Book in the news: a dollop of secret sauce for CEOs

Book review: Leadership Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest book is not her usual historical study.


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Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest book is not her usual historical study it interweaves stories from the lives of Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Lyndon Johnson in order to "detail leadership tips for non-political types", says Kevin Krill on Bloomberg. The book focuses on a crisis each president faced: Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, Theodore Roosevelt and the 1902 coal strike, FDR's first 100 days and LBJ and the Civil Rights Act.

"Americans are strongly attracted to the idea that there are secret sauces," says Niall Ferguson in The Sunday Times. So it's a "safe bet" that Leadership "will soon sit on the nightstand of every CEO in the land and will be avidly read by the legion of ambitious young people who want their jobs". But "if we're serious about arriving at a general theory of leadership", we'll need more presidents than are examined here, and "some failures in the mix, too".

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Goodwin highlights her subjects' common traits preternatural persistence, a surpassing intelligence and a gift for storytelling but "it is the differences among them that are most interesting", says David Greenberg in The New York Times. Indeed, the book is at its best when the author "resists the urge to glean pat lessons or rules from the past and allows herself to savour the stubborn singularity of each moment or personality". Still, one "can only hope that a few of Goodwin's many readers will find in her subjects' examples a margin of inspiration and a resolve to steer the country to a better place".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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