Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life | Robert Dallek

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2018: Book #14

If you know me, you know FDR is one of my favorite presidents. I just finished Robert Dallek’s massive read, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life.” It will become an essential work in the history of FDR, but there are some issues.

I’ve read numerous books about FDR. Dallek’s book is very dense. He deals with FDR from a 30,000 foot view. There are probably fewer than 20 actual FDR stories in the 620 page book. You don’t get the inside stories of conversations between FDR and his generals. Instead, Dallek explains the policy and weaves in quotes from FDR and various leaders.

The book is informative, but not always enjoyable.

Here’s how it helped me as a leader:

  1. Leaders are flawed. There is no such thing as a perfect leader. FDR’s vanity was deep. He contracted polio at age 39 and lost the use of his legs. He did not want his photo or video taken while in his wheelchair. He said he was afraid it would, “scare the hell out of people.” In reality, the political aides wanted the cameras off out of fear that FDR could fall. They did not want photos or film of that. FDR was deeply connected to women other than his wife. He schemed and plotted. He lied to Congress and military leaders. He would say he did it to preserve America and win the war. All leaders have flaws, which gives me hope. Why? This reminds me that deeply flawed leaders can still do good in the world and change it for the better.
  2. FDR wanted to win. He wanted the country’s economy to turn around, Germany to fall, and Japan defeated. He is quoted as saying, “…no end save victory.” He won the friendships of others to try and accomplish his plans. FDR wanted to win…and he did.
  3. FDR didn’t give up. No matter the obstacle, he believed there was a solution. He would try to look at problems from every angle and try to pursue solutions from every possible avenue. He hated failure.
  4. He didn’t take care of himself. FDR had high blood pressure. He smoked, drank, and stopped exercising. There’s a lesson.
  5. He lied and schemed. He would say there was a greater victory to be won and the lying and scheming were worth it. There’s a lesson here, too. Do what’s right no matter the cost. In this regard, don’t be like Roosevelt.
  6. He didn’t allow his disability or insecurities to hold him back. This is why I love FDR so much. His political enemies would scream, “invalid” and “cripple” at him. He’d smile and go win. I love that about him. He didn’t allow his circumstances to hold him back. He didn’t even allow it when others used them against him in an effort to stop him.

This is a good book but not a great one..

3 out of 5 stars.

That’s book #14 for 2018.
38 more to reach the the goal of 52.

Remember, all leaders are readers.
If you want to be a better leader…be a reader.
#52in2018

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