Qualities of a Great President

Qualities of a Great President

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Did you know that stubbornness and disagreeableness are two characteristics that are associated with great presidents?

Well, how about disorganization? Imagine being a bit disorganized associated with presidential greatness! For example, Abraham Lincoln was famous (or notorious) for that.

Sounds incredible, doesn't it? And yet, according to recent research, these qualities, alongside highly admirable and enviable qualities, are identified in the great presidents of our nation.

Three psychologists, Drs. Steven Rubenzer, Thomas Fasschingbauer and Deniz Ones, interviewed one hundred presidential historians, the experts in the field. These experts rated presidents on their psychological characteristics and behavior for the five years before they became president. The psychologists did not take into account a president's behavior while in the office because the pressure of the national circumstances could be different from one president to another and those differences could have confounded the results.

These psychologists with the help of the historians identified the characteristics and qualities of the ten greatest presidents of our nation, namely, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Dwight Eisenhower, and James Madison.

Let me continue with the not-so-noble qualities of the great presidents.

After all, we have to appease the cynical side in us, which has become a little more "noisy" from our disillusionment with contemporary political leaders. So, here are several more beside the stubbornness, disagreeableness and a lack of order and organization: great presidents did not keep their desk neat in the oval office; historically, great presidents were found to be low on straightforwardness; they could bend the truth a little to suit their purpose; they could bully or manipulate people to get their way and they were willing to fight if picked on.

There are interesting contrasts in the present and the past presidents: Most modern presidents are clearly "extraverts," outgoing and highly sociable. The early great presidents scored lower on this quality even when compared to an average American of present times. Perhaps we all have become more extraverted than an average person of the past. Perhaps, modern presidents have excelled in this trait because of the role media plays in modern politics.

Let's now get to the qualities that really made our great presidents great. Striving for achievement with high aspirations for one's own self and for the country was found to be one of the most important qualities of all great presidents. Ambition is inconsequential without personal competence. Competence including superior intellectual ability was a big predictor for presidential success.

Most successful presidents tend to be hard working and persistent. "Presidents who succeed set ambitious goals for themselves and move heaven and earth to meet them" say the researchers.

Great presidents tend to be open minded. They are attentive to their emotions. They are willing to question traditional values and try new ways of doing things. But, when it comes to faith and morals, they are traditional in morals and tend to rely on leadership from church and religious figures on these matters.

Great presidents of the past were more imaginative and more interested in art and beauty than the less successful presidents. They were "tender minded," with great concern for the less fortunate.

Great presidents have exceptional ability to tolerate stress and adversity. The single quality most consistently associated with presidential greatness is assertiveness.

Incidentally, the researchers say that all presidents could be classified into one or more of eight presidential types. These include: the "Dominators" (such as Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk or Teddy Roosevelt); the "Introverts" (such as, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson and Benjamin Harrison); the "Good Guys" (such as Rutherfor Hays, Zachary Taylor, Dwight Eisenhower, John Tyler, Cleveland, Gerald Ford or George Washington); the "Innocents" (such as, William Taft, Warren Harding or Ulysses Grant); the "Actors" (such as, Ronald Reagan, Warren Harding or Bill Clinton); the "Maintainers" (such as, Bush, Ford or Truman); the "Philosophers" (such as Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison or Carter); and the "Extraverts" (such as FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, Theodore Roosevelt, Reagan or LBJ).

Let's now discuss our psychology as we get ready to vote. Those who support Gore will see all the noble qualities in their guy and the negative ones in the other and the supporters of the other guy will do the opposite.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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