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A brilliant and novel examination of how Abraham Lincoln mastered the art of leadership “Gerhardt has devised an ingenious solution for demystifying America’s most enigmatic president: examining the key people who influenced Lincoln as he developed his own unique skills and leadership style.” –Russell L. Riley, UVA’s Miller Center In 1849, when Abraham Lincoln returned to Sp A brilliant and novel examination of how Abraham Lincoln mastered the art of leadership “Gerhardt has devised an ingenious solution for demystifying America’s most enigmatic president: examining the key people who influenced Lincoln as he developed his own unique skills and leadership style.” –Russell L. Riley, UVA’s Miller Center In 1849, when Abraham Lincoln returned to Springfield, Illinois, after two seemingly uninspiring years in the U.S. House of Representatives, his political career appeared all but finished. His sense of failure was so great that friends worried about his sanity. Yet within a decade, Lincoln would reenter politics, become a leader of the Republican Party, win the 1860 presidential election, and keep America together during its most perilous period. What accounted for the turnaround? As Michael J. Gerhardt reveals, Lincoln’s reemergence followed the same path he had taken before, in which he read voraciously and learned from the successes, failures, oratory, and political maneuvering of a surprisingly diverse handful of men, some of whom he had never met but others of whom he knew intimately—Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, John Todd Stuart, and Orville Browning. From their experiences and his own, Lincoln learned valuable lessons on leadership, mastering party politics, campaigning, conventions, understanding and using executive power, managing a cabinet, speechwriting and oratory, and—what would become his most enduring legacy—developing policies and rhetoric to match a constitutional vision that spoke to the monumental challenges of his time. Without these mentors, Abraham Lincoln would likely have remained a small-town lawyer—and without Lincoln, the United States as we know it may not have survived. This book tells the unique story of how Lincoln emerged from obscurity and learned how to lead.  


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A brilliant and novel examination of how Abraham Lincoln mastered the art of leadership “Gerhardt has devised an ingenious solution for demystifying America’s most enigmatic president: examining the key people who influenced Lincoln as he developed his own unique skills and leadership style.” –Russell L. Riley, UVA’s Miller Center In 1849, when Abraham Lincoln returned to Sp A brilliant and novel examination of how Abraham Lincoln mastered the art of leadership “Gerhardt has devised an ingenious solution for demystifying America’s most enigmatic president: examining the key people who influenced Lincoln as he developed his own unique skills and leadership style.” –Russell L. Riley, UVA’s Miller Center In 1849, when Abraham Lincoln returned to Springfield, Illinois, after two seemingly uninspiring years in the U.S. House of Representatives, his political career appeared all but finished. His sense of failure was so great that friends worried about his sanity. Yet within a decade, Lincoln would reenter politics, become a leader of the Republican Party, win the 1860 presidential election, and keep America together during its most perilous period. What accounted for the turnaround? As Michael J. Gerhardt reveals, Lincoln’s reemergence followed the same path he had taken before, in which he read voraciously and learned from the successes, failures, oratory, and political maneuvering of a surprisingly diverse handful of men, some of whom he had never met but others of whom he knew intimately—Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, John Todd Stuart, and Orville Browning. From their experiences and his own, Lincoln learned valuable lessons on leadership, mastering party politics, campaigning, conventions, understanding and using executive power, managing a cabinet, speechwriting and oratory, and—what would become his most enduring legacy—developing policies and rhetoric to match a constitutional vision that spoke to the monumental challenges of his time. Without these mentors, Abraham Lincoln would likely have remained a small-town lawyer—and without Lincoln, the United States as we know it may not have survived. This book tells the unique story of how Lincoln emerged from obscurity and learned how to lead.  

