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The Greats On Leadership: Classic Wisdom for Modern Managers

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You don’t need a big title or a business degree in order to lead with impact. What you need is practical the insight, judgment, and strength of character that all great leaders have, but that most business schools and corporate workshops don’t teach. The Greats on Leadership gets you there.

Jocelyn Davis takes you on an in-depth tour of the best leadership ideas of the past 25 centuries, featuring classic authors from Plato to Winston Churchill, Shakespeare to Jane Austen, C.G. Jung to Peter Drucker, and many more. In a style both thought-provoking and entertaining, she shows how history’s great writers have always been, and still are, the real leadership gurus.

Davis spells out the behaviors that distinguish true leaders from misleaders and covers 20 specific leadership topics,

* Leadership Traps (Shakespeare)
* Change (Machiavelli)
* Power (Sophocles)
* Dilemmas (Madison, Hamilton)
* Communication (Lincoln, Pericles)
* Personality Types (Jung)
* Motivation (Frankl)
* Judgment (Maupassant, Melville, Austen, Shaw)
* Character (Churchill, Plutarch, Shelley, Joyce)

Each chapter begins with a synopsis of a great work by the author and then draws out the key leadership insights, weaving them together with business examples, the best contemporary research, and tools to help put it all into practice.

In the last two chapters Davis presents a new way to think about leadership levels, framing them in terms of the impact you have rather than the title on your business card.

Whether you’re a recent graduate or MBA searching for something more inspiring than the standard textbook, a new manager looking for something deeper than the typical how-to book, or an experienced executive seeking ideas to lift you to the next level, this remarkably readable and practical guide will set you on the road to becoming a great leader.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published April 12, 2016

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Jocelyn Davis

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Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews
1 review1 follower
June 15, 2016
This was an excellent book! In fact, I had trouble putting it down. The author brilliantly uses
the classic stories of "the greats" in history to clearly and humorously teach us what it means to be an effective leader. I found it completely relevent, useful, and not just for those desiring a position in a leadership role. Ultimately it's about the art of living. A triumph!
Profile Image for Rebekah.
7 reviews
October 1, 2019
“The Greats on Leadership” (published on May 19, 2016) is a marvelous book. It is a nonfiction book that expounds the art of leadership through the voice of the classics. I was initially interested in this book mainly because Jocelyn Davis, the author, turned to the classics while others explored the “study the science of leadership” on page 11. She got me thinking when she says on page 16, “Better leadership begins with two questions: What are the behaviors that distinguish true leaders from misleaders? And, what are leadership’s most dangerous traps?”

It was very helpful and enjoyable. I also found it pleasing to find planning tools, visuals and graphs, self-assessments, and communication tools in this book because it presents a clearer picture than a few stories and explanations. The book includes, not just classic leaders, but also instances and experiences in the world today, and helps me get an idea of what’s going on in their heads. Jocelyn Davis directs her book to experienced modern managers, which increases the value of this book to that area of readership.

I thought it was interesting Jocelyn Davis compares the modern leaders from the classics, separates authority and power, and dilemmas and problems as two separate things. Not many books I’ve read so far doesn’t do that at all; they instead talk about motivation, grit, and try to remove doubt. They, in contrast to “The Greats on Leadership” try to provide support and provoke a change of mind of younger, less experienced people, but lack the hidden lessons that modern leaders may still grow from.

I’d recommend it to adults as well as teenagers. It is mind opening and a deep read. Overall, thank you for this wonderful book.

October 1, 2017
Must Read for CXO and those who arw or will ne Leaders

It got me thinking . The book conectarte the great books with leadership lessons. I read some of chapters again and again
Profile Image for Alexandru.
225 reviews10 followers
May 10, 2018
All books about leadership are a bit reprtative, using similar words - virtue, trust, team, character - and so on. So you'll find them here as well. But for young people the book can be inspiring. Honestly I am not a fan of this format - using fiction - to prove specific points. I would prefer real life cases. At the same time I really enjoyed a number of chapters from the book - on culture, motivation, dilemmas, cognitive biases and certainly everything on the mistakes leaders make, because when you have some management experience you care about errors and ways to minimise their effects.

The book is recommended for young, inexperienced managers and people that are looking to improve their leadership style, although the style of the book is rather general and romantic
Profile Image for Pensioner.
50 reviews
September 12, 2022
A very good leadership book, the weaving of classical philosophy with modern examples helps one think and reflect upon what leadership means. I like the end when an interviewer asks the writer how did your philosophy degree help you in writing this book...

Should universities continue teaching liberal arts or we stick to professional degrees? Liberal arts it is...
Profile Image for Vladimir Chupakhin.
121 reviews4 followers
April 18, 2018
I have mixed impression on this book. The main message: there is a lot we can learn from the Philosophy and Liberal Arts. It's indeed true, and author gave nice examples, yet some of them are really far-fetched.
Overall interesting, but can be much shorter.
70 reviews1 follower
March 7, 2019
This is among the top 3 for books I’ve ever read on the subject of organizational leadership.
Profile Image for Robert.
191 reviews3 followers
March 10, 2019
I enjoyed learning the facts of the examples used for 'classic wisdom', but I didn't enjoy the lessons as much.

So, interesting as a read, but not so much as a manager's help book.
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