A look at Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Leadership: In Turbulent Times”

Leadership: In Turbulent TimesLeadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doris Kearns Goodwin looks at four American Presidents that she has written about in past works: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She gives us a unique perspective, offering us a view of each with an eye towards the strong leadership abilities of each man. How are great leaders developed, what personality traits offer us a hint of the potential for strong leadership, are people molded into leaders or do they innately possess leadership skills? Goodwin takes a look at these four individuals in a new way, devoting chapters to their early lives, with some of the setbacks and defeats suffered by each. She then takers us on a spectacular trip through some of the most challenging problems in American history, and how each man provided the vital leadership the country needed to succeed in overcoming adversity.

I read the amazing “Team of Rivals” by the author but still feel that I have missed much of the scholarship on Lincoln. This book gives us such a good flavor for his determination, his willingness to work without stop to realize his ambition, and how he lead when strong leadership was required to save the country. For me the Lincoln sections brought the most value, but each reader will have their own preferences. Lincoln the President, and the person, is a fascinating study. A truly extraordinary man, and certainly at the very top of any list of greatest presidencies.


The author gives us a great look at what she defines as “transformational leadership,” “crisis management,” “turnaround leadership” and “visionary leadership,” with each President taking one. I appreciated how Goodwin laid out this book, moving from President to President and truly giving us some insight into their personal characteristics, including the ones that were not so good. She tied them all together brilliantly. If you want to learn something about each one of these Presidents and how they provided leadership at key times in American history this book comes highly recommended.

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