30 review for Lincoln's Mentors: The Education of a Leader

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Kent

    A generally good biography of Lincoln, although the Uncorrected Proof copy I read was rife with errors big and small that I hope were caught in the editing process. I didn't think the title accurately reflected the substance of the book. Full review will be in the Lincoln Herald. A generally good biography of Lincoln, although the Uncorrected Proof copy I read was rife with errors big and small that I hope were caught in the editing process. I didn't think the title accurately reflected the substance of the book. Full review will be in the Lincoln Herald.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    I'm always interested in learning something new about a President, particularly the most famous and influential ones. This study of Lincoln focuses on his education "as a leader," meaning those who influenced Lincoln, the men and politicians he associated with and knew, and the books he read. But the book goes much further than that. Gerhardt sets Lincoln into history, into the political and historical events of his day, examining not only what Lincoln lived through but also how the events affec I'm always interested in learning something new about a President, particularly the most famous and influential ones. This study of Lincoln focuses on his education "as a leader," meaning those who influenced Lincoln, the men and politicians he associated with and knew, and the books he read. But the book goes much further than that. Gerhardt sets Lincoln into history, into the political and historical events of his day, examining not only what Lincoln lived through but also how the events affected the man. If you are looking for a popular history of Lincoln, this is not the book for you. It's really a legal and constitutional history, a study of the politics and political changes and arguments that pervade the US from the early 1820s through Lincoln's assassination. Nevertheless, it's an interesting approach to Lincoln and his times. Beginning in the early 1830s, Gerhardt revisits the Missouri Compromise, the Indian Removal Acts of President Andrew Jackson, the Mexican American War, and Bloody Kansas. Slaves, Native Americans, immigrants, westward migration, and all the politics that surround these issues and events are fodder for this history book. It's a little dense in spots with minimal end-notes. Thanks to the BookLoft of German Village (Columbus, OH) http://www.bookloft.com for an ARC to read and review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris Carson

    A terrific read and one of the best in the many written about the greatest President in US history. Storytelling, when done well, pulls you in and makes you feel as if you were alongside of the main characters. Lincoln and his mentors are brought to life in Gerhardt’s terrific story. Thank you!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dick

    It is pretty well known that Lincoln had only – in the aggregate – less than a year of formal schooling and that, in a few “blab schools”. Still he did find an early mentor in “William Mentor Graham’ in New Salem, he was known as mentor Graham. It is difficult to sum Lincoln up – no matter how hard you may try, for he remains for most of us an enigma in many ways. One part of him is not an enigma . . . his self education. He was – from the early days in Indiana, a voracious reader. He borrowed a It is pretty well known that Lincoln had only – in the aggregate – less than a year of formal schooling and that, in a few “blab schools”. Still he did find an early mentor in “William Mentor Graham’ in New Salem, he was known as mentor Graham. It is difficult to sum Lincoln up – no matter how hard you may try, for he remains for most of us an enigma in many ways. One part of him is not an enigma . . . his self education. He was – from the early days in Indiana, a voracious reader. He borrowed any book he could lay his hands on – he could not afford to buy them. The Bible was an early book for him – his step-mother encouraged his reading, much to the frustration of his father. He read Shakespeare’s plays and in many cases knew the dialogue of characters in the play and could recite them. A little known fact is that he once memorized a book of algorithms - and when asked why he did that he said to prove to himself that he could do it. It was through that focus on reading learning and seeking opinions of others – who were indeed mentors to him in many ways. Another word for mentors – for m e – is role models. I had mine growing up and to this very day I have mentors. They may not know that they are mentors to me, but as role models, they are. One that plays a large role model for me these days is my Pastor Dave Bonselaar – Pastor of Bridge to Grace Covenant Church in Roswell, Georgia. I know for sure that I have not told him that in so many words, so he may not know that I see him like that. It was Lincoln’s focus on reading a great deal that took him from a small town lawyer in Springfield to – in my view – the most eloquent – writer and speaker we have ever had as a President. He wrote his own speeches. No ghost writers for him. One of the better speaking Presidents was JFK, but Ted Sorenson wrote the core of most of his major speeches. Kennedy received a Pulitzer Prize was indeed mostly written by Sorenson. Three identified role models for Lincoln in this book are Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson and John Todd Stuart (cousin of his wife Mary Todd Lincoln). From reading and watching those mens experiences, he learned vitally important things about leadership, campaigning, dealing with party politics, how to use executive power and of course how to write so that the average person could clearly understand what his message was. He n ever talked over his audience. His 2nd inaugural and his Gettysburg Address stand out like towering statues as to brevity and focus on the messages he was conveying. Outstanding in his efficient use of words, both shine speeches down through the ages. His second inaugural ran about 12 minutes and the Gettysburg Address perhaps 3 minutes. He surrounded himself with many in his cabinet who opposed him in the early run up to his nomination and election. There were two reasons; one to keep an eye on them and spike any real effort to run against him and the other . . . to learn from them and their long political careers. He did listen to them – especially Seward. Seward was clearly a mentor to him. Lincoln used funny stories to illustrate to get a point over in his communications with others. It was very effective in the court room and was the same in cabinet meetings. Drove some of the cabinet members nuts at times, but he made his points. It seems he had a funny story for every occasion, to illustrate points or deflect the jabs of his political opponents. Stephen A Douglas found this out first hand. Lincoln listened and learned to and from many. He grew while in office – it is clear. One of the first things he did after the south fired on Fort Sumter, was he took out all the books he could find on military strategy from the Library of Congress. Much of what he read and shared with his cabinet and military leaders was, in fact, implemented. We should not overlook Orville Browning - a friend and fellow member of the early Republican Party. Lincoln turned to him for advice on all manner of subjects, from the difficulties of marriage to the challenges of managing a cabinet. Look up Orville Browning. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order – we hear much of that these days – and Lincoln knew full well that it could be overturned by the court system unless something permanent was done to codify it. Hence the 13th amendment. He fought hard for that and won it – because he was so effective in communicating to friends and foes alike that it was to be done. I remember a scene in the movie “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-George when Lincoln pounded the table and made it very clear that he wanted the necessary votes to pass it, reflecting that he was a knowledgeable and consummate politician. He did not tell them how to get the votes and made it very clear that he did not need to know. Just get the votes! It is interesting to note that many of his actions taken while President – that many through were unconstitutional . . . that were argued before the Supreme Court, were upheld as constitutional. Every single one of them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Josh Liller

