Are great leaders born or made? Do circumstances make great leaders or do great leaders change the times? These are a few of the big picture questions my guest explores in her latest book. Her name is Doris Kearns Goodwin, she’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and in her latest book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, she explores the makings of great leaders by looking at the biographies of four US presidents who led the country through periods of crisis: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
We begin our conversation discussing the ambition all four of these leaders had as young men to do something great and how they connected their personal ambition to the greater good. We then discuss the personal setbacks all of them experienced early in life and how these challenges influenced them as leaders. Doris then shares the leadership traits and skills all of them implemented during their presidencies as well as how they did things differently. We end our conversation discussing whether any other leader could have managed the crisis each of these presidents confronted or if these men were singularly suited to the circumstances.
- How Goodwin settled on looking at Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson
- The ambitions of each of these presidents as young men
- What things did these 4 men have in common as they came of age?
- Are leaders born or made?
- Theodore Roosevelt’s definition of success (and his idea on the born/made argument)
- The personal struggles (and battles with depression) of these men before assuming office
- The turbulent times each of these 4 presidents led through
- How did they approach their crises?
- Could anyone else have led the US through the Civil War? Could another leader besides FDR have succeeded during WWII?
- How turbulence leads to the opportunity for greatness
- How LBJ’s legacy was cut in two and why he’s a more complicated case than the other 3 presidents featured
- Goodwin’s experience working for and with LBJ
- How these presidents refreshed and relaxed in order to recharge their energies
- Did they think about their legacies?
- Is there one overarching lesson that Doris hopes readers walk away with?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Goodwin’s other books:
- AoM’s numerous articles on Theodore Roosevelt
- The Libraries of Famous Men: Abraham Lincoln
- Leashing the Black Dog
- Should Men Be Inspired By History?
- How Truman Handled Being Out of His Depth
Connect With Doris
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