Every president’s leadership personality
As some of you know, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts in the car as a way to pass the time on my long daily commute to and from work. I recently finished listening to the podcast series “Presidential.” This is a 44-episode series of podcasts that focuses on every U.S. President from George Washington through Barak Obama. There is a final episode recorded the day after the election discussing the outcome.
It piqued my interest enough that I’ve decided to listen to a full biographical audio book on each president. I’m working on the assumption that an audio book exists for presidents such as Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan.
My interest is based in history. I’ve always found American history and the political process intriguing. I also find it an interesting study in leadership. We’ve had great leaders and not-so-great leaders running our country. Because of the way our political process works, it usually takes many years for opponents to admit that a president from the opposite party might have been a great leader. Eisenhower despised Truman when he took office. They later became close again when both were out of office.
One thing I’ve learned from my extended audio listening experience is that there is no singular personality type that makes someone an ideal candidate for president. Franklin Roosevelt aspired to be president and enjoyed the role, so much that he ran for and won four terms. Some presidents simply fell into the position due to various circumstances.
Some were assertive, almost aggressive, when it came to dealing with and manipulating congress. Others became almost puppets of the congress, surrendering all control to them.
Leadership personality and management style
Just as with the presidency, your leadership personality in the business world can be different from that of one of your peers. Yet, you can each be successful leaders. There are many factors that determine whether your personality will make you a good leader or not.
A company’s culture is essentially the personality of the organization. If the culture is to be hard driving and aggressive, a quiet and low key manager may struggle to be successful. Conversely, if the organization’s culture is to be polite and non-intrusive, assertive managers will struggle to be successful.
Individual teams have their own cultures within the organization. This can be influenced by a former manager or one stand-out member of the team that sets the tone. If a manager’s personality clashes with the norms of the team, it can result in low cooperation from the team or significant turnover.
Interviewing for fit
Many organizations interview at all levels for fit. Part of that is making sure the candidate’s skills fit the job description. But more than anything, they’re interviewing people for the intangible values of their personality. Does this leader have the type of personality that our existing team and culture will respond to positively? Or will his personality alienate people or turn them off to the point that he can’t be successful?
In my study of presidents, I have speculated that some of the most successful, might not have been so in another time period. Others who were considered failures might have been some of the most successful, had it not been for an economic downturn or other external variable.
There may be some leaders in the business world that can be successful regardless of the circumstances. Others need to be in the right culture with the right team members to succeed.
I’ve known leaders that had personalities that made me bristle. I found them rude and overbearing. They were demanding beyond what I considered reasonable. Yet, there were people who worked for them for years. They enjoyed working for them, giving them rave reviews on their LinkedIn profile.
Why did I find this person to have no leadership ability while others sought his council and thrived under him? I suppose we all react to a certain type of leadership. My speculation is that these people needed someone that would push them and keep them on their toes. A hands-off leader would make life too easy and essentially lower the bar for them.
I prefer a more cooperative leadership personality. I’d rather work with someone who has high standards, but has a tolerance for error and treats people well.
There are many personality types that can be successful as leaders in the business world. Sometimes it depends on whether your personality will fit into the culture. Sometimes, you just need one person on the team to convince the others of your legitimacy. Everyone has their own approach. You can observe others for tips, but eventually, your natural personality will drive your style.
“I’ve read dozens of books about heroes & crooks and I’ve learned much from both of their styles”
- Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Forty
If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.
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