Sunday, October 07, 2007

From the Battlefield to the Boardroom

... and thence to the bookshelf. I just finished reading this thinnish paperback book, which I first saw in a large bookstore in Baton Rouge years ago and finally tracked down again at The Reader's Corner in Raleigh about eighteen months ago. This is a volume purporting to explain business management from the biography of Robert E. Lee.

Okay, I love Robert E. Lee, so I was interested.

After a long hiatus, I picked up the book, which I put down half-finished a long time back, and read the last third of it at a gallop. The author quotes extensively from Douglas Southall Freeman's biographies of General Lee, as well as several others. The anthology he creates makes the book worthwhile, to some extent; Freeman is an excellent writer and Lee is a fascinating character.

However, the additional commentary the author adds to try and make it relevant to modern corporate management is frequently unconnected with the biographical incidents it follows, and much of it is platitudinous to the point of nausea. I seem to recall Scott Adams talking about the vacuous content of most management books on the market ... specifically mentioning attempts to wrest historical figures into the world of 21st century corporations.

Recommendation: Never mind this book. Go straight for the Freeman, and draw your own conclusions about applications from Lee's life. Personally, I find biographies of honorable men inspiring enough without the "applications".

UPDATE 10/09/07: I couldn't find the book on Amazon when I posted this, so I checked the cover last night. The author is Bil Holton. Armed with the author's name, I just found the title was changed to From The Battlefield to the Bottom Line; I don't know if the content has changed.

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