Book Review: Eyewitness to Power

Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership Nixon to Clinton

This book was a recommendation from John Maxwell for anyone who loves communication, leadership, and history. After reading this book, I am so glad he recommended it. I would have never read this book in a thousand years if I hadn’t had it recommended.

David Gergen was a speech writer in the White House for four presidents: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. This book is a look into each of those men’s lives and leadership. This was one of the most fascinating books I have read. Imagine being able to watch the most powerful man on the planet lead up close. This book is as close as a lot of us will ever get.

Some of the lessons I learned from each President were:

Nixon: No matter how smart and talented you are, if you are not bigger on the inside than you are on the outside, and you lack integrity, it will come back to haunt you.

Ford: The first 100 days of any leadership position are the most important days you’ll lead. Make your word matter. Be comfortable with yourself enough to surround yourself with people smarter than you!

Reagan: Courage matters in leadership. Connecting with people when you communicate is essential to getting their buy in. Optimism is contagious. It is a leaders job to instill hope in the people they lead.

Clinton: If you are the leader, lead. Integrity is everything.

This book is a must read. Get it now!

Buy it here:

Some Highlights (To view the rest of my highlights, go here!

  • One of the first lessons about public life, I discovered, is to choose your mentors wisely.
  • De Gaulle also helped Nixon see that people want more out of life than material gain. They aspire to higher purposes, and a leader who can summon them to something beyond themselves can touch off revolutionary changes.
  • Nixon’s downfall was living proof of a cardinal rule: leadership starts from within.
  • de Gaulle: “Nothing great is done without great men, and these are great because they willed it.”
  • One of the most important exercises of public accountability by a president is an open press conference. There are no other occasions when his constituents can hear him answer questions posed by independent monitors.
  • early in a public career, a young person should either sign up with a bright, shining star who can serve as a mentor—in effect, become a tail to someone else’s kite—or join a highly professional, dynamic organization that hones one’s skills.
  • Recent history suggests that the true significance of the First Hundred Days is this: they are the most precious time in the life of a president to define who he is and what he is seeking to achieve through his leadership.
  • Reagan wasn’t just comfortable in his own skin. He was serene. And he had a clear sense of what he was trying to accomplish. Those were among his greatest strengths as a leader. Nobody had to tell him those things.
  • What no one could plan, his display of courage, became indispensable to his leadership.
  • History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.
  • that leaders must inspire people with confidence in the future. Only if he truly believes in the future himself will his followers make the leap and join him. Optimism is contagious.
  • THE MOST MEMORABLE PRESIDENTS of the twentieth century have been excellent communicators. Teddy Roosevelt invented the bully pulpit to drive the country forward. Woodrow Wilson’s speeches are some of the finest expressions of idealism and of democratic sentiment ever voiced by a political leader. Franklin Roosevelt gave hope and light to millions of downtrodden Americans with his fireside chats. John F. Kennedy, the first president elected through television, turned it into a magic wand. And then there was Reagan.
  • As Winston Churchill once wrote, “Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.”
  • Reagan spent over four thousand hours appearing before factory workers, civic associations, and business groups. On average, that works out to be roughly ten hours a week for eight consecutive years.
  • One thing he cannot do is dither. A president must be able to make decisions without hesitation on his own and then, like Harry Truman after he decided to drop the atomic bomb, go home and sleep well at night. He is the only one under our constitutional order who has that awesome responsibility.
  • Had there been no Hillary in his life, I doubt there would have been a White House, either.
  • As a friend said to me, sadly, “Bill Clinton would have been a great president if he had not been who he was.”
  • FDR was ambitious, just like Clinton, but he overcame his narcissism. Clinton has not fully done that. While superb at putting himself into others’ shoes, Clinton has viewed too many people as instruments for his own advancement.
  • Clinton had grasped the helm, but because he lacked an inner compass, he had neither a course nor a port that remained firm.
  • Reflecting on his presidency, I believe Clinton was elected too early for his own good. That night he declared for the presidency and called me at home, in 1991, he did not sound like a man who expected to win.
  • The larger point is that we need to face reality: it’s a lot tougher for anyone to lead the country today than it was in the first half of the twentieth century.
  • The best presidents are ones who surround themselves with the best advisers.
  • The point is that the most effective presidents create a living legacy, inspiring legions of followers to carry on their mission long after they are gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *