Cover of book Leadership: In Turbulent Times

Leadership: In Turbulent Times

by: Doris Kearns Goodwin

Check out the book on Amazon | your public library.
A riveting comparison of leadership of four past US Presidents. An amazing book, very well written, riveting and thought provoking.
89 Highlights | 6 Notes
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    Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson—the
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    “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 voice inside which speaks and says, ‘This is the real me!’ ”
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    Lyndon Johnson entered Congress as a protégé of Franklin Roosevelt. From his desk in the Oval Office, Johnson gazed directly across to a painting of his “political daddy” whose domestic agenda in the New Deal he sought to surpass with his own Great Society. As a young man, Franklin Roosevelt had daydreamed of his own political ascent molded step by step upon the career of Theodore Roosevelt. From childhood, Theodore Roosevelt’s great hero was Abraham Lincoln, whose patient resolve and freedom from vindictiveness blazed a trail that Theodore Roosevelt sought to follow all his life. And for Abraham Lincoln, the closest he found to an ideal leader was George Washington,
    linkNote: Who's your hero? What footsteps guide you? Importance of role models.
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    and a fierce, almost irresistible, compulsion to understand the meaning of what he heard, read, or was taught.
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    Early on, Abraham revealed a keystone attribute essential to success in any field—the motivation and willpower to develop every talent he possessed to the fullest.
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    said.” He understood early on that concrete examples and stories provided the best vehicles for teaching.
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    Lincoln preferred reading aloud in the presence of others. “When I read aloud,” Lincoln later explained, “two senses catch the idea: first, I see what I read; second, I hear it, and therefore I remember it better.”
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    The answer, one local man explained, lay in Lincoln’s sociability, his “open—candid—obliging & honest” good nature.
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    With this commitment, Lincoln revealed early on a quality that would characterize his leadership for the rest of his life—a willingness to acknowledge errors and learn from his mistakes.
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    A finely developed sense of timing—knowing when to wait and when to act—would remain in Lincoln’s repertoire of leadership skills the rest of his life.
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    An autodidact by necessity, he “studied with nobody,”
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    Increasingly, though not always, he was able to rein in his impulse to throw a hurtful counterpunch. He was after something more significant than the gratification of an artfully delivered humiliation.
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    Why is education so central? Because, as he said then, every citizen must be able to read history to “appreciate the value of our free institutions.”
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    Preparing ahead, he recognized, freed him from anxiety—a habit of mind that would set an example for his colleagues in the years ahead.
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    “He was different from anybody I had ever met,” Sewall said. “Wherever he went, he got right in with the people,” connecting with them, talking with them, enjoying them, without the slightest trace of condescension.
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    That young Roosevelt could open himself up to such men, relate to them, and learn from them suggested that in the aftermath of great sorrow he was beginning to chip away at the inherited elitism of his privileged background.
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    While Lincoln kept quietly in the background throughout his first session, watching and figuring, Roosevelt charged into action, often irritating his colleagues, violating the rules of parliamentary procedure.
    linkNote: A nd that is a valid strategyh too
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    In an essay on “fellow-feeling,” written a decade and a half later, Roosevelt maintained that empathy, like courage, could be acquired over time.
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    “A man who conscientiously endeavors to throw in his lot with those about him, to make his interest theirs, to put himself in a position where he and they have a common object, will at first feel a little self-conscious, will realize too plainly his aims. But with exercise this will pass off. He will speedily find that the fellow-feeling which at first he had to stimulate was really existent, though latent, and is capable of a very healthy growth.” Indeed, he argued that a “very large part of
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    “Temperament,” Richard Neustadt argues in his classic study of presidential leadership, “is the great separator.”
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    Generations of historians have agreed with Holmes, pointing to Roosevelt’s self-assured, congenial, optimistic temperament as the keystone to his leadership success.
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    Roosevelt liked to say, meaning not simply the tranquil river and the big country house but the atmosphere of love and affection that enveloped him as a child. The boy’s personality flourished in the warmth of his environment.
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    Franklin alone was the focus of his parents’ lives, their joint vocation, heir and hub of the place that was both a landed estate and a state of mind, a place from which all unpleasantness and discord seemed banished.
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    Beyond lessons on how to fish, Mr. James taught his son how to observe birds and identify trees and plants in the woods,
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    An uncommon intuitive capacity and interpersonal intelligence allowed him as a child to read the intentions and desires of his parents, to react appropriately to shifting household moods—gifts that he would nurture and develop in the years ahead.
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    “There was something incurably sociable about this man,” she observed, “he was sociable in his intellectual as well as his playful moods.”
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    The ingrained expectation that things would somehow turn out positively allowed him to move steadily forward, to adjust and persevere in the face of difficulty; and in time, he found his own niche as a member of the debate team.
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    Not yet a leader of the boys, not even accepted as one of the boys, he was learning to project a confident good cheer, to mask his frustrations, which, at this stage of his development, was a great achievement in itself.