    I was surprised when I saw this book on the new books shelf at my local public library. I follow some blogs that list upcoming books related to the American Civil War, but this one seems to have slipped by them. The title sounded like an interesting angle from which to study's Lincoln's life. The book was not really what I was expecting, in part because it seems to have an identity crisis. It does discuss the influence of certain important individuals upon Lincoln's life, politics, and thinking. I was surprised when I saw this book on the new books shelf at my local public library. I follow some blogs that list upcoming books related to the American Civil War, but this one seems to have slipped by them. The title sounded like an interesting angle from which to study's Lincoln's life. The book was not really what I was expecting, in part because it seems to have an identity crisis. It does discuss the influence of certain important individuals upon Lincoln's life, politics, and thinking. It does address his lifelong learning (and this is one of those books where the subtitle is a bit more accurate than the main title). However, it also covers a lot of tangential topics in more detail that seems necessary, such as an entire section on The Corrupt Bargain and the Clay-Jackson political feud. In a way I suppose this makes sense as the book is published by an imprint of Harper Collins, a mainstream publisher. However, the author is a law professor and the style of the book comes across like an academic work. Since the author teaches at UNC and UNC Press frequently publishes works related to the American Civil War so I'm not sure why UNC Press didn't publish this book after some editing into a more focused product. It felt like there's a pretty good 300-350 page university press book in here. What we got instead is half focused study on a particular aspect of Lincoin's life and half written to accommodate casual readers unfamiliar with Lincoln or broad issues of antebellum politics. The sections focused on the titular subjects were pretty good and there were some interesting specific details about Illinois party politics. For example, that Lincoln didn't loose reelection to the House of Representatives, but rather stepped aside for another candidate because of an Illinois Whig practice of a new party member running every two years. I ended up reading about 1/3 of the book before giving up on it in favor of other books that I found more interesting and enjoyable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Although there might be a couple dates, a bit awry, the book is well written and explains a lot about Lincoln that we either were not taught, or just didn't pay attention too. His mentors, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Zachary Taylor embedded in Lincoln many ideas that he not only picked up on, but made into his own as he progressed through the political game and eventually saved the Union. I found it interesting that he thought the world of Jackson; but I also found it interesting that when J Although there might be a couple dates, a bit awry, the book is well written and explains a lot about Lincoln that we either were not taught, or just didn't pay attention too. His mentors, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Zachary Taylor embedded in Lincoln many ideas that he not only picked up on, but made into his own as he progressed through the political game and eventually saved the Union. I found it interesting that he thought the world of Jackson; but I also found it interesting that when Jackson lost his first bid for the presidency, he whined, cried, claimed foul, claimed it was stolen from him; sounds like someone else we know, doesn't it. Also, like our former CIC, Lincoln had a big picture of Jackson staring down at him so that whenever he signed legislation, "he felt Jackson's eyes staring down at him." He was as much a devotee of Henry Clay and the defunct Whig party (Lincoln was a member before republicans came on scene. And he picked up much on the president's actions from Zachary Taylor. As for being the great emancipator, some may be disappointed. He was originally for sending slaves back to Africa, or elsewhere. He was not a proslavery person, but he was more interested in saving the Union. Frederick Douglass was very critical of Lincoln until January 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. It's really a good book; plenty of detail, but at less than 450 pages not overly burdensome detail. I highly recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    J.P.

