Book Review of:
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
Written by Wess Roberts
Published by Warner Books in 1990
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
The authors credentials are not revealed in the book other than he has a Ph.D. No background of the author is given in the book. An internet search of Wess Roberts reveals that he has written many books on leadership that appear to be in the same format as this book. The author wrote of his trouble publishing the book in his note in the beginning of the book. I can see the reason I believe he had so much trouble right from the top. He did not use any references and did not even state his own qualifications on the book. I think this takes away from the credibility of a very useful book. References and personal qualifications would have made a big difference in the book.
The purpose of the writing of this book was to teach leadership principles from a persons' life who was not considered a great leader. The reason he chose Attila is, as Dr. Roberts states about books based on the lives of more acceptable persons, "It is, however, sometimes a painstaking challenge to extract from these books the essence of the leadership principles contained in them. Even more challenging is the application in these books to our own lives" (Roberts, 1990, p. xiv). He chose Attila because he believed Attila faced a great challenge in taking hordes of barbarians, and turning them into a nation and "...performed challenging feats
against 'seemingly' insurmountable odds..."(Roberts, 1990, p. xv-xvi). The point of view the book is written in is as an observer of Attila with his troops in the camp between conquests. Although no written documents remain from Attila and the Huns, the author put himself in this viewpoint and points out the lessons as he sees them.
The book chronicles the life of Attila the Hun, and explains how he rose to be a leader. It then uses his conquests and what he must have gone through to teach his chieftains how to be leaders. The book then goes through the lessons that Attila would have learned in his life from leadership qualities and the want to be in charge to how to treat your subordinates and what you can learn from them.
The goals of the author were achieved especially through the "attilaisms" at the end of the chapters, and in the last chapter. These bring out the main points of the chapter and how it can relate to your life today. They also show leadership as something you have to continually strive for in all aspects of your leadership and life, which I believe is one of the main goals of the book.
I found the book to be very readable but each chapter is an individual lesson. To read the book in one setting would be very laborious. It is written as examples for anybody. It is a good read for top management and is just as good for someone wanting to rise to the top. The manager can see how the troops view him, and the "Hun" can use the lessons of acting as a leader to move up. The largest problem with the book is the lack of academic references these lessons of leadership have. The logic is pointed out in the attilaisms in each chapter and at the end of the book. The lack of academic support of the logic is missing, however purposeful this is by the author, I think it does take away some of the credibility of the book. Even with the lack of academic support, there is a common sense in the logic that is used in the book and the lessons
could still be used by anyone in their day to day lives. It reminds me of the common sense
sayings my father told me such as, you have to make the team before you can wear the uniform. Nothing academic about it, but it is still a useful statement.
This book would best be read many times. It is easy to read the chapters that interest you at the time. It would be a good book for personal reference and to have a new and refreshing view on life and management. The book lacks an index, but the table of contents is all that is needed to find the subject you want to read about. A glossary is not needed, and a bibliography is lacking. Although the author does credit all who contributed in the book, with no references or bibliography, you kind of have to trust him at his word.
Dan Grubb, RN
Terre Haute, IN
Roberts, W. (1990). Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. New York: Warner Books