Dr. Rich Patterson

5 Skills & Qualities of Successful U.S. Presidents

Presidential historian Robert Dallek says that successful presidents exhibit five skills and qualities that enable them to achieve things that others don’t.  They are:

  1.  Vision
  2. Pragmatism
  3. Consensus building
  4. Charisma, and
  5. Trustworthiness

President Reagan was known as the “Great Communicator.”  Reagan could engage an audience and really connect with them.  People believed him, he was trustworthy in his behaviors and relationships with other political leaders as well as with his family.  Think of some of the presidential debates, some candidates quote facts and figures, while others really engage with the audience.

Vision – takes imagination to see things that others do not.  Possibilities, prediction and farsightedness.  Great leaders, which should be a goal for all of us, have the ability to see what others do not see.  In order to do that, they must see beyond the challenges, the negativity, and look into what could be.  Take Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.  Roosevelt could have easily been overcome with the unemployment, the poor, the banking crisis, the terrible economy and numerous other problems of the time.  The “New Deal” was a series of programs, public works projects and financial reforms and regulations enacted to help get the economy back on track.  Although others coined the term “New Deal” Roosevelt promised “a new deal for the American people.”  He made it happen and worked diligently to execute this vision to get the country back on track.  Sitting down with a family and asking, What is the Vision for our family?  This discussion will bring forth some great things upon which everyone can align their behavior.  

Pragmatism – among other definitions is matter-of-factness, a practicality that holds common sense.  Which President receives the most pragmatic distinction?  A few come to mind but Woodrow Wilson is certainly one.  He took over control of the railroads and made the Senate and the Congress bend to him and his goals.  His blunt and forward style kept people wondering what was next in so many ways.  Defining the quality for ourselves can take broad application depending on how we want to define it.  But to choose the practicality and common sense part of the definition allows us to interact and yet receive the support of others for our goals and personal work.  By being pragmatically honest with each other as a family, we can hold each accountable to behavior standards that will raise everyone’s spiritual level.  

Consensus building – When I think of consensus building I think of encouraging everyone to take a closer look at the general state of things from at least the 500 foot view.  We tend to get so close to things that all we can see is our own concerns.  With consensus you take the time to trade your magnifying lens of life in for a telescope and then to pull it out to the 500 foot view and look at things in the sense of how they are affecting everyone instead of just you.  The application for family is to sit down together and get a sense of how things are going from everyone’s perspective, and then work to blend an approach that helps to clarify a new plan that works for everyone.  Stephen R. Covey calls it the Third Alternative (Covey, 2004).  With so many people feeling frustrated, discouraged, unappreciated, and undervalued – using this technique helps everyone’s soul reach to something higher.  

Charisma – Applying this noun in your life looks like making an extra effort to remain positive in spite of circumstances.  Pushing yourself to be patient, to see the other person’s thoughts and frustrations and help them to reach higher.  Your thoughts magnetize your circumstances.  As parents, helping our kids to see this as well and practice it in their lives provides a life-long tool for their own inspirations.  

Trustworthiness – Notice that the word trustworthiness is made up of trust-worth-iness.  Are you trust worth?  Do you mean what you say and follow-through with what you say?  If so, then you don’t just say things that put others down, you are careful in expressing your opinion.  If someone is putting another person down, you say something like, “Hey, you know he is just in the other room, let’s go and get him in order that he can hear this first hand.”  Or, “Sorry, I don’t say things about someone when they aren’t around, nor will I do so about you and I think we both can appreciate that.”  That will generally get the process stopped and going in another direction.  By practicing this as a family with each other, and also having a signal that family members give to others when someone is grousing about someone else, you can quickly raise to a higher level of performance.  Benjamin Franklin in his 13 Precepts says, “Speak not about others but only what will benefit them.”