"As the twenty-first century opens, Gergen argues, a new golden age may be dawning in America, but its realization will depend heavily upon the success of a new generation at the top. Drawing upon all his many experiences in the White House, he offers seven key lessons for leaders of the future. What they must have, he says, are: inner mastery; a central, compelling purpose rooted in moral values; a capacity to persuade; skills in working within the system; a fast start; a strong, effective team; and a passion that inspires others to keep the flame alive."--BOOK JACKET.
One would expect Gergen to praise the various presidents he served with, and he certainly does- he praises Nixon's global strategy, Ford's personal merits, Reagan's skills of communication, and Clinton's ability to develop young party leadership. But the most fascinating parts of the book occur when Gergen uses his experiences with these men to teach the reader a lesson in leadership. Nixon was incapable of controlling the fires that burned within or his own dirty secrets. The so-called "Rogue White House" operated on the premise that sins are only sins if one is caught, and unbeknowst to Gergen or others in the office, Nixon and his associates pushed this premise to the limits. From Nixon, according to the author, we can learn that leaders must be able to have an open dialogue with more of the "higher-up" staff and must possess a basic decency and moral compass.
From Reagan, we can learn that one can be a "Great Communicator," but ultimately a hands-off, low-detail style of management can lead to misinformation, poor decision making, and the inability to effectively represent the adminstration to outsiders such as the media. With Clinton, a failure to effectively gauge the importance of past improprities thorough a proper understanding of the constituency led to a damaged presidency characterized by a lack of public trust.
Gergen gives seven important traits for presidential leaders: integrity, a sense of mission, persuasion, the ability to work with other politicians, a strong start, skilled advisers, and the ability to inspire. These traits work for many professions, so this book has influence much greater than just in the political realm. An excellent political history and leadership lesson.