Lead­er­ship in the Storm: How Four U.S. Pres­i­dents Han­dled Tur­moil

Business a.m. - - EXECUTIVE KNOWLEDGE SERIES - An edited tran­script of the con­ver­sa­tion fol­lows.

When pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian Doris Kearns Good­win be­gan work­ing five years ago on her new­est book, Lead­er­ship in Tur­bu­lent Times, she didn’t know how apro­pos it would be to to­day’s po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. The Pulitzer Prize-win­ning au­thor pro­filed four pres­i­dents — Abra­ham Lin­coln, Theodore Roo­sevelt, Franklin D. Roo­sevelt and Lyn­don John­son — who led the na­tion through some of its most dif­fi­cult times. In the book, Kearns Good­win chron­i­cled their ex­tra­or­di­nary strength and lead­er­ship acu­men. She shared her in­sights on the Knowl­edge@Whar­ton.

Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: Is there a bit of irony in the tim­ing of the re­lease of this book? Doris Kearns Good­win: J Q ! ago, I had no idea how rel­e­vant it would be to be study­ing these four lead­ers who lived in tur­bu­lent times. Peo­ple kept ask­ing me, “Are these the worst of times ever?” At least I can point back to what it was like for Lin­coln when he took of­fice and 600,000 sol­diers were about to die. The coun­try was split in two. The eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and the so­cial sit­u­a­tion dur­ing the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion were even more fraught in terms of the gap be­tween the rich and the poor, and the new in­ven­tions that were mak­ing peo­ple feel the coun­try was chang­ing too fast un­der Teddy Roo­sevelt, as it is un­der Trump. [Franklin] Roo­sevelt comes in dur­ing the De­pres­sion, and Lyn­don John­son # sina­tion of John F. Kennedy was mak­ing peo­ple won­der what was go­ing on in the world. They all had the strength to bring us through those sit­u­a­tions, so it has given me hope about his­tory and [a feel­ing of] re­as­sur­ance. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: When you look at these four men, are there com­mon­al­i­ties in their lead­er­ship? Kearns Good­win: They ob­vi­ously come from re­ally dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Both Roo­sevelts come from a priv­i­leged, wealthy back­ground, Abra­ham Lin­coln en­dured enor­mous poverty, and LBJ ex­pe­ri­enced spo­radic hard times. They’re dif­fer­ent in tem­per­a­ment. But they do have cer­tain kinds of what I call “fam­ily re­sem­blances” in terms of lead­er­ship. They kept grow­ing through loss and ad­ver­sity. They had re­silience. They even­tu­ally de­vel­oped hu­mil­ity, even if they started with­out it. They knew how to talk to peo­ple with sto­ries. They built teams of more strong­minded peo­ple who could dis­agree with them. They had the emo­tional in­tel­li­gence to deal with those teams. Those words might not have been known then, but we know now. They some­how were able to con­nect to the peo­ple di­rectly and con­trol nega­tive emo­tions. All these things shine a light on to­day, I think. And they all had an am­bi­tion that was larger than them­selves, even­tu­ally. That’s the key thing. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: You knew Pres­i­dent John­son from your days in Wash­ing­ton, and be­ing there with his staff. Tell us your mem­o­ries of him and what made him unique as a leader fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy. Kearns Good­win: I think he was im­me­di­ately aware that he had to grasp the reins # "it like when the cat­tle are run­ning around and you can’t get them to go in a straight line, you have to sort of take the lead. Some­one has to lead on the horse to get the cat­tle # "civil rights bill of JFK, which was stuck in Congress with lit­tle hope it could get out, "by his ad­vis­ers, “You can’t do this. Your elec­tion is 11 months away. If you do this, you’re not go­ing to get any­thing through Congress and you’re go­ing to ex­pend the coinage of the pres­i­dency.” And he said, “What the hell’s the pres­i­dency for?” For all the prob­lems that Lyn­don John­son had, and the war in Viet­nam will al­ways be cut­ting his legacy in two, he was the right man with the leg­isla­tive wiz­ardry to get the civil rights bill through Congress, to get Repub­li­cans on his side. At the end of his life, when he wor­ried about it, would he be re­mem­bered for any­thing pos­i­tive? Civil rights would be it. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: Pres­i­dent John­son grasped what needed to be done do­mes­ti­cally, but in­ter­na­tional pol­icy was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, cor­rect? Kearns Good­win: Cor­rect. " ! # wanted to achieve right from ( ! # night when he was watch­ing the Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion on tele­vi­sion with his aides. "he wanted to get a tax cut through to get the econ­omy go­ing, then he could get civil rights through, then he would get vot­ing rights through, then he wanted aid to ed­u­ca­tion. Fi­nally, he " man’s Medi­care bill through. " ! larger do­mes­ti­cally in terms of Medi­care, im­mi­gra­tion re­form, PBS, NPR, etc. But on for­eign pol­icy, what he was sim­ply try­ing to do was not ac­com­plish some­thing with a pos­i­tive goal — he was try­ing to pre­vent fail­ure. At the very be­gin­ning, it was an im­pos­si­ble " ( Z less you put more troops in here, the war is go­ing to fail. The fail­ure will be on you.” So, he adds troops, and then he adds more troops, and then he adds more troops, and he doesn’t re­ally al­low the Amer­i­can peo­ple to know \ "keep the Great So­ci­ety go­ing so that he can have his do­mes­tic pro­grams and the for­eign pol­icy thing on the back cor­ner. You can’t do that in a mat­ter of war and peace. The peo­ple have to know what they’re do­ing. They need a goal. All of the op­po­site qual­i­ties of his do­mes­tic lead­er­ship, un­for­tu­nately, were there in for­eign pol­icy and Viet­nam. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: Abra­ham Lin­coln was in of! the coun­try’s his­tory as well. What were the char­ac­ter­is­tics of his lead­er­ship? Kearns Good­win: What he brought into the pres­i­dency was re­silience be­cause that had been part of his life all along. You had to be re­silient to go through those ter­ri­ble Union losses in the early part of the war. Yet he kept believ­ing it, in part be­cause he had come through so much # ^! # # ( he warned the peo­ple that ! _ times un­til it would be re­ally dis­grace­ful. Then he promised he wouldn’t try again.

