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What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? That is the fundamental question underlying The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. The book illustrates that great leaders become great through conscious effort—a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command

examines each figure’s strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history. Laver and Matthews have assembled a list of contributors from military, academic, and professional circles, which allows the book to encompass diverse approaches to the study of leadership.

Harry S. Laver is assistant professor of history and political science at Southeastern Louisiana University. He is the author of Citizens More Than Soldiers: The Kentucky Militia and Society in the Early Republic.

Jeffrey J. Matthews is associate professor of business and leadership at the University of Puget Sound. He is the author of Alanson B. Houghton: Ambassador of the New Era.

"The Art of Command makes a significant contribution to scholarship on leadership, especially military leadership, that will stand for many years. Professors Laver and Matthews have assembled an impressive slate of contributors whose intimacy with their subject is clearly evident in each of the essays contained in this volume. The traits of leadership discussed in these essays are as essential to leaders in all walks of life as they have proved to be to those who serve in the armed forces of this great Republic." --Terrance J. Winschel, historian, Vicksburg National Park

"This collection of essays identifies and illuminates the dominant characteristics of America's most successful--and most innovative--military leaders. Each chapter connects the traits of these extraordinary men to the particular challenges they faced through well-researched, compelling, and intriguing vignettes. Their stories, unified by the thread of historical continuity, are freshly presented to portray nine fascinating and idiosyncratic individuals who endowed the nation with exemplary vision, tenacity, achievement, and devotion to duty."--Vice Admiral Kevin P. Green, U.S. Navy, Retired

"Interesting, insightful, inspirational. Should be a must-read for aspiring leaders."--Admiral Hank Chiles, USN (retired), former professor of leadership, U.S. Naval Academy

Those who have a lifelong passion for the profession of arms will enjoy reading this new book. It demonstrates the complexities and the many external and internal variables that go into developing a leader." --Cmdr. Youseff Aboul-Enein, NDA Waterline

"With good footnotes and a list of recommended reading increasing its value, this fits into most military history and leadership/management collections." --Library Journal

"The traits of leadership discussed in these essays are as essential to leaders in all walks of life as they have proved to be to those who serve in the battalion of this great Republic." --Terrance J. Winschel,

"The editors have garnered essays on a carefully selected group of distinguished military leaders that hone in on a specific characteristic of the individual’s command style...tells the reader about how each man functioned and met the challenges of his particular environment. Together these essays form a pattern of leadership descriptions that represent the best of the art of command." --Journal of America's Military Past

"Truly insightful...this engaging work makes Art of Command an indispensible guide on leadership at both the tactical and operational entertaining yet applicable tool." --On Point

"Despite differences in the types of command that each man held, what emerges from these essays is the importance of character and their mastery of their craft as critical determinants of their success." --NYMAS

"Art of Command excels. The reader can follow each leader from inauspicious beginnings to greatness in the course of a short story that chronicles the development of a particular quality in that leader." --Marine Corps University Journal

The art of command is a well researched and documented collection of historically grounded essays that provide fresh insight into the lives and careers of some of America's most formidable military figures. Highly recommended.

“A useful and enlightening selection of leaders. A lot can be learned from these analyses.” --Baird Maritime

“Each chapter is devoted to a particular aspect or style of leadership and to a military leader exemplifying the theme. A sample: integrity and leadership (George Washington); determination (Ulysses S. Grant); institutional leadership (George C. Marshall); adaptive leadership (Harold G. ‘Hal’ Moore); and exemplary followership (Colin L. Powell), among others.” --Book News, Inc.

"Laver and Matthews have created a guide that will help every reader discern the traits that make an effective leader, from the battlefield and beyond." -- The Lone Star Book Review

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Generals, Admirals, Command of troops, Armed Forces, Military history, United States


Military History

The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell
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