Doris Kearns Goodwin is a great historian and a terrific writer. As in her biographies, this one is well researched, logically organized, and converted into splendid prose. It is undoubtedly true that a few of the quotes appear both here and in the individual biographies, but they are used in a very different context. I don’t accept, therefore, the charge of redundancy.Biography is not a prescription for leadership, however, no matter whose life is chronicled. In this book Goodwin has clearly stepped out of her boat and, on balance, done a remarkable job. (In terms of effort and taking a risk I’d give her a 6.) She offers far more insight than, I must admit, I thought a biographer, even the best in the business, might. In that respect, I think, this will go down as one of the great achievements of her career.In the end, however, I’m not sure Kearns quite cracks the nut of leadership. Each of the four men profiled were great leaders but I’m still not sure what the core elements of leadership are. She defines that core for each of them, but they, by her own portrayal, were all very different men with very different life experiences. While defining their leadership skills after the fact is meaningful, it’s not particularly predictive unless common elements can be established. And while she insightfully chronicles the core leadership qualities of each, I never quite felt like she provided a blueprint.She’s not alone, however. As a former CEO and current executive coach I have diligently studied leadership over a span exceeding four decades. My thesis before reading this book was that the qualities of leadership could only be isolated after the fact and that the variables articulated could not be applied pro-actively. Every leader, in other words, is different, and leadership is an unpredictable confluence of individual qualities and external events.Goodwin has not changed that assessment (hence the 4 – I’m reviewing the book, not the author) but she nonetheless made a valiant effort and did, in fact, move me a few baby steps off the position I previously held. For that reason I believe this is a very worthy book but caution readers who believe they are going to find a prescription for leaders that they can apply in their own lives. To be clear, however, I would say the same thing about any book on leadership, including those written by the most popular gurus of the topic, virtually all of which I have read.What struck me most about the author’s characterization is how much each of these undeniably great leaders looks, at their core, a lot like you and me. More ambition, for sure. In a couple of cases, more raw brainpower. None, however, were gods. Each struggled with the adversity that each of us faces, no matter the station we are born into. Each faced undeniable failure and humiliation. Each struggled to find their rhythm of leadership.And that, I believe, is one of the secrets to this author’s greatness. She finds the humanity in all of us, whether you are Abraham Lincoln or John Smith. She understands people and that is not a universal trait among those who excel at prose.I, to be frank, found the humanity of these four great leaders very uplifting and reassuring. In an age in which the world around us seems to be screaming that “you are wrong”, it gave me some desperately needed hope. So, if you could use a dash of hope, and who can’t, I strongly recommend you read this book. Thanks to Ms. Goodwin for sharing it.