Written in the companionable prose that makes Goodwin’s books surefire best sellers, Leadership: In Turbulent Times recounts the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson ... Readers of presidential biography will know these stories, but newcomers may not — and in any case Goodwin is telling them not for their own sake but to establish certain key ingredients of skillful democratic leadership ... It is therefore to Goodwin’s credit that she teases out the variety and peculiarities among the four presidents. Despite the overarching steeled-by-adversity template into which she wedges these stories, each retains its own intrinsic drama ... Leadership: In Turbulent Times is most absorbing when Goodwin resists the urge to glean pat lessons or rules from the past and allows herself to savor the stubborn singularity of each moment or personality ... In contrast, when Goodwin gets to her section on the four presidents’ emergency leadership, which should be the book’s pièce de résistance, she succumbs to the leadership genre’s vocabulary of self-help bromides and bullet-point banalities ... Still, it would be unfair to deny the value in thinking collectively about these four presidents, especially in these dark times.
Her title echoing the truth of the maxim attributed to the Latin writer Publilius Syrus—'anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm'— Goodwin circles back through her understanding of the four presidents in Leadership: In Turbulent Times, trying to extract the basic lessons that enabled each to deal with major crises in their personal lives and in the life of their country. No one is better suited than Goodwin to make the effort, and yet her book makes plain how hard it is to capture the essence of leadership, at least when the question is approached head-on ... The individual stories of each president and his struggles and accomplishments command the reader’s interest. And Goodwin’s selection of leadership lessons from each president makes the book a series of case studies that you can easily see being assigned by leadership teachers. But the distilled nature of Leadership also obscures one of Goodwin’s tremendous strengths—her ability to situate a leader within a set of relationships ... Leadership: In Turbulent Times also reminds us of what American greatness means ... A book like Leadership: In Turbulent Times should help us raise our expectations of our national leaders, our country and ourselves.
Leadership in Turbulent Times doesn’t strike a partisan tone. In fact, Goodwin doesn’t mention Trump at all, although the book’s reference to 'turbulent times' will be understood as an oblique commentary on recent headlines ... Would Goodwin favor a modern-day president ignoring the judicial branch to get his way? It’s an issue she doesn’t fully address, which underscores an occasional problem with Leadership in Turbulent Times. It sometimes lacks the intellectual ambition that distinguished Goodwin’s earlier books, reading like previous research for her biographies that’s been repackaged to accommodate the present fad in leadership tutorials ... Even so, the book offers much to like.
What is clear is that Goodwin likes these four. There is no snarling Richard Nixon, no bumbling James Buchanan, not even the halting but worthy William Howard Taft, who shared the spotlight with TR in her last book... In another's hands this might be a shortcoming. In Goodwin’s it is an irrelevancy. This is a celebration of leadership, not ideology ... 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.
With Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin clearly has her eye on the Christmas present for grandpa market. It is a pantomime horse of a book. The front end shows her in full cable-TV-presidential-historian mode, offering a readable set of potted histories of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. The back end is a rather labored effort to extract leadership lessons from their careers ... Ms. Goodwin...separates her leaders into types ... You could shuffle these labels around, from one president to another, and they would make just as much sense ... Ms. Goodwin can always be trusted to tell a rattling story, filled with detail, character and incident. If only she hadn’t felt compelled to intersperse her stories with headings ripped from the Harvard Business Review.
Perhaps inevitably for a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, she has written a...conventional appraisal of leadership, but a highly readable one ... She brilliantly draws the outline of [her subjects'] lives and the often extraordinary 'crucible experiences' that marked their path to the White House ... Goodwin makes clear that leadership is not just a story of one person influencing a group towards an outcome, but 'a two-way street' that links individual character, the contributions of teams and the popular context.
[Compared to other new books on the subject], Goodwin's Leadership is the most focused and purposeful ... Goodwin succeeds... by cross-pollinating her biographical units with similarities and key differences between the leaders she's studying ... Annoyingly, the White House chapters are broken up by bold, bullet-point nuggets of the leadership qualities each president employed. There are too many — about 20 for each president — and Goodwin could have successfully made all these points without this nod toward financial self-help books ... While the presidential chapters are the focus of the book, the chapters on early failures are the most interesting.
... thoughtful and timely ... Leadership: In Turbulent Times cannot prescribe answers for the vexing questions of our own, fraught times, but it issues an authentic reminder of the traits and qualities that this nation once looked for in its leaders.
An engrossing, comparative analysis of the four presidents Goodwin has written about most often (Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Johnson), the book reveals key parallels between them concerning formative early experiences and development of nascent leadership; followed by further growth through adversity; and how occupying the White House requires one’s leadership to evolve amid an era’s pressing problems ... Goodwin distills lessons on the value of real political experience.
...her approach here uncovers new insights and understanding—both for readers and for herself ... Readers will share that sense of discovery ... 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.
While presidential historian Goodwin does not address the present situation in this beautifully written meditation on the topic, her assessment of four respected presidents’ abilities as leaders cannot help but contribute to current debates ... Goodwin draws on 50 years of scholarship in this strong and resonant addition to the literature of the presidency.
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 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.
Goodwin further burnishes her credentials as a popular historian with this thoughtful revisiting of the lives of four presidents ... 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.