What Makes a Great President?

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Concentration, Courage, Clear Conscience


Great leaders stay focused on their objectives. They pay attention to key issues and refuse to be distracted by less important ones. Our next president needs to examine the three or four most critical issues facing America, not an exhaustive agenda of secondary problems.


When recruiting men for his Antarctic expedition in 1913, Sir Ernest Shackleton placed an advertisement in a London newspaper that read: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success." What he was saying was that only courageous people need apply; the same goes for the presidency.

When the situation requires it and the cause is worth the cost, leaders do not hesitate to take risks. When you must jump across a canyon, cautious small steps and vacillation won't work. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Genuine leaders are willing to pay that price. Attacking tough issues takes great courage because the solutions aren't always popular. Without courage, leaders are just slaves to shifting public opinion.

Clear Conscience

Some people believe that when it comes to their leaders, private lives don't matter, but we see in the media every day that that's not the case. Their sins may be personal, but they're definitely not private. These missteps crush credibility and followers' trust. Personal integrity is vital because leadership is always built on trust. The moment a leader loses that, he or she is no longer a leader -- regardless of title or position.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2008.


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