    The rating may be generous. First, the book doesn’t really support the title outside of Lincoln’s reverence for Clay. The other mentors are ancillary to the story, at best. Expected more forceful positioning. More concerning, there are a pair of glaring factual errors in the book - to my mind, an unforgivable sin in a history. If basic facts are wrong, what faith can there be in the remainder of the text? Specifically - Gerhardt said of the 10 men elected president as of 1836, seven studied the la The rating may be generous. First, the book doesn’t really support the title outside of Lincoln’s reverence for Clay. The other mentors are ancillary to the story, at best. Expected more forceful positioning. More concerning, there are a pair of glaring factual errors in the book - to my mind, an unforgivable sin in a history. If basic facts are wrong, what faith can there be in the remainder of the text? Specifically - Gerhardt said of the 10 men elected president as of 1836, seven studied the law. The problem is Martin Van Buren was elected in 1836 as the eighth president, not the tenth. A mistake like this is inexcusable for either author or editor. There is another instance where Gerhardt says Mexico paid the U.S. money at the end of the Mexican-American war, when the opposite took place, and a smattering of errors a conscientious editor should have caught - when discussing Lincoln’s first four Supreme Court nominations, Gerhardt lists the first two and said Lincoln then could focus on his fourth. Which was actually his third. He has the wrong name in another place; as a novelist, I understand when the head moves faster than the fingers but, again, the editor was derelict. I’ll leave this with three stars, but it’s on the edge of losing one for sloppiness.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda Bond

    Leaders don’t just pop up out of nowhere and assume the power of office. This is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s rise, and drop and rise again experience on his way to the Whitehouse. Turns out, after his apparent political demise early on in his life, he gave himself a renewing boost as he continued to read about people who came before, like Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. As he learned about their experiences and coupled what he learned with his own wins and failures, he soon took on the charact Leaders don’t just pop up out of nowhere and assume the power of office. This is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s rise, and drop and rise again experience on his way to the Whitehouse. Turns out, after his apparent political demise early on in his life, he gave himself a renewing boost as he continued to read about people who came before, like Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. As he learned about their experiences and coupled what he learned with his own wins and failures, he soon took on the character of a true leader. And the rest, they say, is history! This is an eye-opening revelation of what it takes to move into the winner’s circle. History buffs, political/social movers and business entrepreneurs will all find something of interest in these pages. I met this book at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Alan Albarran

    I would have rated this audiobook higher but it had a number of technical issues. I almost gave up on it a couple of times. I would be listening to one chapter then all of a sudden it would jump back--usually to the previous chapter or two but never forward. I got so frustrated at times I just quit listening but the story brought me back to finally finish it--although I'm not sure I heard every word because of the technical glitches. Would recommend but not as an audiobook. HarperCollins should g I would have rated this audiobook higher but it had a number of technical issues. I almost gave up on it a couple of times. I would be listening to one chapter then all of a sudden it would jump back--usually to the previous chapter or two but never forward. I got so frustrated at times I just quit listening but the story brought me back to finally finish it--although I'm not sure I heard every word because of the technical glitches. Would recommend but not as an audiobook. HarperCollins should get this fixed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rich Kane

