A Larger Ambition

John Henry Newman once remarked that “history offers lessons, not rules.”  Imitating the path of one successful person is tempting because it’s easy, but is rarely the formula for success; we have to learn from many leaders with different stories in order to extract applicable principles as to what leadership really is.

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (whose earlier book, “Team of Rivals”, was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln” ) has a new book, “Leadership in Turbulent Times” that shares how four presidents  (Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson) dealt with crises of a magnitude that most of us have not experienced.

If you want a good summary of these leaders’ stories and lessons to be learned on tomorrow’s commute, check out this 23 minute Wharton podcast interview with Ms. Goodwin. “ (There is also a summary transcript of the article).   If you want it in one sentence, Ms. Goodwin offers the following:  “They all had an ambition that was larger than themselves, eventually. That’s the key thing.”