Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson

Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson

Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson

Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson

Synopsis


From George Washington's decision to buy time for the new nation by signing the less-than-ideal Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1795 to George W. Bush's order of a military intervention in Iraq in 2003, the matter of who is president of the United States is of the utmost importance. In this book, Fred Greenstein examines the leadership styles of the earliest presidents, men who served at a time when it was by no means certain that the American experiment in free government would succeed.


In his groundbreaking book The Presidential Difference, Greenstein evaluated the personal strengths and weaknesses of the modern presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here, he takes us back to the very founding of the republic to apply the same yardsticks to the first seven presidents from Washington to Andrew Jackson, giving his no-nonsense assessment of the qualities that did and did not serve them well in office. For each president, Greenstein provides a concise history of his life and presidency, and evaluates him in the areas of public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, policy vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. Washington, for example, used his organizational prowess--honed as a military commander and plantation owner--to lead an orderly administration. In contrast, John Adams was erudite but emotionally volatile, and his presidency was an organizational disaster.



Inventing the Job of President explains how these early presidents and their successors shaped the American presidency we know today and helped the new republic prosper despite profound challenges at home and abroad.

Excerpt

The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as
big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit.

—Woodrow Wilson, 1908

From George Washington’s decision to buy time for the new nation by signing the less-than-ideal Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1795 to George W. Bush’s order of a military intervention in Iraq in 2003, the matter of who happens to be president of the United States has sometimes had momentous consequences. The most telling illustration of the difference a White House occupant can make comes from the nuclear age. In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy learned that the Soviet Union had secretly installed ballistic missiles in Cuba that were capable of striking much of the United States. His advisors were split between those who favored using diplomacy to induce the Soviets to withdraw their missiles and those who called for an immediate air strike on the missile sites, an act that could have triggered a nuclear war. The buck stopped in the Oval Office. If Kennedy had not decided on a nonviolent option, the result might well have been catastrophic.

This book examines presidential leadership in a period when there was no danger that a presidential decision would end life on the planet, but when the actions of chief executives had a bearing on the fate of the American experiment in popular government. My specific focus is on the conduct of the presidency of the first seven chief executives—George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson. These men served in a time when the sketchy description of the presi-

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