Leadership in the Turbulent Times

Leadership in the Turbulent Times

by Dois Kearns Goodwin

Overview: Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the man make the times or do the times make the man?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon four of the presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they first recognized leadership qualities within themselves, and were recognized by others as leaders.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon adversity. 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.

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.

Deanna Boe (06/09/19): How does one begin to critique a Pulitzer Prize winner? Obviously carefully! What an outstanding writer Goodwin is and it is demonstrated in this non-fiction book. If you take pleasure in reading about historical people, especially when they happen to be about four of our exceptional presidents and the impact they had on our history, this is the book for you! Fortunately there are two Republicans and two Democrats so that should make everyone happy considering the political atmosphere of today. Each president had to deal with something critical for his presidency and the impending future of the United States. Were they the right man for the job at that time? Doris Kearns Goodwin thinks so.

Goodwin has taken these four presidents, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, and written about them in three parts. In the first part we see how each entered politics in his twenties. She shows us how differently each man was. Two were born of wealth, one in extreme poverty, and the fourth somewhere in between. But they did have the ability to lead because of their “intelligence, energy, empathy, verbal and written gifts, and skills dealing with people.” They were cohesive by their “fierce ambition, an inordinate drive to succeed. With perseverance and hard work, they all essentially made themselves leaders by enhancing and developing the qualities they were given.”

The second part of the book Goodwin deals with how each had powerful reversals that drastically changed their lives, not only privately but also publicly. Each was able to meet these difficulties and go on to be even stronger because of them. An excellent leader seems to be able overcome whatever obstacles are placed in his path and this simply enhances his leadership for the future, it was true for these four.

Finally, the last part of the book deals with their leadership once they were in the White House. How were they then able to take all they had learned and direct it for what was essential at that time. Goodwin points out the quote: “Do leaders shape the times or do the times summon their leaders?” Obviously it is easy to know the problems that confronted Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, perhaps the other two aren’t quite as easy, but their leadership was essential.
Rating: *****

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