    Gerhardt meticulously presents the people who most influenced Lincoln-his mentors, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Zachary Taylor, John Todd Stuart, and Orville Browning. Gerhardt reveals how each of them gave Lincoln a particular skill that he used to become the most admired president of all time. Lincoln’s actions, written letters, and speeches were done with one purpose in mind-to make people remember him. From a man of humble beginnings he became a mentor to all subsequent presidents. Some informat Gerhardt meticulously presents the people who most influenced Lincoln-his mentors, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Zachary Taylor, John Todd Stuart, and Orville Browning. Gerhardt reveals how each of them gave Lincoln a particular skill that he used to become the most admired president of all time. Lincoln’s actions, written letters, and speeches were done with one purpose in mind-to make people remember him. From a man of humble beginnings he became a mentor to all subsequent presidents. Some information presented did drag needlessly on, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Lincoln is one of my favorite Presidents, this book does him justice, not as much as Team of Rivals but still a good read. Book goes into detail of how his mentors have a strong influence - Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Zachary Taylor(surprise me), John Todd Stautt and Orville Browning. The story from rail splinter, small town lawyer to eventual President was quite the journey. Sit back and enjoy the journey. Don’t expect any great narrative on his assassination.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    I learned something about Lincoln, which is a rarity these days given how many books I read about Lincoln. The reason why I took a star off is because at times it didn’t seem like the book was what was advertised, about the mentors of Lincoln. It felt similar to other books with too wide of a net of information on Lincoln when it seems to be promising a niche of information. It’s a good book, it’s clear that a lot of research went into it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Very well written with a heavy focus on WHO influenced Lincoln most. The book focuses on Lincoln as a man of his time. And, how he incorporated the policies, attributes and personae of Jackson, Taylor and Clay into his presidency. I could think of better biographies on Lincoln, but this one is still worth the read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brock

    Drags a little at the beginning, but I appreciated how it assumes some basic knowledge of the era, and provides only broad overviews of the major events, instead focusing, as the title implies, on Lincoln's mentors and how they influenced him and his rhetoric throughout his life. Re-read before you have to make any grand speeches. Drags a little at the beginning, but I appreciated how it assumes some basic knowledge of the era, and provides only broad overviews of the major events, instead focusing, as the title implies, on Lincoln's mentors and how they influenced him and his rhetoric throughout his life. Re-read before you have to make any grand speeches.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sheila McCarthy

    Terrible! No wonder America's children know so little. The distinguished author thinks that Lincoln was born on February 9, that you will find Fort Henry in Baltimore and that the Battle of Fredericksburg happened in December of 1861. So poorly edited that I am questioning of the Civil War ended in April of 1865. Don't waste your time! Terrible! No wonder America's children know so little. The distinguished author thinks that Lincoln was born on February 9, that you will find Fort Henry in Baltimore and that the Battle of Fredericksburg happened in December of 1861. So poorly edited that I am questioning of the Civil War ended in April of 1865. Don't waste your time!

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    I've read a number of Lincoln biographies, but don't know that I've enjoyed one as much as Lincoln's Mentors. Gerhardt's approach in showing those whose actions and advice helped educate and prepare Lincoln for handling what was arguably the toughest circumstances of a presidency was brilliant, profound, and entertaining. James Lurie's narration is exquisite. Highly recommended. I've read a number of Lincoln biographies, but don't know that I've enjoyed one as much as Lincoln's Mentors. Gerhardt's approach in showing those whose actions and advice helped educate and prepare Lincoln for handling what was arguably the toughest circumstances of a presidency was brilliant, profound, and entertaining. James Lurie's narration is exquisite. Highly recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anr706

    The book has some errors. For example John C. Breckinridge ran against Lincoln in 1860, not John J. Crittenden. And Ward Hill Lamon was never Lincoln’s law partner. There are more. Inexcusable. Overall it’s better than some Lincoln books, but it’s certainly not a must read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bob Stenberg

    I am glad that I read this book but it was a little too dtailed in some places.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Drew Clancy

    Solid Lincoln biography. Interesting insights into Lincoln's personality and his admiration for Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor Solid Lincoln biography. Interesting insights into Lincoln's personality and his admiration for Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    Very interesting! Really enjoyed the chapter on Becoming President.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shelby

    I feel like I learned a lot about Lincoln that I didn't know and I'm glad I read the book, but I found it to be a little dull. I feel like I learned a lot about Lincoln that I didn't know and I'm glad I read the book, but I found it to be a little dull.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip Levinton

    Excellent discussion of the people who helped Lincoln on his journey from backwoods lawyer to President. Quite a story!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Christiansen

    A generally solid biography of Lincoln.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    I have been unable to write a review on this book because I have still not received this book that I have won. This is very disappointing. As soon as I do receive this book I will then read and write a review. I had been really looking forward to reading this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Ehlers

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Schneider

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim Rodgers

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Ayres

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sam Clarke

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shot Earle

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