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Four books on leadership

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar centers on one question: Should Brutus kill his friend, Caesar, to save the Roman Republic? Readers won’t find easy answers to that question, but they will find clear insight into the nature of leadership, politics, and human fallibility. For instance, in speeches given after Caesar’s death, Brutus appeals to the public good as he seeks to defend the republic. In contrast, Caesar’s protégé, Mark Antony, wins public sentiment with a “bread and circuses” approach. Civil war and roughly 500 years of tyranny follow, making this an eye-opening cautionary tale. For a good introduction, see the PBS Shakespeare Uncovered treatment. 

John Adams by David McCullough: First published in 2001, John Adams won author McCullough his second Pulitzer Prize. As in his other books, McCullough stays close to his source material, quoting extensively from letters, diaries, and speeches. He humanizes Adams by focusing on close relationships, including his stabilizing marriage to Abigail Adams and his strained friendship with Thomas Jefferson. One of McCullough’s qualities is his willingness to investigate unflattering truths, such as Adams’ hard-heartedness toward a wayward son and Jefferson’s treatment of his slave Sally Hemings. He does miss one important point: McCullough presents Adams as a Christian throughout the book, ignoring his later drift into Unitarianism. Even so, this biography offers a moving portrait of an extraordinary leader and American Founder. 

Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Loritts: What qualities define a Christ-centered leader? In this 200-page book, Pastor Crawford Loritts identifies four traits—brokenness, uncommon communion, servant­hood, and immediate obedience. As he explores each one, Loritts traces God’s pattern in molding Biblical heroes like Moses and David. For Loritts, godly leadership depends not on human power or accolades but assignments from God. When God wants something done, He calls leaders to accomplish His purpose. He then purifies those He calls, crushing their pride and conforming them to His image. Godly leaders serve out of that new identity, he writes: “The authority to lead is developed and cultivated not by power and prominence but rather through acts of service from a sincere humble heart.”

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Austen finished her last novel, Persuasion, just before she died in 1817. In it, she describes a woman much like herself—intelligent, warm-hearted, and disappointed early in matters of love. Unlike Austen, this heroine gets a second chance to find happiness. As the story opens, handsome Capt. Wentworth arrives home with a fortune made at sea. Years prior, Anne’s elders persuaded her to decline Wentworth’s advances. But was she right to follow their advice? In Austen’s novels, lasting happiness can’t exist apart from virtue. Anne must learn to rightly value the leadership of her elders, weighing societal convention against true maturity. Characters remain underdeveloped at times, and Austen ties up some loose ends too quickly. That said, she writes with wit and humor, providing an enjoyable read.