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Book Review: In The Line of Fire by Jerry Weissman

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When I first approached this book by Jerry Weissman, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. After all, I wondered, how much can you write about handling tough questions. The answer is: “a lot!” And Weissman, with his 20+ years of experience consulting about this, sure knows every bit of it, as acknowledged by a host of prominent leaders in the book jacket and in this product page.

In a balanced fashion, Weissman takes the reader through a thorough methodology that can be easily replicated (not without practice, of course), by quoting legendary moments, mostly from debates, where the speaker did well and also where he didn’t do as well. He ties in his methodology to elements taken from the martial arts, almost to the point of turning the whole framework into an art itself.

For those concerned about political biases here, fear not. The author grants just as much credit to Reagan as he does to Clinton, as masters of this art. He is also able to praise Gore and G.W. Bush over their improved their debating skills after also pointing out their earlier shortcomings. He “topspins” an already great book, by dedicating the last chapter entirely to a leader he considers a role model in terms of his ability to handle tough questions: General Schwarzkopf, the commander-in-chief of Desert Storm in 1991.

Without a doubt, this is the best business techniques book I have had a chance to read since “Death by Meeting” by Patrick M. Lencioni. Get it.

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  • Phillip Winn

    I’m always a little skeptical of books like this. It’s one thing to analyze a performance after the fact, but quite another to be able to take lessons away from that analysis and actually use them. How does this book fare by that measure?