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    Franklin’s quest to achieve autonomy without wounding his mother required new levels of manipulation, nimbleness, and guile, a deeper resourcefulness, persistence, and willfulness—self-preserving qualities he would add to his developing capacities.
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    “He had a force of personality . . . he liked people, and he made them instinctively like him. Moreover, in his geniality there was a kind of frictionless command.”
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    Franklin Roosevelt’s fundamental style—the ability to make decisions without hesitating or looking back, coupled with a propensity to keep the process of determination hidden from view—emerged during his clandestine courtship of Eleanor Roosevelt.
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    Thereafter, he refused to squander energy by raking over and reexamining whether he had made the right choice.
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    “If you can’t come into a room full of people and tell right away who is for you and who is against you, you have no business in politics,” he told his son.
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    indefatigable energy, ability to persuade, willingness to fight for what he wanted, intuition, enterprise, and initiative—to
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    “He respected the kids more than any other teacher we ever had,” said Manuel Sanchez. “He put us to work,” another student remembered. “But he was the kind of teacher you wanted to work for. You felt an obligation to him and to yourself to do your work.”
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    “Why some people are able to extract wisdom from experience, and others are not,” Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas write, remains a critical question. Some people lose their bearings; their lives are forever stunted. Others resume their normal behaviors after a period of time. Still others, through reflection and adaptive capacity, are able to transcend their ordeal, armed with a greater resolve and purpose.
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    “It does not depend on the start a man gets,” Logan told him, “it depends on how he keeps up his labors and efforts until middle life.”
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    “How hard—Oh how hard it is to die and leave one’s country no better than if one had never lived.”
    linkNote: #yott
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    What fired in Lincoln this furious and fertile time of self-improvement? The answer lay in his readiness to gaze in the mirror and soberly scrutinize himself. Taking stock, he found himself wanting.
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    To fulfill what he believed to be his destiny, a different kind of sustained effort and discipline was required, a willingness to confront weakness and imperfection, reflect upon failure, and examine the kind of leader he wanted to be.
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    He studied philosophy, astronomy, science, political economy, history, literature, poetry, and drama. He struggled to work out mathematical theorems and proofs. From his earliest years, when unable to understand what someone had said, he would turn the phrases over in his mind, battering his brow against them until he could capture their meaning. So now, with mathematics, he persisted “almost to the point of exhaustion,” until he could proudly claim that he had “nearly mastered the Six Books of Euclid.”
    linkNote: What does this look like in today's day and age? Where it's not the lack of information that's the problem - its a need for curation, need for figuring out your course carefully, staying true to it, not getting distracted and at the same time being flexible enough? What does that balance, that dance look like?
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    The key to Lincoln’s success was his uncanny ability to break down the most complex case or issue “into its simplest elements.”
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    regaled and entertained by a master storyteller.
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    As Lincoln became a leader in his profession, he assumed responsibility for mentoring the next generation.
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    The art of communication, Lincoln advised newcomers to the bar, “is the lawyer’s avenue to the public.” Yet, Lincoln warned, the lawyer must not rely on rhetorical glibness or persuasiveness alone. What is well-spoken
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    Even “extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated.” Indeed, “the leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow that can be done to-day.” The key to success, he insisted, is “work, work, work.”
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    It was directed toward understanding the role and the purpose of leadership.
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    That the members of the audience readily returned, and indeed, swelled in number, for a torch-lit evening session that would last until the hour before midnight, demonstrates the high level of citizen interest and participation in politics in the 1850s. With few public entertainments available in rural America, villagers and farmers regarded the spoken word and political debates as riveting spectator sports.
    linkNote: So what does this mean? In today's day and age, since we have so many options for entertainment - we are not dependent on politics for entertainment - and so we don't care to participate????
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    Never again would he assume that his side of the aisle held a monopoly on righteousness; never again would he deploy satire as a means to vindictively humiliate another. “Nothing so much marks
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    He hoped his example of acquired courage would prove instructive, persuading other men that if they could consider danger “as something to be faced and overcome,” they would “become fearless by sheer dint of practicing fearlessness.”
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    well. It underscored the vulnerability, fragility, and mutability of all his endeavors, political and personal.
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    Hit the ground running; consolidate control; ask questions of everyone wherever you go; manage by wandering around; determine the basic problems of each organization and hit them head-on; when attacked, counterattack; stick to your guns; spend your political capital to reach your goals; and then when your work is stymied or done, find a way out.
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    As ever, Roosevelt’s voracious scientific and historical reading and writing served him well.
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    For Roosevelt, being a subordinate was never confused with being subservient.
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    Roosevelt understood from the start that leadership had to be earned; it was not something to be granted by rank or title.
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    “No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention,” Lincoln was wont to say.
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    If there was something contrived and theatrical about the relentless sunniness he conveyed—a willful whistling in the dark—he radiated warmth, hope, and confidence that would, in the end, prove contagious.
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    In his never-ending search for treatment, Roosevelt deployed a “trial and error” method, an indelible fingerprint of his leadership style.
