Book Review: Leadership In Turbulent Times Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
Books on leadership are plentiful on the bookshelves (wait-there are almost no more bookshelves to find books!). Some of these books are focused on general principles; some tell the story of how an organization blossomed and grew, all the while giving or insinuating leadership considerations; while others are more biographical, based on one particular leader. A recent work that demands attention, not only because the author was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, but because of its interesting and articulate expression of leadership considerations for all those who want to become better leaders. Leadership In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin examines four Presidents of the U.S. to tell the story of their leadership of a nation and what principles can be gleaned from their victories as well as their mistakes.
Goodwin invites us to learn from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. In the first section, she introduces us to their childhood life and upbringing, with the ultimate purpose of showing portents and hints of leadership potential. Next, Goodwin zooms in on a particular period of life for each of these that tested their endurance in adversity. While these four men found themselves virtually at the point of collapse, they rebounded stronger than ever with a refashioned character and a reinforced strength for the call of leadership.
The last section of the book focuses on four key aspects of leadership that each of these Presidents highlighted and from which we can learn tremendous lessons: Lincoln/transformational leadership; Theodore Roosevelt/crisis management; Franklin Roosevelt/turnaround leadership; and Lyndon Johnson/visionary leadership. A key event in each of their presidencies is used for drawing out essential leadership skills for the read to consider (respectively: the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, the Coal Strike, the Hundred Days, and the Civil Rights legislation). Each principle is enlarged and narrated through a certain response, attitude, action, etc. of that particular president.
What is the real value of this book? Besides the fact that it is provided with so many interesting details of great leaders of our country that thrills any history buff, it helps the reader to see real practically how key leadership principles were demonstrated by these Presidents. It is one thing to read about key principles that are sometimes endlessly recycled in leadership books, but it is another to see in a detailed way, how these principles were clearly demonstrated and even intentionally thought out by these leaders. For these Presidents, some of their leadership glories were more part of their character and personality, more of a natural outflow of who they were. But then there were other principles that were learned, developed, planned, and calculated. These were either learned from other people as models for them or realized and adopted as they were developed out of their growth as leaders as well as through trials of adversity.