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. (Sept.)
"Four towering individuals . . . in a masterwork on how good leaders become great leaders, how burning personal ambition can be elevated into driving ambition for a cause greater than self. Riveting, uplifting, and incisive, Leadership is a culminating work of a true intellectual artist."
"Business students invariably ask me: 'With what historical figure would you like to have lunch?' Doris Kearns Goodwin has prepared a marvelous banquet with four leaders whose lives provide lessons for all of us. Pull up a chair."
Pulitzer- and Carnegie Medal-winning historian Goodwin draws on 50 years of scholarship in this strong and resonant addition to the literature of the presidency.
Written in the companionable prose that makes Goodwin’s books surefire best sellers. . . . We can benefit from reminders that even flawed mortals can, in times of national emergency, achieve great things. We can only hope that a few of Goodwin’s many readers will find in her subjects’ examples a margin of inspiration and a resolve to steer the country to a better place.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A book like Leadership should help us raise our expectations of our national leaders, our country and ourselves.”—The Washington Post
“Goodwin’s volume deserves much praise — it is insightful, readable, compelling even — but the strongest compliment might be this: Her book arrives just in time.”—The Boston Globe
“After five decades of magisterial output, matching Pulitzer Prize-winning quality with best-selling appeal, Doris Kearns Goodwin leads the league of presidential historians. Insight is her imprint . . . Elegantly, she gathers the deeply researched strands of her big books to focus on the formative qualities of her White House heroes . . . The result is a fascinating study in contrasts, beautifully structured, as Goodwin alternates case studies of each president to examine the youthful roots of their ambition, their growth amid adversity, and their ultimate challenges.”—USA Today
“An inspiring read.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Published at a turbulent time, her book is a rich source of information and inspiration. . . . Most important, Goodwin reminds us that a democracy leadership is a two-way street, a mirror in which people, for better and worse, see their collective reflection.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A masterwork on how good leaders become great leaders, how burning personal ambition can be elevated into driving ambition for a cause greater than self. Riveting, uplifting, and incisive, Leadership is a culminating work of a true intellectual artist.”— Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” co-author “Built to Last”
“Business students invariably ask me: 'With what historical figure would you like to have lunch?' Doris Kearns Goodwin has prepared a marvelous banquet with four leaders whose lives provide lessons for all of us. Pull up a chair.”—Warren Buffett
“A must read.”—Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski
“[An] expert, extremely relevant study.”—Booklist
“With Leadership, Pulitzer Prize winner Goodwin cements her reputation as a scholar with a remarkable ability to bring the complexities of our past to life for everyday readers. It’s a welcome gift indeed.”—Bookpage
“Leadership is a bravura performance by Doris Kearns Goodwin, an artist who writes today with the same level of excellence that she’s demonstrated for more than 40 years.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“It’s as if she spent her entire career simply preparing to write this one volume. It was worth the wait. And well timed: If ever our nation needed a short course on presidential leadership, it is now.”—Seattle Times
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Goodwin has spent five decades studying presidential history, so you can bet she can offer insight into what makes a good leader, especially in the worst of times. Studying Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in the area of civil rights), she finds no common paths but common traits: ambition, resilience, and moral purpose.
With impeccable timing, the acclaimed historian focuses on the ways four presidents navigated the country through wrenching clashes and crises.
Pulitzer Prize winner Goodwin (The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, 2013, etc.) profiles Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, all of whom she's written about previously. Lincoln's "unmatched work ethic, rhetorical abilities, equable nature, and elevated ambition" steered him to the moment in 1862 when he gathered his Cabinet for the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. That document, writes the author, is "remarkable for its flat precision," revealing Lincoln's wisdom in reining in rhetorical flourishes "to reach across factions" and avoid moral condemnation of slaveholding states. Goodwin admires Theodore Roosevelt for his ability to change himself from a "nervous, unhealthy, fragile child" to a leader who, through the force of his personality and adept use of the press, protected working-class Americans from vast wealth inequality. Franklin Roosevelt's amiable confidence and ability to lead by example pushed the country through the Great Depression, while Johnson's mastery of legislative strategy eventually compelled many national politicians to see that civil rights were long overdue. The most remarkable aspects of this book are the astute psychological portraits of these leaders: comprehensive, human, and engaging, clearly the results of long study. In the final chapters, Goodwin uses short signposts, snippets of advice, to guide readers. For example, in the section about Johnson's seemingly insurmountable passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she writes, "make a dramatic start" and "establish the most effective order of battle," and then follows that line with several paragraphs about why Johnson fought to pass a tax cut before attempting the more momentous civil rights bill. These demarcations clarify the labyrinthine political and cultural issues the presidents confronted.
In intimate, knowing ways, Goodwin crafts history as aspiration—or at least inspiration—for readers; let's hope a hefty portion of those readers have titles that begin with Sen. or Rep.