Nothing To Fear

by Adam Cohen

Adam Cohen takes you behind-the-scenes to see why FDR and his cabinet changed the way we view "the first 100 days." We meet his cabinet. We learn about the leaders, their journeys, their feats and failures. Mostly we see the power of the presidency at its best, a leader and his capable inner circle pulling our country out of depression, a depression both economic and emotion.

Read Nothing To Fear and you will see why Cohen calls The Hundred Days, "the third great revolution in American history."

I have read Cohen's work three times. My copy is thoroughly marked with notes, insights, and leadership lessons I have gleaned. I have used Nothing To Fear four times in teaching the importance of vision and communication in my work with doctoral students. It's outstanding.

Five takeaways (and it is hard to stop at five):

1. Leadership teams look different: While FDR did not have Lincoln's "Team of Rivals" (thank you Doris Kearns Goodwin), his was not strictly a politically homogeneous group either. Great teams "make" great leaders, but great leaders build great teams.

2. The power of the second leader: Moley, Douglas, Perkins, Hopkins. Each of these leaders are models and mentors for anyone who leads from the second chair. 

3. Vision IS a solution to a problem: Cohen masterfully sets the stage. He shows us the plight of America in 1932-1933, as well as the unfolding of FDR's vision, and the necessity of "action and action now" to bring it to fruition.

4. Vision is powerless apart from communication: Leveraging his first inaugural address, fireside chats (and not too many of them), press relations, Elanor's powerful role, the importance of pleasant vs combative words to covey a message, the use of metaphor . . . . FDR effectively harnessed communication and communication mediums in support of his administrative agenda.

5. Visionaries have a bias for action: The contrast of Hoovers lethargy with FDR's activity. Or as Harry Hopkins told his staff in '34: "Boys--this is our hour . . . We've got to get everything we want." (page 287)