Profile for Robert Morris > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Robert Morris
Top Reviewer Ranking: 6
Helpful Votes: 2134

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Rise To The Top
Rise To The Top
by Stacey Hawley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.95
23 used & new from CDN$ 9.19

5.0 out of 5 stars How to manage the power of others' perceptions to achieve the given career objectives, Jan. 13 2015
This review is from: Rise To The Top (Paperback)
Authors of books such as this one often invoke metaphoric phrases such "rising to the top," climbing a "mountain or "ladder," hitting a "jackpot" or grabbing a "brass ring." Game theory has also had an influence. I was reminded of all this as began to read Stacey Hawley's book. My rating correctly suggests what I think of its quality of content and presentation of it as well as its potential value to those who read it with appropriate care.

Hawley asserts -- and I agree -- that perceptions (whether or not they are accurate -- often become realities. Why? Because they are formulated by human beings and thus, inevitably, subjective. Hawley asserts (and I also agree) that perceptions by others of the value of a worker's performance often determine what that person's compensation will be.

Because it is so important, let's repeat that second assertion: perceptions by others of the value of a worker's performance often determine what that person's compensation will be.

Whether or not those perceptions are accurate is another issue entirely. Also I hasten to add, another reality.

Although this book's subtitle suggests that it was written to help women "leverage their professional persona to earn more," the information, insights, and counsel that Hawley provides can also be of substantial value to men, especially those who are introverted. (Susan Cain has a great deal of value to say about all this in her brilliant book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, published by Broadway Books and now available in a paperbound edition.) I also think this book can be of incalculable value to supervisors because, more often than not, their performance evaluations are based on misperceptions by default. That is, those who performance they evaluate insufficiently, if not incorrectly, have given them little (if any) reason to think otherwise.

Hawley responds to questions such as these, devoting a separate chapter to each:

o What is executive compensation and what is it not?
o What is the appropriate role of a consultant retained to assist the compensation process?
o Who are all the "players" involved in that process?
o What are the four types of a "female powerhouse"?
o How best to determine the potential of one's "powerhouse personality"?
o How best to leverage that personality?
o What is a career "blitz"? How best to prepare for and then handle one?
o When to ignore the "gender gap"? Why then? What to do instead?
o What are the most significant benefits and potential problems of "rising to the top"?

Many (if not most) people are uncomfortable when urged to promote themselves, either because they don't know how to do that effectively or, if they do know, consider it unseemly to do so. The fact remains, whether they like it or not, most workers are involved in a multi-dimensional "game" and how it is "played" varies (sometimes significantly) from one organization to the next. Those who play it well -- as in competitive professional sports such as professional football, basketball, and baseball -- are generously rewarded with both compensation as well as opportunities to accelerate personal growth and professional development to earn even more. I invoke the term "multi-dimensional" because the game to which Hawley refers involves how well one does what they are paid to do, of course, but also how well one leverages on-the-job performance to establish and nourish relationships with those on whom one's career success depends.

Perhaps women will derive greater benefit from this book than will men. However, as indicated earlier, I think most of the information, insights, and counsel that Stacey Hawley provides can help almost anyone to leverage performance to achieve greater recognition and appreciation. Perhaps this book's greatest value is that it helps to correct the misperceptions that many (most?) workers have about how others perceive them, and, about the impact those perceptions can have on their career advancement.

Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence
Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence
by Jack Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.74
31 used & new from CDN$ 18.31

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant analysis of the "founding amateur warriors" who contributed so much to winning America's independence, Jan. 12 2015
Whenever appropriate, I read two or three books in combination if they share several subjects in common and that is certainly true of this book, read with Stephen Brumwell's George Washington: Gentleman Warrior and Edward Larson's The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789.

According to Brumwell, the argument of his book is that "whatever else he may have been - surveyor, farmer, politician, elder statesman - and despite appearances, George Washington was first and foremost a soldier; his colossal status rested upon the twin pillars of his character, the gentleman and the warrior."

