Leaders, by Richard Nixon


Richard Nixon writes about the leaders he had known, and those who he had personal encounters with. Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Douglas MacArthur, Konrad Adenauer, Nikita Khrushchev and Zhou Enlai are some of these....Of most interest is how Nixon see’s these people and the opinions he offers about them: ones he strongly held from which we learn as much about him about the leaders he discusses.  For example, he said: ''In their personal diplomacy Khrushchev and Brezhnev were like Lyndon Johnson. They felt compelled to reinforce their words with some sort of physical contact. Khrushchev's tactile diplomacy was almost always menacing.

When Brezhnev reached out to touch or grab my arm, he sought to implore, not to bully. But should these gentler means fail to persuade me, Brezhnev could also apply sheer muscle. What struck me most about Brezhnev was his emotional versatility. At one moment he would speak with what seemed to be perfect sincerity about his deep desire to leave a legacy of peace for his grandchildren. In the next he would assert with unequivocal determination his right to control the destinies of other nations all around the world.''

So much is being said in today’s political climate about Nixon, and his response to Watergate, that it is interesting to reread this book and she how differently he saw the rest of the world from the one that was here in the United States at that time. 

Nixon’s said early in the book that managers work with their goal being ‘'to do things right'', compared to leaders whose goal is ''to do the right thing''. He doesn’t tell us how to identify the “right thing” and we are left wondering if this is just a rational way to say the end justifies the mean?

Nixon’s said also that great leaders are those who ''so effectively wielded power on such a grand scale that they significantly changed the course of history for their nations and for the world.'' He seems to admire the results of power but does not have a lot to say about the negative consequences that happened in a grand scale over history.

First published in 1982 this is one of Nixon’s many books worth rereading.

Quotes by Richard Nixon

 "A public man must never forget that he loses his usefulness when he as an individual, rather than his policy, becomes the issue"  

"By the time you get dressed, drive out there, play 18 holes and come home, you've blown seven hours. There are better things you can do with your time"  

"We must always remember that America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people but because of what people did for themselves and for one another." 

"You've got to learn to survive a defeat. That's when you develop character"  

"I wish I could give you a lot of advice, based on my experience of winning political debates. But I don't have that experience. My only experience is at losing them"