Business, Community & Government

Profiles in Leadership

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 9:18 min

Doris examines what made George Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. such effective leaders.

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Topics include: George Washington: Setting Standards · Eleanor Roosevelt: The Lady of Firsts · Martin Luther King Jr.: Leading a Movement


[MUSIC PLAYING] INSTRUCTOR: Let me talk to you for a little bit about old George Washington. What I think is so important about him is that he had humility, in a sense. He was very confident. You need to have that combination of humility and confidence. When he is going to the presidency for the first time, he's going up toward the north, he writes to a friend, and he said, I feel like I'm going to my execution. I don't know whether I'll be able to deal with this ocean of difficulties that I'll be facing. And my name and reputation depend upon it. All I can count on is firmness and integrity of character. And that's what he had. And that's what we needed. He had the vision to understand that every act that he did was setting a precedent for this whole new country. The way he talked to Congress, the way he talked to the public, whether he met with people coming in to him-- he was aware that he was setting a standard for all the people that followed. And the most important moment, when that awareness plays itself out-- after he serves two terms, he decides, I'm not going to run for a third term. He figured that somehow, if he ran till the end of his lifetime, then we would have presidents who served until they died. And it wouldn't look that different from a monarchy. So he deliberately renunciates power, goes back home. And then that two-term limit eventually becomes, now, a constitutional amendment, that for two terms. But it's a really important understanding of democracy-- that you become a powerful leader. And then the next day, you're just a person going back home. There's a peaceful transition of power. And that's what George Washington wanted. And that's what George Washington rendered to all of us. [MUSIC PLAYING] I would love to talk to you, as well, about Eleanor Roosevelt as a leader. For what an extraordinary figure she was. When she took on the role of first lady, it was particularly a ceremonial role. She was the first first lady to hold weekly press conferences, the first first lady to speak at a national convention. She traveled around the country 200 days a year to bring FDR back stories of which of his New Deal programs were working and which ones were failing. She sent so many memos to General Marshall during World War II about discrimination in the army that he had to assign a separate general whose only task was to deal with Eleanor Roosevelt. TELEVISION ANNOUNCER: Now, at the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt has a message for us at home. - In a nation such as ours, every man who fights for us in some way our man. His parents may be of any race or religion. But if that man dies, he dies side by side with all of his buddies. And if your heart is with any man, in some way, it must be with all. - She had these weekly press conferences. And she made a rule-- only female reporters could come to her press conferences. That's taking a lot of chutzpah to say that. And then, all of a sudden, female...

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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