Jack Kelly takes a different approach, focusing on the "amateur soldiers who won America's independence" as well as on the "gentleman warrior" who led them to eventual victory over what was then widely regarded as the most powerful military force in the world, at sea as well as on land. Unlike the seasoned professional troops under the command of Washington's counterparts - notably Generals Thomas Gage, William Howe, Charles Cornwallis, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton -- these were citizen soldiers who made up for a lack of formal training with their courage as well as their determination to "live free or die."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kelly's coverage:

o French and Indian War (Pages 1-14)
o Benedict Arnold and Capture of Fort Ticonderoga (28-31)
o American Revolution: Battle of Bunker/Breeds Hill (33-35)
o George Washington and the Battle of Long Island (68-74)
o Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold (83-85 and 134-140)
o Daniel Morgan, "The Old Wagoner" (39-42, 165-166, 194-202, 208-209)
o William Alexander, Lord Sterling (66-69 and 74-78)
o George Washington and the New York campaign 91-101)
o George Washington and the New Jersey Campaign (103-110)
o George Washington and the Philadelphia campaign (123-130)
o American Revolution: Battle of Bemis Heights (135-141)
o Nathanael Greene (180-183) and the New York Campaign (94-101)
o Anthony ("Dandy") Wayne (184-186 and 233-235)
o Charles Cornwallis and Southern Campaigns (189-197)
o Charles Cornwallis and Yorktown Campaign (216-220, 222-224, and 228-229)

As Kelly notes, during the French and Indian War and his association with Major General William Braddock, "Washington learned that the principal actor in battle was not the soldier but the officer, who, by moving units of men as one, amplified and directed the power of their violence." One of Washington's most significant virtues was his eagerness to learn. "Perhaps the most important lesson he took from was a basic one: how to sustain an army in the field. In war, logistics could often be more critical than any single victory." He also learned from his own experiences and what he observed during the war for independence that "discipline may well be the soul of an army" but developing and then sustaining military discipline in the men he commanded -- citizen soldiers -- posed unique challenges. Kelly examines these challenges with rigor and eloquence. With all due respect to Washington's prowess as a warrior, it is worth noting that, as one captain told him, his troops "universally think and speak of you with love, pleasure, gratitude, and applause." One of Washington's greatest strengths was his highly developed emotional intelligence.

Kelly cites a case in point. The end of the war, a number of officers feared that after eight years of service, back pay and pensions due them would be denied by an ungrateful Congress. They called a meeting Newburgh (New York) to discuss whether or not to lead their troops westward and let members of Congress fight the British, or, seize control of the government with a coup. Washington learned of the meeting and immediately traveled to attend it. His rhetoric failed to convince them to remain loyal and he realized that. Now what?

"He opened from his pocket a pair of spectacles that he had begun wearing. Only a few close aides had seen them perched on his nose. As he slipped them on, he asked the officers' forgiveness, 'observing at the same time,' a witness recorded, 'that he had grown gray in his service and now felt himself going blind.'" Following this "consummate performance by a skilled actor," the so-called "Newburgh Conspiracy" was over.

Jack Kelly reminds of us what we already know but often forget: Human beings fight wars. Some are killed, others are wounded, and still others are never quite the same again after experiences such as those Braddock's soldiers encountered when attacked while crossing the Monongahela River en route to Fort Duquesne. Several of the soldiers who were taken prisoner "lived through a few hours of mind-scalding terror, imagining what was to come. Then it came. That night outside Fort Duquesne, the Indians lashed them to stakes, prodded them with red hot irons, tore their flesh, and finally burned them alive, their screams evaporating in the darkness."

Human beings fight wars and they are led by other human beings, not stone faces on Mount Rushmore. For me, this is among the most important realities brought to compelling life in this brilliant book.

The Return Of George Washington: How The United States Was Reborn
The Return Of George Washington: How The United States Was Reborn
by Edward Larson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
29 used & new from CDN$ 6.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant analysis of Washington's service in private life to a fragile coalition yet to become a government and then a nation, Jan. 9 2015
Whenever appropriate, I read two or three books in combination if they share several subjects in common and that is certainly true of this book, read with Stephen Brumwell's George Washington: Gentleman Warrior and Jack Kelly's Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence. I highly recommend all three. Each is a brilliant achievement in its own unique ways.

According to Edward Larson, the timeline of the "story" he provides in this book extends from George Washington's resignation as commander in chief of the Continental Army through his inauguration as the first President of the United States. "I stress his crucial role as a public figure and political leader during these critical years between the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 and the start of the federal government in 1789...As Washington understood matters, the immediate threat to America during the 1780s flowed from the weakness of the central government. More than anyone, he led the efforts to reform it." Larson examines in detail, with rigor and eloquence, Washington's leadership in private life in service to a fragile coalition yet to become a government and then a nation.

