Doris Kearns Goodwin is a presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of six books. Five of them are about presidents: Lincoln, Kennedy, Johnson. Franklin Roosevelt. Her latest is "The Bully Pulpit." about William Taft and Teddy Roosevelt.
Where did you get the idea for your new book?
I realized that underneath all these fat books that I've written over time was really a study of leadership, and that's what I was most interested in. When I was in graduate school, you used to ask: Are leaders born or are they made? How do they get through adversity? Is it a matter of the man versus the times or the times versus the man? So I figured I'd just take four of my guys, as I like to call them, starting with Lincoln, and then Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin and LBJ domestically. and figure out: How did they become leaders? How many of their leadership traits were inborn? How did they develop into leaders? How did they get through adversity? And then: How did they meet the moment that they were called upon to lead?
It's really fun, and it turns out I had to learn a lot more than I thought I knew.
Did you come up with the idea for this book before the last presidential election?
I did. Leadership is more important now than ever before, and I'm hoping that it can reach not just people who like history, but people who want to be leaders in any field, because there are lessons to be learned from the people who have been our great leaders.
How do you define leadership?
Clearly it has to do with a person's ability to influence other people to move in a common direction that hopefully is for the common good, an ability to mobilize the energy and spirit of other people, and have them look to you for direction and guidance. I'm trying to write something called "the making of leaders," so that it would be applicable to young people in lots of other fields.
Is there a correlation between baseball and leadership?
Obviously, what happens to make a team win is often a team spirit. Somehow, there's a leader, whether it's a player or the manager, and sometimes it's not the teams with the greatest talent individually, but somehow they work together. That's true in leadership in any level of life.
And there's going through adversity. As we know from the Boston Red Sox, there's something about adversity that welds the people in the town together so that when you finally win it's just glorious. I remember one of the times we lost one of the playoffs to the...