The B&N Podcast: Doris Kearns Goodwin on Leadership

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of the most celebrated chroniclers of the lives of American presidents, the author of multiple bestsellers including The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the basis for Stephen Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film Lincoln. Leadership in Turbulent Times is something different, though: an attempt to extract vital lessons from her many hours spent immersed in the lives of four presidents: Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Lyndon Johnson, in whose White House she served. In this book, the historian tries to understand how these four men dealt with some of the most overwhelming challenges faced by this country and its government. She joins Bill Tipper in our podcast studio to talk about what she took away from this journey into America’s moments of crisis.


In this culmination of five decades of acclaimed studies in presidential history, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin offers an illuminating exploration of the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership.

Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. 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.

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 the contours and dilemmas of their times.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

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.

See more books by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

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Author photo of Doris Kearns Goodwin (c) Annie Leibovitz.