Cigars, Whiskey and Winning Review
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Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant sounded like a perfect book for me. But, boy, was I let down. Author Al Kaltman has written a book that tried to jump on two pop literature fads at once, and he missed both.

This book is written to be a self-help book about leadership, oh-so-cleverly using a famous dead guy to do it. The famous dead guy, in this case, is one General Ulysses S. Grant, former President of the United States of America and a general who won the biggest war in our history. Surely he had some leadership lessons that could be applied to today’s corporate America. I’m sure he did—especially for business people who are trying to restart careers in an over-taxed and failed economy. After all, General Grant failed at every job he’d ever had, and he still became President.

The format is simple enough. Each page has a topic at the top, followed by a story from Grant’s past, with the moral of the story at the bottom of the page to tie it all together. The stories all come from Grant’s memoir—which is a very, very good book by the way. But Kaltman reaches too far in many of his examples to make his points. He also tries to make too many points. This is a case of less being better—or at least it should have been.

There’s no real mention of Grant smoking or drinking to excess, both of which he did on a regular basis. And the book never truly makes the point that Grant was a winner. He was a winner in combat, but only by the worst of methods. Grant never had a grand strategy, nor was he creative on the battle field. Instead, he preferred to find the enemy and throw thousands of his troops at a single point, using sheer numbers to win his victories. Kaltman misses that point in his book. After all, there are few times when one company has the resources to simply pound away at the competition until the competitor is driven out of business. And if Grant’s secrets of leadership had been as good as this book would lead you to believe, then his presidency would not have been such an abject failure.

Overall, Cigars, Whiskey and Winning isn’t a book that I’d recommend. The points it makes are not the strongest, and the presentation leaves much to be desired.

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