As the following inf0rmation indicates, Washington made a number of "returns," to public service or to his beloved home, Mount Vernon. Here is an abbreviated timeline of possible interest and value to those who read this review:

1732 February 22: George Washington born in Popes Creek Plantation, Westmoreland County, Virginia
1749 Appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County, Virginia
1753 Left Mount Vernon to serve with rank of major in Virginia regiment during French & Indian War (1754-58)
1776: July: Declaration of Independence; Washington appointed General and Commander-in-chief of Continental Army.
1779 August 14: A peace plan is approved by Congress stipulating independence and British evacuation of America
1781 October 19: The British army surrenders at Yorktown, a development that had a devastating effect on the British
1783 February 4: England officially declares an end to hostilities in America

o September 3: The Treaty of Paris is signed by the United States and Great Britain.
o November 2: George Washington delivers farewell address to the army.
o December 23: Washington resigns his commission as commander-in-chief to the Congress of the Confederation.

1784 January 14: The Treaty of Paris is ratified by Congress and the American Revolutionary War officially ends.
1787 May 25: Elected President of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
1789 Unanimously Elected first President of the United States
1793 Re-elected President of the United States
1797 March: Washington returned to Mount Vernon
1798 July 4: Commissioned Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of the new United States Army to serve as a warning to France, with which war seemed imminent.
1799 December 14: Died at Mount Vernon at the age of 67. He arranged for his slaves to be freed in his last will and testament.

Whether or not Washington was wearing a uniform, he possessed strength of character as well as of leadership that invested his presence with greater authority and credibility than did anyone else at that time. Yes, he was one of the tallest of all the leaders - including the British - but he earned respect and trust in ways and to the same extent that Napoleon later did, although a foot shorter than Washington. Such stature cannot be measured in terms of height. This is what Henry Lee III had in mind when presenting a resolution to the United States House of Representatives on the death of Washington, December, 1799: "To the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens."

As Edward Larson concludes in the Epilogue, "Washington was as indispensable to America during these middle years [i.e. 1783-1789] as before or after them. During that pivotal phase of the country's development, he laid the foundation for the Constitution, the government, and the sacred union of states and people that has lasted for more than 225 years and promises to continue long into the future."

Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)
Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the exponential organization (ExO) paradigm is sustainable but only if...., Jan. 7 2015
The term "gazelle" was coined by the economist David Birch. His identification of gazelle companies followed from his 1979 report titled "The Job Generation Process" (MIT Program on Neighborhood and Regional Change), wherein he identified small companies as the biggest creators of new jobs in the economy. In 1994, however, Birch revised his thesis, isolating job-creating companies he called "gazelles." Characterized less by size than by rapid expansion, Birch defined the species as enterprises whose sales doubled every four years. By his estimates, these firms, roughly 4% of all U.S. companies, were responsible for 70% of all new jobs. The gazelles beat out the elephants (like Walmart) and the mice (corner barbershops). When you hear politicians say, "Small businesses create most of the new jobs," they're really talking about young and growing firms. They are talking about gazelles.

As Salim Ismail explains in his eponymous book, an exponential organization (ExO) "is one whose impact (or output) is disproportionately large -- at least 10 times larger -- than its peers because of the use of new organizational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies."

These are its core values, accompanied by my brief annotations:

1. Information Accelerates Everything: But be certain that the information is correct, relevant, and sufficient.
2. Drive to Democratization: True, at least in terms of opportunity and access but establish a meritocratic rewards system.
3. Disruption Is the New Norm: Again true, but meanwhile, remember that revenue pays the bills
4. Beware the "Expert": Wisdom is eternal but expertise must accommodate the work to be done now.
6. Smaller Beats Bigger: Unless the subject is profits. I do agree that not all growth is progress.
7. Rent, Don't Own: This creates options and alternatives while minimizing fixed, depreciating costs.
8. Trust Beats Control and Open Beats Closed: Trust lubricates mutually beneficial collaboration.
9. Everything Is Measurable and Anything Is Knowable: That is true more often than not but not absolute.

Here are the six characteristics of exponential leadership, accompanied by Ismail's comments:

1. Visionary Customer Advocate. "If customers see their needs and desires being attended to at the highest levels, they are much more willing to persevere through the chaos and experimentation that often happens with exponential growth."

2. Data-driven Experimentalist: "To create order out of high-speed chaos requires a process-oriented approach that is ultimately nimble and scalable."

3. Optimistic Realist: "Leaders able to articulate a positive outcome through any scenario, even downside scenarios, will be able to help maintain objectivity within their teams."

