Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin – My Eight Lessons and Takeaways – (A “Guest” Post by Ed Savage)

(Note from Randy Mayeux:  At the February, 2019 First Friday Book Synopsis, Ed Savage was our guest presenter for the book Leadership: In Turbulent Times.  Here is his guest blog post, with his lessons and takeaways.  Thanks, Ed).


It was a perfect storm in terms of timing. The United States of America had just undergone its longest government shutdown in history. If that isn’t a turbulent time, not much else is. How do leaders handle turbulence?

Leadership, GoodwinDoris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, is part history, part leadership, and lots of reflective learning. It seemed to go on forever when reading from a Kindle app, but it was worth every moment. It gave me a whole new view of our current “turbulent time”.

For you, some Lessons & Takeaways from the synopsis:

  1. We need to know/learn about the past, with analysis help from a deep thinker, to get the big picture (Randy Mayeux Synopsis of – Lessons from the 21stCentury)
  2. There is not one approach to leadership
  3. There is not one way to prepare for leadership
  4. That said, what did Kearns Goodwin find common in each leader?
  • They were really smart and often underestimated
  • Each had a driving ambition to serve
  • Each had a major personal failure to overcome be it health or, losing a major election, or family tragedy; in other words a personal crisis from which to learn
  • They went into a funk before emerging reenergized to success
  • They disliked being number two
  • They understood people
  • They were story tellers
  • They learned about organizations
  • They were innovators
  1. Political leadership differs from business leadership – dealing with changing societal attitudes versus changing production lines
  2. Time brings differing perspectives & legacies
  3. Not all leaders succeed at all challenges
  4. History is your friend or liberal arts education still has a very important place in society today

Perhaps the best quote from Doris’ book is unrelated to any of her four subjects:

“It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed,” Abigail Adamswrote to her son John Quincy Adamsin the midst of the American Revolution, suggesting that “the habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues.” 

Thank you Randy for letting me guest synopsize.
Ed Savage Ed.D.

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