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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Qualities of the Most Successful US Presidents

Knowing the traits that forged the best U.S. presidents could have helped US voters grasp what's necessary to succeed in the Oval Office. Here are some interesting historical perspectives on the key qualities needed for success:

Show vision. The best-rated presidents conveyed the direction they wanted to take the nation. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, fixtures at the top of historical rankings, exuded that quality of setting a futuristic tone. Thus Washington shaped the presidency, and Lincoln reshaped the nation. Ronald) Reagan had it too. His concept that it was possible to win the Cold War was visionary. Almost no one else, in or out of government, thought there was any prospect of that.

Have self-confidence.  Washington was secure enough to recruit the greatest minds ever assembled in a Cabinet: future high-ranking Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, plus Alexander Hamilton. The first president knew he needed their help to shape the nation. Lincoln, a one-term congressman, had no problem deferring to or overruling his secretary of state, William Seward, who many thought was more qualified to be president.

Be humble. It's not just that Lincoln had the ability to reject advice from more qualified people. It's that sometimes he listened to the advice, took it seriously and changed his mind. The 16th president could acknowledge that he very well might be wrong on issues. That attribute prevented Lincoln from making the catastrophic mistakes that someone who lacked humility might make. Washington and Lincoln were secure enough that they didn't feel they were the smartest people in the room. The same could be said of Harry Truman. The 33rd president called George Marshall the greatest man in the country and that if the former Army chief of staff could take the presidency, he'd resign in a minute.

Character does matter. The top-ranked presidents who were most upstanding were Lincoln, Washington, Reagan, Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Be diverse. Career politicians were less capable as president when rated against men who entered office with varied backgrounds. Some soldier-presidents — such as Washington, Eisenhower, U.S. Grant and Truman, with their sense of management were highly capable presidents. The ones who didn't plan on being president from the time they were little tended to excel! For example, political ambition came to Ronald Reagan late in life and Washington thought he'd die a soldier. As it turned out, the general won the Revolution and became the father of the USA.


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