4. Extreme Adaptability: "As a business scales and its activities morph, so too must its management...Constant learning is critical to staying on the exponential curve."

5. Radical Openness: "While many [most?] leaders and their organizations ignore most of the criticism and suggestions [from within and beyond], creating an open channel to the crowd [outside of the given C-Suite] and the mechanisms to determine signal from noise can provide new perspectives and solutions, allowing access to whole new layers of innovation."

6. Hyper-Confident: "Two of the most important personality traits for an exponential leader to have are the courage and perseverance to learn, adapt and ultimately, disrupt the given business."

In my opinion, after only a few modifications, these are also the defining characteristics of those who lead small-to-midsize companies as well as those who head divisions, business unites, and even departments in Fortune 100 companies such as those that Ismail examines in Chapter Nine of this book, notably Coca-Cola Company, General Electric, Amazon, Zappos (owned by Amazon), and Google Ventures.

As Ismail explains in Chapter Nine, these forward-looking companies "are implementing the ideas discussed in the previous chapter ["ExOs for Large Organizations"]. Some are building ExOs at their edges; some are acquiring or investing in ExOs in their current market space; still others are implementing ExO Lite [see Pages 228-239].

Long ago, Ezra Pound urged aspiring writers to "make it new." I was again reminded of that challenge as I noted the reference to "new organizations" in this book's subtitle. Salim Ismail urges business leaders not only to make their organizations new but also to make them "ten times better, faster, and cheaper" than their competition. In fact, I presume to suggest that a company's greatest competitor tomorrow will be who it is, what it does, and how it does it today. With organizations as with individuals, most limits are self-imposed.

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World
by Edward Dolnick
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
31 used & new from CDN$ 2.71

5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling account of "a group of scientists who set out to read God's mind" and what they learned,, Jan. 4 2015
Authors of many (most?) of the great works of non-fiction make brilliant use of the basic elements of a narrative. That is certainly true of Edward Dolnick and of The Clockwork Universe. Its setting is London in the 1660s. As for its cast of main characters, they include Robert Boyle, Lord Brouncker, Edmond Halley, Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton, Christopher Wren, and other members of the "The Royal Society," founded in November 1660 when granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II. They and their contemporaries (notably Gottfried Leibnitz) "stood upon the shoulders" of other major "players" in years past, such as Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, and Francis Bacon. The dramatic tension that energizes Dolnick's lively narrative is the result of their struggles to read God's mind. 17th century scientists' perception of God as a mathematician who had written His laws in code. Their task was to find the key. In essence, their efforts serve as this book's plot. Newton serves as the chief protagonist. Dolnick's focus "is largely on the climax of the story, especially Newton's unveiling, in 1687, of his theory of gravitation." But there are also other major breakthroughs and "false trails" that serve as subplots.

As he explains, "at some point in the 1660s, a new idea came into the world. The notion was that the natural world not only follows rough-and-ready patterns but also exact, formal, mathematical laws. Though it looked haphazard and sometimes chaotic, the universe was in fact an intricate and perfectly regulated clock." Nature's laws were vast in range but few in number; God's operating manual filled only a line or two. For example, when Newton learned how gravity works, "he announced not merely a discovery but a 'universal law' that embraced every object in creation...God was a mathematician, seventeenth-century scientists firmly believed. He had written His laws in a mathematical code." Separately and in collaboration, the scientists saw themselves as code breakers.

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer's Market which several merchants offer fresh slices on fruit as samples. In that same spirit, I now provide a few brief excerpts to suggest the thrust and flavor of Dolnick's style.

On the importance and significance of mathematics: "To the Greek way of thinking, the everyday world was a grimy, imperfect version of an ideal, unchanging, abstract one. Mathematics was the highest art because it was the discipline that, more than any other, dealt with eternal truths. In the world of mathematics, nothing dies or decays." (Page43)

On the Royal Society's motto: "Science today is a grand and formal enterprise, but the modern age of science began as a free-for-all. The idea was to see for yourself rather than rely on anyone else's authority. The Royal Society's motto was 'Nullius in Verba,' Latin for, roughly, 'Don't take anyone's word for it,' and early investigators embraced that freedom with something akin to giddiness." (58)

