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The Art of Leadership, originally published in 1961 and now published by Pen & Sword Military (2009;

Discussion in 'Biographies and Everything Else' started by dgmitchell, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    When men rise to greatness and have accomplished the great tasks before them, it seems that they inevitably then turn their efforts to writing. When an American president leaves the oval office, one of his first tasks is the organization of his presidential library and the writing of his memoirs. After rising to the pinnacle of business success, men and women seem compelled to share their business philosophies in auto-biographical musings. Even athletes are called upon to offer their views on success when the day comes that they hang up their spikes.

    Soldiers, too, feel the call to become authors and we have a substantial legacy of books from the soldiers of the Second World War. In 1958, Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery released his memoirs to wide acclaim – so much so that he felt compelled to follow his memoirs with The Art of Leadership, originally published in 1961 and now published by Pen & Sword Military (2009; 269 pages). In The Art of Leadership, Monty draws on his lifetime of military experience, friendships with various world leaders and knowledge of world history to present his own conclusions with respect to the nature of strong leadership. At his best, Monty’s commentary is observant, perceptive and candid. Unfortunately, at times he can also display an unmerited bitterness and questionable analysis of those leaders he considers his friends.

    Monty opens The Art of Leadership with general reflections on the nature of leadership. In short, he concludes that “In one short sentence, it is captaincy that counts.” Specifically, it is “[t]he capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose, and the character which will inspire confidence.”

    Monty then broadly explains the characteristics which infuse a good leader: force of character, service to truth, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude . . . . the list goes on. None of the characteristics that Monty espouses are surprising and most would have identified them in their own assessment of leadership.

    Monty goes on to emphasize that a good leader must make decisions and he must be firm in his decisions. The true leader must apply his knowledge of human nature to cause others to follow one’s leadership in executing the decisions that one has made. In this, Monty is a bit of an autocrat and that is borne out in his admiration of several autocratic leaders, including Genghis Khan. It is in the autocratic nature of how a leader should make decisions, at least according to Monty, that readers might disagree with his analysis and his perception of the greatness of the leaders he had known.

    Monty buttresses his assessment of the nature of leadership by presenting several contemporary and historical leaders as examples. He notes the histories of de Gaulle, Nehru, Lincoln, Churchill and Eisenhower. He comments on industrial leadership and youth leadership and military leadership. He acknowledges that his greatest area of experience rests in active military leadership and in the observation of political leadership. Indeed, he tries to be all encompassing in his presentation of leadership as a concept, but it is clear that his form of military leadership is the only form of leadership that he truly embraces.

    For example, Monty is openly critical of Dwight David Eisenhower, who had been appointed as Commander in Chief over Monty during WWII. In particular, Monty views Ike’s attempts to build a consensus among his staff as a weakness and as the type of political leadership that impeded true action. Monty also suggests that the war would have ended in 1944 if he had been in charge.

    Monty’s assessment of Ike is not supported by historical fact. Although Ike did consult with his generals, notably including Monty, Ike made decisions and shouldered the responsibility for those decisions. Indeed, it was Monty who proposed the less than fully successful Operation Market Garden, but it was Ike who approved the plan and who accepted responsibility for its failures after the war. Unlike Monty, Ike understood that collective victory of the Allied cause was his objective, and not personal aggrandizement. Ike also understood that victory could only be won if the competing emotions, perspectives, objectives and biases of each of his generals were considered, appreciated and balanced. In this regard, Ike was a far superior leader than any autocratic general found in history.

    It is interesting to read Monty’s clear connection of leadership to religious belief and to Christianity in particular. He proclaims Jesus Christ as the greatest leader in history and notes that Buddha and Mohammed were both great as well. He also makes an excellent theological point which captures Jesus’ leadership brilliantly. Specifically, Monty reminds us that Christ did not want his disciples to worship him, but to “follow” him. In other words, Christ did not ask his disciples to let him be their God but to let him be their leader. In this Monty raises an excellent point and one to which he easily could have, and should have, devoted more time.

    It is a pity that Monty did not learn more from the example that he notes in his reference to Jesus, because it does seem to Monty’s readers that he wants to be acknowledged as the greatest of leaders instead of merely as a great leader. Monty drops names to aggrandize his position. He criticizes the commanding general of what must be considered the most formidable army fighting the most difficult of wars found in human history. Unfortunately, he forgets that a good leader must also be humble at times, and he would have benefited from a dose of humility in writing The Art of Leadership.

    Notwithstanding Monty’s arrogance, and a pattern of supposition and conjecture which at times infuses his book, The Art of Leadership remains an interesting study of the nature of human leadership through the ages and into the nuclear age. Monty was witness to some of the greatest leadership that human history has produced, and he must be acknowledged as a great leader in his own right. Readers of The Art of Leadership will find Monty’s commentary on leadership to be insightful at times and questionable at other times. Perhaps that is to be expected when one leader is asked to offer a perspective on the people he has known for decades and on philosophies which may at times compete with his own. Perhaps even more significantly, readers of The Art of Leadership will enjoy a wonderful insight into the mind of Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery, and that insight is far more interesting than even the premise of leadership on which Monty based his book.
     
    Jaeger, mikebatzel and urqh like this.
  2. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    if this is your own review dg then you do indeed have a talent.
     
  3. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Thanks, urqh! It is indeed my own.
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Do you mean Montgomery's The Path To Leadership?
     
  5. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Apparently this is an 'expanded version' of the original title. Pen & Sword have a habit of reprinting books with slightly different titles to the originals ( Steinhoff's Straits Of Messina is a good example ).

    At least this time their 'blurb' is honest in saying that this is the first time that Monty's leadership musings have ever been reprinted.....
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Ah. I was just curious as I have an original first edition of the 1961 book....
     
  7. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Yes, TA, you have the original. Mike is correct that Pen & Sword republished under a slightly different name. Note that the omitted chapters on Ike and Churchill are included in this edition.
     
  8. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    well im sold it wasnt on my list but dg s sold it for me.
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I didn't find the original much good. It tends to ramble and Monty is just a little too self-congratulatory for my tastes.
     
  10. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Yes. Monty lacks humility but as a study of Monty, the book is fascinating.
     

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