David Gergen has served as a White House adviser to four US presidents of both parties: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. Gergen then served as the editor of US News & World Report. For the past two decades, he has served as a professor of public service and founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also a senior political analyst for CNN, where he is a respected voice in national and international affairs.
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- The stories in Hearts Touched with Fire are told within a practical framework that makes it different from other contemporary leadership guides. Section and chapter titles, such as: “Your Inner Journey;” “Your Outer Journey;” “Leadership in Action;” “Surviving the Flaming Crucible;” “The Keys to Resilience;” and “The Art of Public Persuasion” delineate a path for developing courage and character. Gergen concludes the book with a list of 20 key takeaways that highlight the book’s important lessons and a moving, must-read Epilogue, “Answering the Call,” an inspiring section that readers can put into action right now.
- “The nation needs you; indeed, the world needs you. We must have new, forceful leaders who have found their True North and can navigate past the crises that are coming our way. We need passionate idealists who will stand up to those blocking our way toward a more giving and just society. We need men and women of character and honor. In short, we need you to strive valiantly, step up, and enter the arena.”
- “Amidst growing threats to our democracy, one of our best hopes for the future is to prepare rising generations for lives of service and leadership. They have the talent, the grit, and the idealism that can transform the country.”
- As a White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, Gergen gathered invaluable lessons on leadership that he has shared for more than two decades with students at the Harvard Kennedy School. But he has long hoped to write a book that would spread those lessons more widely. In the past few years, that dream has taken on greater urgency, with growing threats to democracy at home and abroad.
- “Who would have believed,” Gergen writes, “that for the first time since the Civil War, we would begin tearing ourselves apart? Who would have imagined that our democracy — and long-standing democratic traditions across the world — might be on the brink of collapse? But here we are. It feels as if we are driving on the side of a cliff in the middle of the night with our lights out. We all know it, but we can’t seem to stop it.”
- As the leader’s inner and outer journeys converge, leadership must be put into action. You do not become a good leader, Gergen says, by studying under a lamp or earning a third or fourth academic degree. You must be “in the arena,” as Theodore Roosevelt famously put it. Gergen explains why leaders must learn to lead in a crisis—making time to prepare when they can, then acting smartly when the crisis hits. Conversely, he also looks at the darkness that can descend when a leader abandons their True North and self-destructs.
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