On Aristotle's legacy: "It was Galileo more than any other single figure who finally did away with Aristotle. Galileo's great coup was to show that for once the Greeks had been too cautious. Not only were the heavens built according to a mathematical plan, but so was the ordinary, earthly realm...This was a twofold revolution. First, the kingdom of mathematics suddenly claimed a vast new territory for itself. Second, all those parts of the world that could [begin italics] not [end italics] be described mathematically were pushed aside as not quite worthy of study. Galileo made sure that that no one missed the news. Nature is 'a book written in mathematical characters,' he insisted, and anything that could not be framed in the language of equations was 'nothing but a name.'" (93 and 94)

On relativity: "Galileo not only defended Copernicus against his critics but, in the course of making his argument, devised a theory of relativity. Three centuries before Einstein's version, Galileo's theory proved nearly as hard for common sense to grasp...Nothing is special about a motionless world. Smooth, steady motion looks and feels exactly the same as utter stillness. The strongest argument against Copernicus -- that he began by assuming something that was plainly ridiculous -- was invalid." It is noteworthy that Galileo reached his far-ranging conclusion "by means of the humblest experiments available." (171 and 172)

Today, relativity could be explained by noting that a glass of water on a table in a dining car of a train traveling 200 mph behaves the same as a glass of water on a kitchen table in a residence. In fact, Einstein once observed, "If you can't explain an idea to a six year-old, you really don't understand it."

When concluding his brilliant examination of a group of scientists who set out to read God's mind and what they learned, Dolnick reiterates the fact that, in all the important ways, Newton was not like other men. "Perhaps we would do better to acknowledge the gulf than try to bridge it. At Cambridge, Newton could occasionally be seen standing in the courtyard, staring at the ground, drawing diagrams in the gravel with a stick. Eventually he would retreat indoors. His fellow professors did not know what the lines represented, but they stepped carefully around them, to avoid hindering the work of the lonely genius struggling to decifer God's codebook."

This is one of very few books in recent years that, as I reached the final chapter when reading it for the first time, I regretted that it would soon end. Now on to Edward Dolnick's previously published works.

George Washington: Gentleman Warrior
George Washington: Gentleman Warrior
by Stephen Brumwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.08
25 used & new from CDN$ 6.16

5.0 out of 5 stars "George Washington was one of the few in the whole history of the world who was not carried away by power." Robert Frost, Jan. 3 2015
Whenever appropriate, I read two or three books in combination if they share several subjects in common and that is certainly true of this book, read with Jack Kelly's Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence and Edward Larson's The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789. I highly recommend all three.

As Stephen Brumwell explains, “George Washington’s military experiences fell into two distinct phases separated by a long interlude in which he retired from soldiering to follow the life 0of a gentleman farmer and politician. During the first phase, Washington was a soldier of the king, often fighting alongside units of the British Army but failing in his quest to secure a Crown commission in a regular regiment; during the second, he led the armed struggle against the same military institution that had apparently spurned him, seeking to exploit all that he had earlier learned of its strengths and weaknesses. This book reflects the pattern. It argues that whatever else he might have been – surveyor, farmer, politician, elder statesman – and despite appearances, George Washington was first and foremost a soldier; his colossal status rested upon the twin pillars of his character, the gentleman and the warrior.”

Here is an abbreviated timeline of possible interest and value to those who read this review:

1732 February 22: George Washington born in Popes Creek Plantation, Westmoreland County, Virginia
1749 Appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County, Virginia
1753 Left Mount Vernon to serve with rank of major in Virginia regiment during French & Indian War (1754-58)
1776: July: Declaration of Independence; Washington appointed General and Commander-in-chief of Continental Army.
1779 August 14: A peace plan is approved by Congress stipulating independence and British evacuation of America
1781 October 19: The British army surrenders at Yorktown - a devastating effect on the British
1783 February 4: England officially declares an end to hostilities in America

o September 3: The Treaty of Paris is signed by the United States and Great Britain.
o November 2: George Washington delivers farewell address to the army.
o December 23: Washington resigns his commission as commander-in-chief to the Congress of the Confederation.

1784 January 14: The Treaty of Paris is ratified by Congress and the American Revolutionary War officially ends.
1787 May 25: Elected President of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia
1789 Unanimously Elected first President of the United States
1793 Re-elected President of the United States
1797 March: Washington returned to Mount Vernon
1798 July 4: Commissioned Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of the new United States Army to serve as a warning to France, with which war seemed imminent.
1799 December 14: Died at Mount Vernon at the age of 67. He arranged for his slaves to be freed in his last will and testament.

