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Leadership Thought #403 – What Makes A Great President?


In less than two months we will have a presidential election here in the United States.  Billions of dollars have been spent trying to influence voters to lean one way or another.  Interestingly enough a majority of people will simply vote their party line and put very little effort into understanding the position of the other candidate or their leadership abilities.  As a result, a comparatively small number of swing voters in an equally small number of states will end up deterring the final outcome.  As someone who certainly has a strong sense of party loyalty but has crossed party lines on many occasions this has always frustrated me.  No one party has the market cornered on good ideas or is the sole wellspring of capable leaders – the history of our nation has proven this.

I have spent considerable time studying leadership and observing leaders.  I also enjoy reading about the presidency and the 43 occupants of the oval office.  In my humble opinion, the most successful presidents have exhibited the following characteristics/traits:

  • They think big rather than small and have no problem with the “vision thing” mentioned by President George H. W. Bush;
  • There is an obvious, consistent and strong moral and ethical grounding to their decision making;
  • They are uniters not dividers;
  • They are willing to tell the truth about crucial issues confronting the nation instead of just telling us what they think we want to hear or playing to their ideological base;
  • They stay focused and tackle the most important issues rather than getting sidelined by the many distractions natural to the office;
  • They don’t shy away from making tough decisions and fully embrace the responsibility of presidential leadership;
  • They have the courage of their convictions, but are willing to reach across the aisle compromise for the greater good;
  • Their communication style tends to be upbeat and positive and appeals to our better nature;
  • They tend to share the credit and shoulder the blame even when this gets politically complicated;
  • They seem to genuinely enjoy their interactions with the public and have a natural affinity and empathy for the common man/woman;
  • They stay cool under pressure and don’t allow their emotions or the politics of the moment to force unwise action or lead to political gaffes;
  • They don’t go it alone and tend to intuitively build relationship bridges and foster professional alliances with other leaders who are critical to domestic and international  issues;
  • They tend to enjoy the political game rather than get annoyed by it or see themselves as always above the fray;
  • They keep the country looking and moving forward rather than getting mired in the past;
  • They tend to have a good sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously.

When we cast our vote on elections day, each of us exercises our constitutional right to influence the direction of the country.  It helps to understand what leadership characteristics have led to good outcomes in the past.  We certainly can’t and shouldn’t expect every leader to be a Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or Roosevelt, but we can learn from their examples and the positive attributes of other inhabitants of The White House.

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3 Responses

  1. […] Continue reading on Ed Robinson’s blog… […]

  2. […] Leadership Thought #403 – What Makes A Great President? (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] Leadership Thought #403 – What Makes A Great President? (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

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