Presidential Leadership

There are two main theories for the role of the president in the United States. The theory of the President of Restraint expresses concerns on a strong and popular president and it says that the incumbent should intentionally restrain his power and influence. The theory of the Presidential Leadership or the President of Action preaches that the president should be the agent of popular reforms. The president should have a strong personality and effectively discharge presidential duties and tasks. A sense of power and willingness to search for it are also key issues for a successful president.

One of the reasons for the existence of the two contrasting theories is the dual nature of the presidential office in the United States. The figure of the president is both a national symbol and a partisan leader. Progressive politicians stand up for the presidential leadership tradition, while conservatives prefer the president of restraint theory. A real leader, according to the presidential leadership theory, should be able to deal with the administration, bureaucracy, Congress and public opinion. His skills have two main components - a sensitivity to power relationships and ability to make his power greater in each area of action. The president must be experienced in persuading political actors to support policies and ideas.

President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is considered one of the greatest United Stated leaders. He was at the helm of the country in times of a great constitutional, military and moral crisis. He led the nation during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and succeeded to preserve the union of the states. Moreover, his ruling put an end to the slavery in the United Stated, while the President worked for the promotion of economic and financial modernization. Lincoln's opposition to the expansion of slavery in the United States was one of the reasons which secured him the Republican nomination for the presidential election. In 1860, he was elected President of the United States. The President issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and actively worked for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery, to become reality.

Another good example of presidential leadership is John F. Kennedy's policy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. The President had a slim hope that the Soviet Union would agree with the demands of the United States. The United States planned to attack Cuba via air and sea and settled on a military quarantine of the island. The administration of President Kennedy announced that it would not permit the Soviets to deploy offensive weapons in Cuba and demanded them to dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed in Cuba. Kennedy expected a military confrontation. The Soviet, in turn, considered that the United States' quarantine of "navigation in international waters and air space" was "an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war." Despite the high political tension and fears of nuclear war, Kennedy held the position of the United States and the Soviets dismantled their offensive weapons in Cuba. The United States agreed to dismantle all Thor and Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles deployed in Europe and Turkey.

Part of the presidential leadership is the legislative power. The Congress in the United States is not set up to lead but its internal organization and processes, as well as the various points of view of its members, impede in many ways the leadership strategies of the incumbent president. The president can press for action at the Congress but it is better not to try to dominate. The president can use his veto power, budget, his messages, bill drafts and other tools to achieve an agreement at the Congress and make pass his domestic and foreign policy through the Congress.

President George W. Bush also gave examples of presidential leadership following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2011. The President gave a speech to Congress on September 20, when he for a first time used the phrase "war on terror." The President managed to motivate and encourage in very difficult times for the country not only the congressmen of the two main parties but also the citizens of the United Stated. The President addressed not only the nation but the international community as a whole looking for its support. The support both of the nation and international partners would later become a crucial element of the President foreign policy.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The White House Speaks: Presidential Leadership as Persuasion
Kathy B. Smith; Craig Allen Smith.
Praeger Publishers, 1994
Breaking through the Noise: Presidential Leadership, Public Opinion, and the News Media
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha; Jeffrey S. Peake.
Stanford University Press, 2011
Presidential Leadership: From Woodrow Wilson to Harry S. Truman
Robert H. Ferrell.
University of Missouri Press, 2006
The President and His Inner Circle: Leadership Style and the Advisory Process in Foreign Affairs
Thomas Preston.
Columbia University Press, 2001
Comparing Presidential Behavior: Carter, Reagan, and the Macho Presidential Style
John Orman.
Greenwood Press, 1987
American Civil Rights Policy from Truman to Clinton: The Role of Presidential Leadership
Steven A. Shull.
M. E. Sharpe, 2000
Lessons in Leadership from Three American Presidents
Siegel, Michael Eric.
Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, Summer 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy
Mark J. Rozell; William D. Pederson.
Praeger, 1997
Presidential Power: Forging the Presidency for the Twenty-First Century
Robert Y. Shapiro; Martha Joynt Kumar; Lawrence R. Jacobs.
Columbia University Press, 2000
Hard Times for Presidential Leadership? (and How Would We Know?)
Aberbach, Joel D.; Rockman, Bert A.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Contemporary Presidency: The Changing Leadership of George W. Bush: A Pre- and Post-9/11 Comparison. (Features)
Greenstein, Fred I.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2, June 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Sex, Lies, and Presidential Leadership: Interpretations of the Office
Stuckey, Mary E.; Wabshall, Shannon.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 3, September 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam, and Public Opinion: Rethinking Realist Theory of Leadership
Jacobs, Lawrence R.; Shapiro, Robert Y.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, September 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Seat of Popular Leadership: Parties, Elections, and the Nineteenth-Century Presidency
Korzi, Michael J.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 2, June 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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