The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple

I’m not a history buff or political nerd, but I know enough about the two to understand it and appreciate it. When I picked up The Gatekeepers, I was a little worried that I just got a boring, esoteric work on White House politics. Instead, what I got was a fascinating story on how the United States presidency really works.

The Chief of Staff is one of the most significant positions in all of government. This is incredible when you think that the Chief of Staff is not elected nor even confirmed by Congress. Obviously, the President of the United States is arguably the most powerful person in the world, but controlling who has access to the POTUS involves a special kind of power.

The Gatekeepers recalls the trials and tribulations, successes and failures, intelligence and stupidity of all Chiefs of Staff from Nixon to Obama. The general consensus is pretty clear: it’s the worst job in the world. In short, the entire focus of the chief is to give credit to the president but take all the blame. The Chief of Staff needs to be almost invisible. The public should never focus on the chief, but on the president.

I really enjoyed this book. Under the surface, The Gatekeepers is about leadership. Effective leadership requires large doses of humility. Presidential success requires not just a selfless leader but a team of selfless leaders.

You don’t need to have some obscure knowledge of presidential politics to enjoy this book. It is a very accessible and enjoyable read.