These are among the hundreds of passages that caught my eye:

o Artistic portrayal of George Washington (Pages 5-8 & 178-179)
o French & Indian War (49-82, 83-117, & 122-153)
o George Washington: Colonel of (original) Virginia Regiment (57-66 & 84-119)
o Monongahela River massacre (77-81)
o George Washington's letters to/from Sally Fairfax (137-138 & 428-429)
o American colonies move toward war with Britain (179-189)
o Siege of Boston (223-225)
o Revolutionary War: New York (226-249)
o Trenton-Princeton Campaign (272-296)
o Battle of Princeton (290-296)
o Revolutionary War: Pennsylvania (297-312 & 316-321)
o Valley Forge (322-325)
o British abandon Philadelphia and head for New York (339-342)
o Revolutionary War: Virginia (386-411)
o British surrender at Yorktown (405-409)
o Final stages of Revolutionary War (411-418)

Brumwell also discusses Washington's relationships that include those with Colonel/Brigadier General/Major General Benedict Arnold (363-366), Major General Edward Braddock (71-72), Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia (116-117), Brigadier/Major General Horatio Gates (317-318, 329-332, & 414-415), John Hancock, (209-210), Lafayette (314-315 & 364-365), Major/Colonel Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee (342-343), John Campbell, Earl of Loudoun (104-109), wife Martha (120-122, 137-138, & 153-154), and Sally Fairfax (74-75 & 137-138). These and other political, military, and personal relationships increase and enrich our understanding of a man, albeit an exceptional man, in human terms as a gentleman warrior rather than as a Rushmorean.

Stephen Brumwell suggests in the final chapter, "George Washington's extraordinary reputation as one of the most celebrated men of his own age, or of any other, can be traced back unerringly to his ambition to become both a gentleman [begin italics] and [a warrior: it was the gradual fusion of those traits that ultimately forged such a formidably balanced fighter."

People Tools for Business
People Tools for Business
by Alan Fox
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.76
34 used & new from CDN$ 4.67

5.0 out of 5 stars "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." Yogi Berra, Dec 19 2014
Here are 50 strategies ("hammers") that can drive initiatives ("tactics") to help individuals as well as organizations to "build success, create wealth, and find happiness," however defined. Each of the 50 is anchored in a real-world context involving real people coping with real issues. None of the strategies is a head-snapper, nor does Alan Fox make any such claim. However, all of them stress one or more core values that are essential to personal growth and professional development as well as organizational health and prosperity.

I agree with Warren Buffett: "Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy."

My own take on the material in People Skills for Business is that the 50 strategies can be condensed in the form of five essentials:

1. Being respected and trusted as well as liked always trumps being brilliant, always being right."

2. No one and nothing is insignificant but in almost any situation, degree of relevance must be carefully considered.

3. Set your priorities or someone else will.

4. Always tell the truth and you'll never contradict yourself.

5. It's not what you say, it's what you do to convince others how much you care about them.

Were I younger and more flexible in my current situation, I would jump at the opportunity to found and then build a company with Alan Fox. He comes across in this book as a thoughtful, caring, shrewd, wise, prudent, passionate, and perhaps most important of all, her seems to possess highly developed emotional intelligent.

His thoughts about leadership again remind me of a passage in Lao-tse's Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

With all due respect to the importance of "people tools," I presume to suggest that they will be of little (if any) value to any leader unless the use of them is motivated by a sincere and tenacious commitment to help others to achieve personal growth and professional development. Only then will leaders prove worthy of those entrusted to their care.

An American in London: Whistler and the Thames
An American in London: Whistler and the Thames
by Margaret F. MacDonald
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 71.83
16 used & new from CDN$ 71.83

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant examination of a great artist, his major works, and his unique relationships with London and the Thames, Dec 19 2014
Until recently, I knew very little about James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903) and a younger contemporary painter, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923). Then I attended an exhibition of Sorolla's magnificent works at the Meadows Museum in Dallas and purchased a copy of Sorolla and America, compiled by Blanca Pons Sorolla and Mark A. Roglán. Later, I obtained a copy of An American in London: Whistler and the Thames, compiled by Margaret MacDonald and Patricia de Montfort. Frankly, given the aesthetic and contextual quality of both volumes, the term "compiler" seems wholly inadequate. For me at least, the two men and their art have been brought to life by those entrusted with that challenge. Bravo!

