January 16, 2009

Book review: The Power of Four: Leadership Lessons of Crazy Horse (Joseph M. Marshall III)

This new book from Joseph Marshall examines the qualities of effective leadership, as exemplified by the legendary Lakota Native American, Crazy Horse, who along with others, were able to lead their people through some of the most difficult times the Lakota Nation faced.  Marshall offers effective political and social commentary that while “in your face” at times, nonetheless possesses a great deal of truth.  According to Marshall, effective leadership can be summed up in four basic principles: Know Yourself, Know Your Friends, Know the Enemy, and Lead the Way.  On the surface, these maxims seem self-evident, yet Marshall takes them in a different direction, particularly Know the Enemy which tends more towards social commentary than military.  The enemy, from the point of view of the book, isn’t the threat of terrorism or war, but the social issues of things like poverty, hunger, racism and their causes.  Not unlike so many other social activists, Marshall advocates that if those we call our leaders were to effectively address these overriding problems, then many of our other external threats would be ameliorated.  Interestingly, while Crazy Horse was best known for his prowess in battle, his skills as a military warrior are not the focus of the book, nor does Marshall feel that they should be the focus of any discussion of Crazy Horse’s life, preferring instead to focus on his achievements off of the battlefield, where his leadership skills were most clearly built and demonstrated.  Marshall’s exploration of leadership versus authority is a study of character, something he feels the average politician sorely lacks due to owing too much to those who fund their campaigns or otherwise contribute to their ascension to power.  While he does admit that a politician can be a leader, he feels too many of them aren’t, and while acknowledging that he does not have an alternative, he suggests that perhaps society would be best served by rethinking the selection process of our elected officials as a means to find the best qualified leaders as opposed to the most willing politicians.  Marshall’s writing style is graceful and elegant without being stiff or unapproachable, and as with his other works, The Power of Four is sure to stimulate reflection and thought, and perhaps even some strong action.  Joseph Marshall will be appearing at the Boulder Bookstore on January 26 to speak and sign The Power of Four.  The Power of Four is published by Sterling Publishing and is available from your local, independent bookseller. (Tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

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