What Makes a Great President?
Do you think there are certain qualities all great presidents share?
by If You Can Keep It | 2.17.20
This week, in honor of Presidents’ Day, Countable will be running a series of pieces on what it takes to make historians’ Best Presidents and Worst President lists.
It’s part of our ongoing series If You Can Keep It, where we tackle some of the most controversial, but significant, questions about our republic.
What traits make for a great president?
It’s Presidents’ Day. It’s also an election year. As we head toward November 3rd, we thought we’d pose a series of questions about what makes or breaks a president.
We open with a round-up of quotes from pundits and politicians about what makes an effective POTUS:
- A president must be “willing to listen to people, willing to adjust your positions.” -Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates
“He should have or she should have access to good information and exercise judgment wisely, so someone who thinks deeply about serious issues and who speaks clearly and uses language to educate, to inspire, and not to inflame.” -Former Maine Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen
- “Someone who has the leadership qualities that combine respect from the body politic, Republicans and Democrats alike, someone who projects an empathy and a humanity.” -Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge
“You need a person who has the temperament – that’s a word that’s been used a lot today – that has the ability to operate in an orderly way, that has a history of making good decisions for fire, and that can deal with it in an atmosphere where there’s going to be a lot of conflicting voices and people saying unpleasant things about him or her, and that–and respond to them in an appropriate fashion.” -Former Health and Human Services Secretary and Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt
- “The first thing I think the American people should be looking for is somebody that can build a team and create a culture that knows how to organize and move the ball down the field… The second thing I think a president needs is a sense of discipline, personal discipline, in terms of doing your homework and knowing your subject matter… The third is, you need vision about where you want to take the country… [Finally] You have to really care about the American people–not in the abstract, not as boilerplate, but you have to really every single day want to do your best for them.” -Former President Barack Obama
A historian's top four attributes
Michael Siegel, author of The President as Leader, analyzed the leadership skills of five recent American commanders-in-chief. Here are his top four attributes of a great leader:
- “Does the president have a compelling vision for his presidency?
- “Second, the president has to have the wherewithal to implement his vision.”
- “Third, the president has to focus on a few major goals at a time.”
- “Finally, does the president understand the process and implications of decision-making?”
What do you think?
What qualities make a great president? How about a bad president? Which president do you think best embodied each? Join the conversation.
Look for part 2 of this series – What Makes for a Bad President? - on Wednesday. And be sure to comment as we want to include your thoughts in our upcoming posts.
'There Are More Things That Can Go Wrong With Vote By Mail' - Do You Agree?This is our second piece in a series on voting by mail, explaining its anticipated drawbacks. Our previous piece on its benefits
by If You Can Keep It | 4.8.20
'Bring the Ballot Box to Them' - Do You Support Vote By Mail?This is our first piece in a series on voting by mail, explaining its anticipated benefits. We’ll follow up with an entry on the
by If You Can Keep It | 4.7.20
Your Healthcare Horror StoriesAfter exploring possible pros and cons and Medicare For All, we asked for your healthcare horror stories.Thankfully my insurance
by If You Can Keep It | 2.24.20