I am grateful to history.com for this biographical information: James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born on July 11, 1834, in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was educated in St. Petersburg, Russia, then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Establishing himself as a painter in Paris and London, Whistler developed his distinctive style, utilizing muted colors and simple forms. His masterpiece is largely credited as "Whistler's Mother" ("Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1"). Whistler died in 1903. His work later provided the inspiration for Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890).

Visitors to the Amazon website learn that, in the 1860s and 1870s, Whistler produced a body of work based on Battersea Bridge, London. Pivotal to his career, this beautiful group of paintings permits a detailed examination of his approach to composition, subject and technique. The earliest pieces, notably Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge, produced soon after his arrival in London, mark one of his most profound and successful challenges to the art establishment of the time and his influence on the aesthetics of the day. This comprehensive and handsomely illustrated study presents the definitive examples of Whistler's radical new approach to the time-honored subject of the city and river. The works reveal to us Whistler's world – the exhibitions, personalities, buildings, style and atmosphere which inform his art and root this American cosmopolitan securely in the ranks of noted artists inspired by London and the Thames.

With regard to this volume, there are several reasons why I think so highly of what MacDonald and de Montfort provide. Here are three. First, the book’s production values are outstanding. The reproductions of Whistler’s works come about as close as possible to suggesting (not duplicating) the visual impact when seeing them in person. I also greatly appreciate the inclusion of photographs, etchings, and works by other artists that expand and enrich even more the sequence of my favorites among Whistler's major works, including "The Last of Old Westminster" (1862), "Wapping" (1860-64), "Symphony in White No. 2: The Little White Girl" (1864), "Caprice in Purple and Gold: The olden Screen" (1864), "Noctunre: Grey and Gold -- Westminster Bridge" (1874/75), and "Nocturne: Blue and Gold -- Old Battersea Bridge" (1872/73).

My second reason has to do with the high quality of the text. For those such as I who previously knew little (if anything) about Whistler and especially his years in London, the Introduction, MacDonald's "Whistler and the Thames," de Montfort's "'Painting river pictures': Whistler's Chelsea subjects," and the narrative within the sequence of chapters provide a superb introduction to and a remarkably lucid explanation of the life and work of one of the greatest artists during the past 100 years.

Also, Margaret MacDonald and Patricia de Montfort display highly developed skills of world-class anthropologists as they create a context, a frame-of-reference, for a major artist and his work during one of the most exciting periods in a great city's cultural life. For non-scholars such as I, An American in London offers a combination of biographical and historical material with a generous selection of illustrations that bring to life both an artist and his art. Bravo!

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 45.00
38 used & new from CDN$ 1.15

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To borrow a phrase from Carl Sandburg, here are U.S. politics during the golden age "with the lid off", Dec 19 2014
I agree with Bill Keller and his observation, in a review of this book for The New York Times, that Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest book, as did her previous Team of Rivals, serves as a time machine in which a reader can travel back to the turn of the 20th century, to a time when this country had politicians of stature and conscience, when the public believed that government could right great wrongs, when, before truncated attention spans, a 50,000-word exposé of corruption could sell out magazines and galvanize a reluctant Congress. The villains seemed bigger, too, or at least more brazen -- industrial barons and political bosses who monopolized entire industries, strangled entire cities. And "change" was not just a slogan. "There are but a handful of times in the history of our country," Goodwin writes in her introduction, "when there occurs a transformation so remarkable that a molt seems to take place, and an altered country begins to emerge."

Actually, although she set out to write only one book, about the rise and fall of the Progressive Party, she ended up writing several: her discussion of that period but an analysis of what is frequently referred to as the "Golden Age of Journalism" and of the two figures that dominated that period, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Goodwin does indeed have an ambitious undertaking. Besides the two principals, her cast includes their adored wives -- Edith Roosevelt (literary and reclusive, a brake on her impetuous husband) and Nellie Taft (politically aware and astute, a goad to her chronically circumspect husband); they are treated not just as first ladies but as essential partners in and insightful commentators on the careers of their mates. There is also a colorful cast of industrialists, labor leaders, political rivals, cabinet members and, especially, fired-up journalists. Goodwin directs her characters with precision and affection, and the story comes together like a well-wrought novel.

In the 1890s, as now, there was a growing preoccupation with economic inequality. Then, as now, the liveliest political drama played out within a bitterly divided Republican Party. But back then the Republican insurgents were progressives, among them Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, challenging the party's long defense of laissez-faire and building a federal regulatory apparatus. Now, as William Howard Taft's great-grandson pointed out in a recent Op-Ed lament, the Republican insurgents champion "bomb-throwing obstructionism" and "empty nihilism" in an effort to dismantle the regulatory machinery the progressives constructed. I am reminded of one of Heraclitus' observations that everything changes, nothing changes.

