24 October 2007

Doris Kearns Goodwin @ EDUCAUSE 2007

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin kicked off the EDUCAUSE meeting with an engaging talk that included some interesting and entertaining anecdotes from her time as a White House aide and assistant to Lyndon Johnson. Most of the talk described her research on Abraham Lincoln and the attributes that make him a model for leadership. To summarize:

universal leadership traits -
1. capacity to listen to differing points of view. his subordinates could disagree and question him. But once decision was made, time for questioning over.
2. ability to learn on the job, acknowledge errors and learn from mistakes.
3. ready willingness to share credit for success. Truman - "you can accomplish anything in life if you don't care who gets the credit."
4. willingness to shoulder blame for his subordinates.
5. awareness of own weaknesses - e.g. slowness to fire McClelland who build Army but not take them into battle.
6 ability to control emotions. would write long hot letters and then put them aside and not send.
7. strength to adhere to his fundamental goals.
8. leaders have to know how to relax and shake off anxieties - Lincoln went to theatre more than 100 times during presidency. Sense of humor. Story about picture of George Washington in English outhouse.
9. going out into the field - managing by walking around

The thing that she didn't mention explicitly but was obviously important to Lincoln - as well as to LBJ and Doris Kearns Goodwin - is the ability to tell stories. Ms. Goodwin is an excellent story teller, and received a standing ovation at the end of her presentation.

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