cover image Leadership in War: Essential Lessons from Those Who Made History

Leadership in War: Essential Lessons from Those Who Made History

Andrew Roberts. Viking, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-52238-6

This underdeveloped history by Roberts (Churchill: Walking with Destiny) adapts a series of lectures in which he examined the lives of nine wartime leaders: Napoleon Bonaparte, Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Charles DeGaulle, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Margaret Thatcher. Roberts believes “there are certain definable principles and leadership techniques that are eternal,” but the short biographical sketches don’t convincingly support that conclusion. The chapter on Horatio Nelson, for example, details his early years rising through the naval ranks, his infamous extramarital romantic escapades with Emma Hamilton, and his daring, and fatal, heroism at the Battle of Trafalgar; then it closes with a laundry list of leadership assets (including “have a treasury back home prepared to finance the organization of the fantastically expensive operations”) without providing strong connections between them and the preceding narrative. The book closes with a synthesizing chapter that presents wide-ranging conclusions about qualities important for leadership, ranging from the typical (a strong memory) to the odd (the “overlap between successful war leadership and literary ability”). This survey is probably too cursory and superficial to reward readers who want to know more about these leaders. (Oct.)