Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (Penguin Press, 2004) is the historical biography that business executives should turn to if they wish to learn what leadership is really about. Unique among the historians who write about politics in early America, Chernow has a profound knowledge of management and finance, and this fine book offers business readers a detailed analysis of how a “numbers man” with the greatest leadership potential of his era derailed his own career. Hamilton was quite possibly the United States’ finest civil servant, but he never achieved his goal of the presidency. The unraveling of his career is an object lesson in how not to lead.
…But Chernow’s book isn’t just about how not to lead. The hero of this biography of Hamilton turns out to be George Washington, the leader you would follow into battle and trust to sire your new nation. Washington, who “consulted much, pondered much, resolved slowly, resolved surely,” was no match for Hamilton intellectually, but he had unerringly good instincts and impeccable judgment. Chernow describes how Washington united a divided nation under the worst of circumstances, and channeled Hamilton’s self-destructive behavior into invaluable service for the fledgling nation. Indeed, there is a useful leadership lesson on almost every page of this remarkable biography. [strategy+business Annotation]