President’s Day gives us the perfect opportunity to look at presidential leadership styles, effectiveness, and professional presence, and how they relate to the rest of us.
You may not be a US President, but the qualities that belie their success and effectiveness embody the characteristics that EDSI includes in it programs and materials related to our core programs of professional presence, personal effectiveness and communicating to manage performance. And there is one characteristic on the list that without it, ensures the complete ineffectiveness of a presidency. Here is what makes our presidents effective (and ineffective):
Effectiveness as a public communicator
Effective public communicators are born, not made. Consider that Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton are the exceptions to many mediocre speakers. However, the more important point is that history shows us that leaders improve their skills with practice, and you can, too. When Eleanor Roosevelt first heard her husband give a speech, she was taken aback by his long pauses and slow delivery. “I was worried for fear that he would never go on.”
What is your overall ability to rally your team and get the most out of it? Many presidents have trouble assembling a team that is not made up of ‘yes’ men, and as a leader, you may have found the same problems. How do we find out which presidents were truly able to build a strong team? Ask their administration, after the presidency. What would your team say about you?
How can you put your stamp on the changes, projects, and initiatives that you undertake each day? Your political skill will undoubtedly be part of your success in your role. Consider practical ways in which you can build stronger support and establish (or strengthen) your reputation. This skill has been a hallmark of success for some presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson, who was able to muster support for major domestic policies within hours after Kennedy’s assassination.
Vision often indicates the ability to inspire and convey your ideas to others. It also is the capacity take into account how the decisions you make will affect the organization as a whole. Think of the projects you are currently working on. Are they in alignment with what your own president and executive staff claim to be the top priorities of the company? In his book, The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush, author Fred Greenstein states, “Vision also encompasses consistency of viewpoint. Presidents who stand firm are able to set the terms of policy discourse. In effect they serve as anchors for the rest of the political community. The costs of vision-free leadership include internally inconsistent programs, policies that have unintended consequences, and sheer drift.”
While this used to be seen as a soft, unimportant skill, in recent years we have learned the importance of emotional intelligence. Emotional flaws can be the death knell of a leader’s ability to follow through on policy or maintain political power. Of all the skills listed here, this is the one that can take all the rest down. If you can identify emotional intelligence weak spots in your team or organization, stop by our resource center to find the tools that will get you on track.
*To further explore the concepts in this article, refer to:The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush, by Fred Greenstein.