Effective Presidency : Lessons on Leadership from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama book cover
2nd Edition

Effective Presidency
Lessons on Leadership from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama

ISBN 9781315636405
Published November 17, 2015 by Routledge
311 Pages

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Book Description

The second edition of this classic work adds a new chapter on Barack Obama and updates coverage of the end of the George W. Bush administration. Presidential scholar Erwin C. Hargrove extends his analytical framework of presidential effectiveness to show how Obama combines eventful leadership with pragmatism to move the nation forward in an intensely polarized partisan environment.

Features of the textbook:

  • Uses an analytical framework to assess historical context, personal skills and attributes, and the ability to "make a difference" in each of ten presidencies.
  • Four presidents are judged to be "event-making" leaders: Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush.
  • Six presidents are assessed as "eventful" leaders: JFK, Ford, Carter, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama.
  • As much a study of leadership as an analysis of ten presidencies, this book adds to our understanding in political science, history, and public administration and management.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Effective President

Chapter 1: John F. Kennedy: A Cautious Reformer

Chapter 2: Lyndon B. Johnson: A Force of Nature

Chapter 3: Richard M. Nixon: A Tragic Hero?

Chapter 4: Gerald R. Ford: A Good Man

Chapter 5: Jimmy Carter: The Engineer President

Chapter 6: Ronald Reagan: A Romantic with Vision

Chapter 7: George H. W. Bush: The Patrician

Chapter 8: Bill Clinton: The Politician

Chapter 9: George W. Bush: The Risk Taker

Chapter 10: Barack Obama: Transformational or Transactional Leader?

Conclusion: Presidential Leadership Revisited

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Erwin C. Hargrove is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Vanderbilt University and winner of the prestigious Richard E. Neustadt Award. Among his books are The President as Leader: Appealing to the Better Angels of Our Nature (University Press of Kansas 1999), Presidential Leadership: Personality and Political Style (Addison-Wesley 1966), The Power of the Modern Presidency (Temple University Press 1974), and Jimmy Carter as President: Leadership and the Politics of the Public Good (Louisiana State University Press 1988).


"Erwin Hargrove, already known as one of our greatest presidential historians, has given us a truly seminal, fascinating, and brilliant analysis of our last nine presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, which is essential reading to understand modern American history. He provides a genuinely fresh way to measure these presidents, not by where they stand on the typical spectrum of great and near great to our worst presidents, but rather by their effectiveness in resolving national problems within the historical context they inherited. Indeed, by recognizing the dangers of presidents who seek greatness only to overreach and bring disasters upon the U.S. and the world, he sets clear standards for effectiveness. He sees four ‘event-making’ presidents since 1961, who have changed history, and five others who have been ‘eventful’, finding, ironically, that the former in many instances left a less positive legacy. His conclusion has a special message in today's world: ‘We need effective eventful presidents most of the time and should be suspicious to those presidents with ambitions to greatness.’ Many Americans would say ‘Amen’ to that finding."
—Stuart E. Eizenstat

Stuart E. Eizenstat was chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), and held a number of senior positions in the Clinton Administration, from US Ambassador to the European Union to Under Secretary of State to Deputy Secretary of the Treasury (1993-2001). He also served on the White House staff of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1967-1968).

“In this tightly written, jam-packed volume, a distinguished presidential scholar skillfully analyzes how and whether Kennedy through Bush 43 served effectively. Never shy about making judgments, Erwin C. Hargrove provides a stimulating, provocative, and comparative interpretation of the contributions of these nine presidents to a ‘healthy constitutional balance.’”
—Charles O. Jones, Hawkins Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Utilizing his considerable skills as both a storyteller and a political scientist, Erwin Hargrove reminds us that presidents who see themselves as heroes can be dangerous as well as heroic. Those who cope well with situations over which they have limited control do the day-to-day work a nation needs from a leader. This slim, conceptually rich book will be required reading for students of the presidency--and, one hopes, for would-be presidents.”
—Alonzo L. Hamby, Distinguished Professor of History, Ohio University