John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President

John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President

John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President

John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President


"Whether in business, politics, or the community, today's leaders have more in common with their legendary predecessors than they may realize. Intensely scrutinized by their constituents, colleagues, the media, and the public, leaders make decisions that affect lives far beyond their immediate surroundings.

Perhaps no figure in recent memory more fully personifies leadership than President John F. Kennedy. Leading the nation in a time of unprecedented turbulence, challenge, and opportunity, Kennedy led his administration (and the country) with a courage and determination that even his harshest critics respected.

John F. Kennedy on Leadership identifies eleven core principles that made Kennedy, both before and during his presidency, a unique and dominant force who would serve as the standard by which future leaders would measure themselves -- and by which they would be judged. Current and aspiring leaders would do well to adopt these principles, which include:

• Questioning the status quo: Progress is change, and no leader ever became great without breaking rules.

• Turning liabilities into pluses, making the best of miscalculations and misjudgments, and staying educable: There is value in mistakes, and there is always more to learn.

• Making decisions: Although you solicit and incorporate many viewpoints, know that the buck stops with you.

• Presenting an idealized view of what the future can be: Some may feel that "vision" is a tired concept, but properly crafted and communicated, it is a powerful motivator.

• Finding your own "Bobby": In building your team, surround yourself with people who not only are trustworthy and competent but who also make your job easier.

• Being the coolest person in the room: In times of crisis, take the reins. Your people will be looking to you; give them confidence.

John F. Kennedy on Leadership doesn't shy away from the well-documented darker side of Kennedy's life: the seemingly nonstop parade of lovers and the chronic and multiple illnesses. Every leader faces personal challenges that affect the ability to lead. This book shows how legendary leadership can exist even in the face of substantial limitations.

Kennedy led his nation through some of its most extraordinary challenges, from the volatile civil rights movement to the nearly catastrophic Cuban missile crisis. The extraordinary skills he exhibited in bringing America and the world into a new era are yours to embrace, emulate, and employ as you take your people and your vision forward."


Another book on John F. Kennedy? What is there left to be studied that hasn’t been studied already?

His leadership. Remarkably, given the spate of “leadership” books that have been published in the decade since Donald Phillips’s Lincoln on Leadership created the genre, no one has attempted a book examining the leadership style of the modern American president who is probably most closely identified with the term.

You don’t have to look far for the evidence of the imprint Kennedy has left on American life and politics. From the day of his death, virtually every president and presidential candidate since has, to varying degrees, sought to portray himself as the heir to the Kennedy legacy. Lyndon Johnson was obsessed with living in Kennedy’s shadow. Richard Nixon was immensely jealous of the man he also thought of as his friend. Jimmy Carter reveled in being described by Time magazine as “Kennedyesque” during his 1976 campaign. Ronald Reagan invoked Kennedy’s tough stance toward the Soviet Union and his tax-cutting economic strategy to buttress his own efforts in these realms. A sixteen-year-old Bill Clinton famously was photographed— with a beatific look on his face—shaking Kennedy’s hand in the Rose Garden. John F. Kerry (with the same initials and from the same state) took the comparisons to extremes at times, windsurfing off Nantucket Island in seemingly conscious emulation of Kennedy sailing off Hyannis.

Perhaps the politicians sense something that the political science professors—who have tended not to rate Kennedy’s presidency very highly— don’t: Even four decades after his death, JFK remains extraordinarily popular. An ABC News poll taken over President’s Day weekend in 2003 listed JFK as the second-greatest president of all time. A Zogby poll showed an almost . . .

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