Are you a CEO looking to sharpen your leadership skills?   A sales leader wanting to improve your ability for managing under difficult times with limited resources?   A CMO needing examples for defeating a bigger, stronger competitor?   Instead of the business section at your local bookstore, head over to US history and pick up a copy of 1776.   This highly relevant to today retelling of the American struggle for independence is written by David McCullough, a Pulitzer Prize winning author on US history.

1776 follows the challenges of the colonial leaders of early American independence over one of the most pivotal periods in our country’s experience.  Yes, you know how the story ends, but even the most diligent students of the Founding Fathers and US revolution and will learn something new in this exciting read.   What today seems like a clear-cut, unanimous act to break from England and a forgone conclusion for military victory was neither for the early citizens of the United States.

At the middle of nearly every important meeting, decision and conflict, and seemingly carrying the new nation on his shoulders, is George Washington.  A man who today seems more mythology than real person, Washington is central to this narration; at it focuses primarily on the military combat occurring over that famous year.

Washington provides lesson after lesson for today’s CEO’s and Chief Sales Officers.   By observing how he managed adversity, motivated his leadership team, worked through the internal politics of congress and his own army, fought a tactical campaign against an overwhelmingly advanced foe, handled defeats and exploited advantages from key wins; today’s business leaders can find numerous examples to learn from.

One trait in particular which made Washington so successful over his military and political career was his ability to see things for what they were, not what he wished them to be.   Where others would be tempted to under- or over estimate a position or situation, Washington consistently assessed and reacted to the facts and reality.   Rarely did emotion or opinion influence him.   Today’s business leaders can learn from that ability.   Whether it’s underestimating a competitor or overestimating a sales pipeline, we’re all tempted to make important decisions based on how we wish things to be, and the resulting consequences are often not what we hope for.

By the final pages of 1776 you will have a fresh perspective and appreciation for the sacrifices and perseverance demonstrated by so many people over that inaugural year in US history.   Undoubtedly you will find plenty of leadership examples you can apply to your life as well.