The golden age Goodwin describes was, probably inevitably, short-lived. The success of McClure's and Collier's and the other premier investigative publications inspired many imitators who were more strident and less conscientious about their reporting. A "national fatigue with the ubiquitous literature of exposure" set in.

And the crusading journalists gradually became disillusioned by their hero. The disenchantment was mutual. "His exasperation with the proliferation of increasingly sensational and shoddily investigated exposure journalism had been slowly building," Goodwin writes. In 1906 Roosevelt vented his anger in a speech at the annual Gridiron Dinner, castigating the new journalists for ignoring success and inflaming public passions. (It was this speech that popularized the term "muckrakers," which the journalists later adopted as a badge of honor.) The next morning Steffens called on the president. "Well," he said, "you have put an end to all these journalistic investigations that have made you."

Judge for yourself whether or not that is true. In fact, read the book and then formulate your own opinions about a cast of compelling characters and their complicated interrelationships during one of the most turbulent - and exciting - periods in U.S. history.

A Year With Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks Of Coaching For Leadership Effectiveness
A Year With Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks Of Coaching For Leadership Effectiveness
by Joseph A Maciariello
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.19
35 used & new from CDN$ 12.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How would you like to have Peter Drucker as your personal advisor for the next twelve months?, Dec 18 2014
What we have in this remarkable volume are 52 entries -- one per week during the thematic framework of a calendar year -- subdivided into 13 major business topic categories. As Joseph Maciariello explains, "Each topic has important contributions to make in helping you become an effective [or more effective] leader. Some entries are unexpected examples and applications from organizations that may surprise you, but they are all important to Drucker's worldview, and to his principles of management." Readers will cherish his provision of "Summary of Drucker's Principles" (Pages 414-433). I agree with him: "Effective leadership is a practice, and like every other practice is mastered through an iterative process of learning and doing and learning more." Obviously, both Drucker and Maciariello agree with Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

I have read all of Drucker's books and reviewed most of them as well as dozens of his articles. I cannot think of another person who is better qualified than Maciariello is to produce a book such as this. With all due respect to his close and lengthy relationship with Drucker, he is an eminent thought leader and educator in his own right. In my opinion, the best way to view this book -- and derive greatest benefit from it -- is to view it as the equivalent of having Drucker as a personal advisor for twelve months. My guess (only a guess) is that most readers will first check out the table of contents, "Lessons Learned" (Pages 401-413) and then the Appendix before proceeding to whatever material that is of most relevant to their current or imminent needs, interests, concerns, etc. Maciariello is best viewed as a personal "tour guide" to that material. The order in which the material is presented -- Weeks 1-52 -- is much less important than the information, insights, and counsel to which Maciariello provides access.

Let's say, a reader needs to sharpen focus on what is most important rather than on what is urgent. Drucker's advice is provided in Weeks (Chapters) Six and Seven. Here's a sample:

o "Effective leaders I have met...did not start off with the question, 'What do I want?' They started off with the question, '[begin italics] What needs to be done? [end italics]'"

o The best proof that the danger of overpruning [eliminating urgent activities] is a bugaboo is the extraordinary effectiveness so often attained by severely ill or severely handicapped people."

o "So we start always with the long range, and then we feed back and say, What do we [begin italics] do today [end italics]?"

I commend Maciariello on his skillful use of an organizing principle for each of the 13 major business topic categories: Introduction, Read, Reflect, and Practicum-Prompts, with relevant observations by Drucker and others strategically inserted within the narrative. Throughout all of the Drucker books and articles that I have read, the emphasis is always on determining through real-world experience what works, what does, and why. He also insists on the importance of maintaining two perspectives: One on objectives to be achieved, and meanwhile, another on what be done now, today, this moment. "A manager must, so to speak, keep his nose to the grindstone while lifting his eyes to the hills -- quite an acrobatic feat." It is indeed.

With the imminent arrival of another New Year, I think many executives will welcome Peter Drucker's companionship as they proceed into an uncertain future, one during which disruptive change will occur faster and with greater frequency than at any prior time that I can remember. They will keep this book near at hand and in active use. And they will be grateful to Joseph Maciariello for enabling them, with Drucker's guidance, to embrace the challenges that await.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20