The New York Times bestselling book about the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin “should help us raise our expectations of our national leaders, our country, and ourselves” (The Washington Post).
“After five decades of magisterial output, Doris Kearns Goodwin leads the league of presidential historians” (USA TODAY). In her “inspiring” (The Christian Science Monitor) Leadership, Doris Kearns Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.
Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others. Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?
“If ever our nation needed a short course on presidential leadership, it is now” (The Seattle Times). This seminal work provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field. In today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of apprehension and fracture take on a singular urgency. “Goodwin’s volume deserves much praise—it is insightful, readable, compelling: Her book arrives just in time” (The Boston Globe).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin investigates how different presidents have managed crisis, fleshing out profiles of leaders who pushed Americans to work outrageously hard and dream outlandishly big. Using thoughtful case studies, Goodwin shows the value of intimate storytelling (take it from FDR) and true bipartisanship (LBJ knew that), but she also delivers some quick Oval Office tips. Lincoln, for example, vented his anger by writing—then trashing—what he called “hot letters,” while Teddy Roosevelt, who exercised two hours a day, was a big proponent of leisure time. This book will be gobbled up by biography buffs and anyone interested in effective leadership.
Goodwin (Team of Rivals) further burnishes her credentials as a popular historian with this thoughtful revisiting of the lives of four presidents to whom she has previously dedicated individual books Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson with the aim of obtaining answers to eternal questions about leadership, including what life experiences contribute to it and whether "the times make the leader" or vice versa. She toggles back and forth between her subjects in sections that trace their upbringings and ambitions, the adversities that tested them (such as personal tragedies and crippling illness), and their approach to the major challenges that confronted them as presidents. She notes commonalities each of the four was determined to outwork political opponents as well as differences, for example contrasting Lincoln's impoverished childhood with the privileged upbringing both Roosevelts had. The meat of the book is four chapters, one for each subject, about important episodes in their presidencies, with headings naming elements of their leadership styles ("Acknowledge when failed policies demand a change in direction"; "Don't hit unless you have to, but when you hit, hit hard"). Goodwin does not shy from criticism, especially of Johnson, whom she worked for in the White House and helped with his memoirs; she writes that he stumbled badly on Vietnam. But overall the tone is inspirational, setting forth examples of how to do leadership right.
As a leader, I gain great strength learning how these leaders navigates difficult situations. Leadership is dangerous but it is necessary to make the changes need to create out of our uncertain world new hope and possibilities. Thank you for writing this book and leaving us tools for our own leadership.
A Must Read
Seriously one of the best books I’ve ever read. I loved seeing our Presidents through the eyes of leadership, more than just what they did. She not only knows these Presidents incredibly well and writes expertly, but she makes you think about leadership long after you’ve read her work. She’s my new favorite author.
One of the best books on history and leadership I have read in a long time. Just bought additional copies to give to each Executive Director of all boards with which I am involved. A thoroughly enjoyable and memorable read.