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    Howe taught her to restrain her nervous giggle, lower her high-pitched voice, say what she wanted to say, and then sit down. When
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    From that moment on, she later told friends, she no longer loved him in the same way, though they remained joined by unbreakable ties and retained “a deep and unshakeable affection and tenderness” toward one another.
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    Roosevelt held an almost mystical belief in the healing power of sun and water.
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    this was the confidence of having overcome fear of humiliation, a confidence born of making a great effort, of taking a great risk—and overcoming.
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    initial vision into a combined resort and treatment
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    The humility Roosevelt learned at Warm Springs was of a different order than merely accepting one’s limitations. By sharing those limitations with his fellow polios, by listening and learning from them, he had, Perkins believed, “purged” the elitist aura that had once surrounded him.
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    So now, as Roosevelt campaigned for the presidency, he built on his own long encounter with adversity: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and
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    “Every one likes a compliment,” Lincoln observed; everyone needs praise for the work they are doing. Frequently, he penned handwritten notes to his colleagues, extending his gratitude for their actions.
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    Lincoln never selected members of his team “by his like, or dislike of them,” his old friend Leonard Swett observed. “If a man had maligned him, or been guilty of personal ill-treatment and abuse, and was the fittest man for the place, he would put him in his Cabinet just as soon as he would his friend.” Guided by the “principle of forgiveness,” Lincoln insisted he did not care if someone has done wrong in the past; “it is enough if the man does no wrong hereafter.”
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    When angry at a colleague, Lincoln would fling off what he called a “hot” letter, releasing all his pent wrath. He would then put the letter aside until he cooled down and could
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    In the end, it was Lincoln’s character—his consistent sensitivity, patience, prudence, and empathy—that inspired and transformed every member of his official family.
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    And yet, beneath Lincoln’s tenderness and kindness, he was without question the most complex, ambitious, willful, and implacable leader of them all.
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    This acute sense of timing, one journalist observed, was the secret to Lincoln’s gifted leadership: “He always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”
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    Transactional leaders operate pragmatically. They appeal to the self-interest of their followers, using quid pro quos, bargains, trades, and rewards to solicit support and influence the behavior of their followers.
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    Transformational leaders inspire followers to identify with something larger than themselves—the organization, the community, the region, the country—and finally, to the more abstract identification with the ideals of that country.
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    From his earliest days, young Roosevelt had found in literature not only diversion but an escape into the lives of others, allowing him to embark vicariously on thrilling adventures, to breathe free, and accomplish great deeds.
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    “Doc” Roosevelt was ready to minister with frankness, affability, near-mystical confidence, and an unshakable resolve to take whatever actions were necessary to transfuse the nation.
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    “The remarkable thing about him,” California senator Hiram Johnson observed of Franklin Roosevelt, “was his readiness to assume responsibility and his taking that responsibility with a smile.”
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    So Roosevelt, like Lincoln, sought to communicate with and guide his audience by telling a story.
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    The answers to all such questions lay in Roosevelt’s leadership style: Establish a clear purpose; challenge the team to work out details; traverse conventional departmental boundaries; set large short-term and long-term targets; create tangible success to generate accelerated growth and momentum.
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    He surrounded himself with strong personalities who fought hard for their own ideas, and then he deliberately contrived situations that challenged them to defend their opposing positions.
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    The best way to attack unemployment, he believed, was to “prime the pump” by subsidizing private contractors to construct immense projects that would take an extended period of time to complete, but once accomplished, would endure. Such projects included the Bonneville Dam, the Lincoln Tunnel, LaGuardia Airport, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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    Don’t confuse what people in Washington are saying for what people in the country are feeling, Roosevelt repeatedly counseled his aides: “Go and see what’s happening. See the end product of what we are doing. Talk to people; get the wind in your nose.”
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    Memos were tailored to winnow down the mountains of data that piled up every hour. “I learned to prepare material so that it would photograph itself upon his memory,” Frances Perkins said. Recommendations for action should be short, “preferably one page,” presented in outline form, revealing who was in favor, who opposed, and why.
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    “Do the very best you can in making up your mind, but once your mind is made up go ahead.”
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    Such adaptability, the willingness to shift ground, revise, and accommodate the contours of changing circumstances, can be discerned as an animating principle threading through the scores of programs
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    “We have to do the best we know how to do at the moment. If it doesn’t work out,” he assured Perkins, “we can modify it as we go along.”
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    temperament that did not wear out the carpet worrying, that relaxed and thought out problems while conversing, that relished the joy of exercising leadership itself. When
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    The fame they craved, the recognition they sought, bears little resemblance to today’s cult of celebrity. For these leaders, the final measure of their achievements would be realized by their admittance to an enduring place in communal memory.
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    He frequently spoke of the zeitgeist, and how it shifted like a kaleidoscope to attract or discard particular capacities at particular times.
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    He considered history, an understanding of how we came to be, the best vehicle for understanding who we are and where we are going.
    linkNote: Write your own hostory