Business, Community & Government

Forging Key Partnerships

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 09:56 min

Don’t shy away from putting rivals on your team, advises Doris. She explains how to complement your weaknesses with strengths from team members, allow for differences of opinion, and create a culture of respect and honesty.

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Topics include: Choose Team Members Who Will Disagree With You · Choose the Team That Fits the Circumstances · Choose a Team You Can Rely On


[INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC] - When you're building a team, one of the most important things is to know where your own weaknesses are as far as a team goes, and what strengths you need to complement those weaknesses. What experiences are you lacking? And what experiences can you bring in to the team? So, for example, the night that Abraham Lincoln won the election in 1860, he could not sleep. And he came up with the decision that he would put his three chief rivals into his cabinet-- Seward, Stanton, and Bates, because each one had much more experience than he. All he had were four terms in the state legislature and one term in Congress. And here he's facing the biggest problem that the country has faced since its founding. So he puts in these experienced people. They were more celebrated. They were much more educated than he. And at first, his friends worried that you're going to look like a figurehead with all these powerful people around you. He said, you're wrong. The country is in peril. These are the strongest and most able people in the country. I need them by my side. So he created a team of rivals. He had enough internal confidence to know that if he had them in his inner circle, he would then be reflecting the different factions in the country because one of them was conservative. One was moderate. One was radical. And if he could persuade them and listen to them and absorb their opinions, then he would be a leader. And I think that's what you're looking for is the confidence to not feel threatened by people who will argue with you, question your assumptions, and really debate what's going on rather than simply echoing your views because there are like-minded people. What you're hoping as a leader is that you'll know what your range of experiences are and what you need in other people. You'll know where you may not be so great at being a leader. For example, Lincoln was too often forgiving of people who had crossed him a certain way or who weren't as loyal as they should have been. He kept wanting to give them a second chance. He had difficulty firing people. And when it went to pardoning soldiers who had fallen asleep during duty or who had run away from battle, he always wanted to give their family a second chance. And Stanton was much tougher, much more willing to say, it's hurting military discipline. You have to not pardon these people. So he allowed himself to know I need that kind of bluntness, that kind of forcefulness because I may not do it. So they worked out a deal that each one could argue with each other a certain amount of time. But that's what you needed. And he knew that in Stanton he was getting somebody with a very different temperament than he had. And, in fact, it's an extraordinary story of how you can forget past hurts. Stanton had been a very powerful lawyer in the 1850s known nationwide. And he had a case that was tried in Illinois-- a big patent case. And they thought they needed somebod...

About the Instructor

For more than 50 years, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has studied great American presidents. Now the Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you leadership through the lens of U.S. presidential history. With timeless stories of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris shares practical wisdom and a template for honing leadership skills. Manage a crisis, craft a message, and guide a team like extraordinary leaders of the past.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches you how to develop the leadership qualities of exceptional American presidents.

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