" _ em­pa­thy, so that even as he pros­e­cuted the law, he un­der­stood where the South­ern peo­ple were com­ing from. "that, when it was all over, they could come back to­gether as a union. That se­cond in­au­gu­ral is the most beau­ti­ful ex­am­ple of that. You know, the sin of slav­ery was shared by both sides. Once the North had won the war, he said that both sides read the same Bi­ble, both prayed to the same God, and nei­ther one’s prayers were fully an­swered. " ( J none, with char­ity for all,” let us bind up a na­tion. "he had to pros­e­cute the war, but he was also mer­ci­ful. "" " sev­er­ing. And he had a gift for language that gave that strug­gle mean­ing, which prob­a­bly no one else could ! " \ _ di­nary char­ac­ter. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton:

" ! sig­nif­i­cant di­vi­sions that ex­isted in the coun­try at that time? Kearns Good­win: It’s hard to imag­ine what it was like when he first took of­fice and the coun­try was lit­er­ally "if he had known what he # # ( \ have thought he could have lived through it. That showed us how in­tense that time was. You have to have had his sad sense of me­lan­choly that got him through it, but light­ened by his ex­tra­or­di­nary hu­mor, which he said “whis­tled off his sad­ness.” I had no idea how funny he would be. I knew he’d be a great states­man to live with — be­cause I spent about 10 years and now this ad­di­tional ! Q\! ! with him — and I wouldn’t change it for any­thing in the world. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: Franklin Roo­sevelt be­gan his pres­i­dency at the height of the Great De­pres­sion, which had a tremen­dous im­pact on the coun­try. Like Lin­coln, FDR had to act for the greater good at a time when peo­ple were hurt­ing, not from war but from eco­nomic col­lapse. " ` Kearns Good­win: The case study that I do on FDR is to use him as an ex­am­ple of turn­around lead­er­ship. LBJ’s a vi­sion­ary, Lin­coln is trans­for­ma­tive, and Teddy is cri­sis man­age­ment. I’ve been giv­ing lec­tures to busi­ness groups for these last 10, 20 years, so it was fun to re­ally try and learn that lit­er­a­ture and fig­ure out how these But in FDR’s case, when ( cial sys­tem has col­lapsed. "hol­i­day to close all the banks, re­open them with an emer­gency bank­ing bill that would shore up the weaker banks and let the stronger ones go for­ward. But most im­por­tantly, even when he gave his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, his main con­cern was he has ! very badly fright­ened peo­ple, many of whom thought not hav­ing a job was their fault. " ( Q \ sys­tem that’s at fault, and we are go­ing to take ac­tion to make that sys­tem fairer. And if I don’t get the Congress to go with me, I’m go­ing to take ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to do it.” Just be­cause of his op­ti­mism and his con­fi­dence in that one speech alone, thou­sands of tele­grams came into the J " ( # let­ters say­ing, “OK, we’re go­ing to go with you be­cause you are there.” That’s the mys­tique of lead­er­ship, I think, that you can pro­ject your own op­tia peo­ple. Then he could start tak­ing the ac­tion. After he takes the turn­around ac­tion, he has to sys­tem­at­i­cally and what had to be changed in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the govern­ment and the busi­ness com­mu­nity. Knowl­edge@Whar­ton: What made Teddy Roo­sevelt so unique for you? Kearns Good­win: It’s his " \ ! ( Q ing that if one of these peo­ple had to be pres­i­dent to­day, he would prob­a­bly be the most likely one be­cause of the sit­u­a­tion he faced after McKin­ley was as­sas­si­nated, when the econ­omy had been so shaken up at the turn of the 20th cen­tury. It was so much like the sit­u­a­tion that faced us in the 2016 cam­paign. You had ru­ral ar­eas that felt cut off from cities. You had lots of im­mi­grants com­ing in and "of the cen­trist phi­los­o­phy. It was go­ing to be a square deal for the rich and the poor, for the cap­i­tal­ist and the wage worker. And he be­came a { ! “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” " \ | \ you have to, but then when you have to hit, hit hard.” " ! ! } _ " ( ~ the very last drop.”

They all had an am­bi­tion that was larger than them­selves, even­tu­ally. That’s the key thing

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