest leaders in history, such a Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and George Washington. The text evaluates what specific qualities they had that ensured their success and inspired loyalty in those around them. Chapters include planning, leading from the front and creating opportunities. After the main business concept has been outlined three different individuals are profiled before their business relevance to the chosen topic is teased out. Unsurprisingly, the text does contain historical information that is not necessarily applicable to businesses. However, this is genuinely interesting and it never feels like Gifford is just imparting historical knowledge for the sake of it – the points are all ultimately linked to how to be a successful leader. This is a book for experienced business owners that don’t need a nuts and bolts approach to running a firm but are seeking to become more effective leaders.” Rating 7/10

Business Life Magazine, April 2010: “There’s nothing new about finding management lessons in history, but few books offer quite as comprehensive a collection of examples as this one. You can learn planning from Napoleon Bonaparte, about making things happen from Oliver Cromwell, how to take the offensive from Saladin or even how to create opportunities from Genghis Khan. Its all fascinating stuff and there is much of practical use to be learned. Its quite a useful primer for anyone who bunked off history too.” Rating 8/10

Jim Storm’s blog www.stormreport.co.uk : “On my bedside table —This is what I have been reading during the last month: History Lessons: What business and management can learn from the great leaders of history by Jonathan Gifford. This is a comprehensive collection of management lessons based on historical examples. It covers everything from planning (Napoleon Bonaparte) to making things happen (Oliver Cromwell). There is a nice chapter on how to take the offensive (Saladin) and another on how to create opportunities (Genghis Khan). Not only will you learn about running a successful business but there are some very interesting history lessons in here too!”Jim Storm is editor of New Global Opportunities. Quoted from Jim’s ‘Weather Report’ May 2010

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History Lessons: an overview
Modern organisations need great leadership – not only from the chief executive officer or their equivalent, but at every level of management. Leadership in the twenty-first century is arguably more important than management, since high calibre management skills are now a basic ingredient of every modern operation: what sets the truly successful organisation ahead of its competitors is the quality of its leadership.

The personal qualities and abilities that great leaders possess cannot be taught in the same way that the skills and techniques of good management can be taught. Leadership is an intensely human activity, and great leaders come in many different shapes and guises. Nevertheless, a study of  the lives of these great leaders from history can supply the guidance and, above all, the inspiration that can help us to become better leaders in our chosen fields.

History Lessons examines what it was that set the great leaders of history apart from their contemporaries and enabled their dramatic successes. The book’s chapters explore core aspects of leadership, such as Boldness of Vision, Changing the Mood, Bringing People with You and Taking the Offensive. The leaders themselves have been drawn from the beginning of recorded history to the present day and from many different nations and cultures: Pericles of Athens and Nelson Mandela; Elizabeth I of England and Abraham Lincoln; Napoleon Bonaparte and George S. Patton; Horatio Nelson and Chiang Kai Shek.

The lessons to be learned from these great leaders are rich and varied. They throw the light of two thousand years of human experience on the leadership issues of today. Any reader who is called upon to lead in any sphere of endeavour – from the chief executive of a large corporation to the organiser of a local charity; from a head teacher to a team leader in middle management – will find History Lessons an inspiring and thought-provoking read.

Jonathan Gifford’s History Lessons is published by Marshall Cavendish Business and is available now from the usual online retailers.

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