Leadership In Turbulent Times: Book Review

Leadership In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, book review:

Doris Kearns Goodwin
Doris Kearns Goodwin

The New York Times, bestselling book about the early development, growth and exercise of leadership from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin “should help us raise our expectations of our national leaders, our country, and ourselves”. (Washington Post)

About The Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Helen Kearns Goodwin is an American biographer, historian, former sports’ journalist and political commentator. Goodwin has written biographies of several U.S. presidents, including Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. An American Saga; Team of Rivals: The political genius of Abraham Lincoln; and The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.

“After five decades of magisterial output, Doris Kearns Goodwin leads the league of presidential historians (USA Today). In her “inspiring” (The Christian Science Monitor) Leadership, Doris Kearns Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely-Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (in civil rights)-to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by authors.

By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear and hope.

Part One Of Leadership

In Part One we see four men when they first entered public life. In their twenties, when they set forth to forget their public identities, they appear very different from the sober, iconic countenances that have since saturated our culture, currency, and memorial sculpture. Their paths were anything but certain. Their stories abound in confusion, hope, failure, and fear.LITT

Goodwin follows the mistakes made along the way, from inexperience, cookiness, lack of caution, outright misjudgments, and selfishness, and see the efforts made to acknowledge, conceal or overcome these mistakes. Their struggles are not so different from our own.

No Single Path Carried The Four To Political Leadership

No single path carried them to the pinnacle of political leadership. Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt were born to extraordinary privilege and wealth. Abraham Lincoln endured relentless poverty. Lyndon Johnson experienced sporadic hard times.

They differed widely in temperament, appearance, and physical ability. They were endowed with a divergent range of qualities often ascribed to leadership-intelligence, energy, empathy, verbal and written gifts, and skills in dealing with people.

They were united, however, by a 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.Leaders

All four men were recognized as leaders long before they reached the presidency. And like rocks in a polishing cylinder, all four were brought to shine by tumbling contact with a wide variety of people. They had found their vocation in politics. ” I have often thought, American philosopher William James wrote of the mysterious formation of identity,” that the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely alive and active.”

At such moments, there is a vague inside which speaks and says, “This is the real me.”

Part Two Of Leadership

Dramatic reversals that shattered their private and public lives of all four men are the subject of Part Two.

Abraham Lincoln suffered a blow to his public reputation and his private sense of honor that led to a near-suicide depression.

Theodore Roosevelt lost his young wife and mother on the same day.

Franklin Roosevelt was struck by polio and left permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

Lyndon Johnson lost an election to the United States Senate. To draw an analogy between an election LITTloss and the tragic reversals experienced by the others would appear, on the surface, ludicrous; but Lyndon Johnson construed rejection by the people as a judgment upon, and a repudiation of, his deepest-self. For a long period, the election loss negatively changed the direction of his career until a massive heart attack and the proximity of death re purposed his life.

Part Three Of Leadership

Part Three will bring the four men to the White House. Where they are at their formidable best, when guided by a sense of moral purpose, they were able to channel their ambitions and summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others. Specific stories of how they led will explore the riddle: Do leaders shape the times or do the times summon their leaders.

In Conclusion

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront he contours and dilemmas of their times. At their best, all four men were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenges, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others. Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

“If ever our nation needed a short course on presidential leadership, it is now” (The Seattle Times). 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.tweets

Even though this book looks back in time to how our leaders dealt with hard times and good times for that matter, it does show you the type of characteristics that it takes to be a true leader, or a president of the United States in the four men that are talked about in this book.

I felt that we all need to take a look at what our past leaders did in turbulent times, and how with what we are dealing with in todays society, we are in a pandemic, and they way that this horrific disease is handled by the scientists is one part of it, but our economy is another part of it. We as a nation need to ask more from our leader (President Trump) and to get concise information about the disease from experts, and also how we can open up our economy safely. We have not had that in the last 3 months, and it is very disturbing to me, how slow we are acting to this huge economic-health, and physical-health dilemma we are in has not gained much ground from the inception. We deserve stable leadership with a universal answer so everyone is acting the same, not partisan politics. This is not the time.

If you would like to leave a comment or have a question, please leave below and I will get back with you as soon as I can.

Leadership In Turbulent TimesIf you would like to purchase this book, Get It Here: Leadership In Turbulent Times

All The Best,


EMAIL: bobbi@greatpoliticalbooks.com

6 thoughts on “Leadership In Turbulent Times: Book Review”

  1. Excellent review that examines 4 characters in a an altogether different mould from that we have seen in the last couple of decades or more. I was struck by just how things have changed in terms of backgrounds, communications styles and communications media available for leaders or potential leaders to pass their messages. This review has certainly sparked my interest. I will be reading this book in full now. Thanks great job


    1. Thank you Hamish for your comment, and I know while investigating and reviewing this book, I also found it fascinating how communications, and just about everything has changed so much in the past years, but especially in the past 3 1/2 years. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy the read.

  2. Thank so much for such a constructive post, in times like this it is very expensive that leaders take conscious, calculated and deliberate effort in reaching decision that will be beneficial to the nations and peoples of the world regardless the the initial hik ups it might bring, but if the end resull will be truly beneficia, then its worth it.

    1. Thank you Jomata for your comment, and you are right, that the inconsistency of decisions made by the federal government right now is very confusing and causing a more cultural divide than we have seen in many, many years, by November, with the 2020 presidential election looming, and the pandemic still with us. It does matter how our leaders have dealt with the pandemic and if we need a change in leadership to deal with the second wave of the pandemic when it comes back in full swing in the fall. Thanks again, and stay safe and healthy.

  3. Nice  article on leadership, I would love to add that being a good leader entails more than just leasing but the ability to be able to influence subordinates to perform task given to them with maximum ability to achieve goals and objectives… I really did understand more to just being a leader..

    . Thanks for preview

    1. Thank you Evans for your comment, there is a lot more to be a leader, than just being in the White House, or a CEO of a company, it takes compassion as well as being educated to what circumstances arise. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a genius, but learn as you go and listening to the specialists in whatever comes along. Lead by example. Thanks again Evans

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