Book: Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy

Author: Henry Kissinger

Review by: Shelby Grubbs, an arbitrator, mediator and special master with 45 years of legal experience, who served as the founding director for the Atlanta Center for International Arbitration and Mediation, now Georgia State Arbitration Center.

Shelby Grubbs

In Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy, Henry Kissinger, at 99 years of age, focuses on six influential 20th-century leaders: Conrad Adenauer, Charles De Gaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher. Each, he asserts, was both statesman and visionary, but because they confronted specific circumstances, each deployed a specific strategy.

Pursuing a strategy of “humility,” Adenauer aligned West Germany with the Atlantic alliance and the European project. His humility, Kissinger contends, was key to establishing Germany’s postwar identity as a peaceful powerhouse.

De Gaulle’s was a strategy of “will.” Through force of personality, he imposed a vision of France as a stable post-colonial power, leading the country through the post-war period and a difficult divorce with Algeria.

Kissinger acknowledges Nixonian flaws worthy of a Shakespeare tragedy. Still, he sees Nixon as a brilliant exponent of a strategy of “equilibrium,” a strategy envisioning China as a counterbalance to a then potent Soviet adversary.

Perhaps simultaneously the wiliest and saintliest of the book’s subjects, Sadat’s strategy was one of “transcendence.” It lifted the Egyptian leader from a rough neighborhood with impossibly complex politics to the Nobel Peace Prize.

A strategy of “excellence,” Kissinger contends, transformed Singapore under Lee from a post-colonial backwater with per-capita income of $600 to a thriving international city. Lee insisted on top performance by civil servants and created a community where Confucian values of piety, frugality, harmony and stability animate a multi-ethnic society of Malays, Tamils and Chinese.

Margaret Thatcher’s “strategy of conviction” took her, a grocer’s daughter, to 10 Downing where she confronted labor strife, the Falklands War and the Northern Ireland “troubles.” Under Thatcher, Britain’s political landscape was altered and, perhaps, more importantly its self-image changed for the better.

Leadership is an enjoyable read, enlivened by personal and perceptive anecdotes.

Read Mr. Grubbs’s previous reviews:

Books 2021: Learning the Hero Code From the Celebrated and the Unsung

Books 2019: Truman’s State Department and the Man Who Managed a Volatile Period

Books 2018: Greatest Generation’s Greatest Contribution: Enacting Justice for War Crimes

Books 2017: Western Liberalism Under Threat

Books 2016: A Quest Through Britain’s — and the Author’s — Historical Center

Books 2015: Amorous Anthropologists Star in This Tale on Cross-Cultural Work

Books 2014: Rowing for Gold in Berlin, Inspiring a Generation

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Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010.

See last year’s full list of books on BookShop here, and all 2021 reader picks here.

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