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Opinion

5 standards for presidential leadership

When it comes to presidential leadership, how should voters judge the candidates? The sheer number of books on leadership hint that not even the consultants and gurus can agree on a set of standards.

Why not ask a historian, who spends a significant portion of life in the mental company of people who really did turn out to possess the Midas touch of leadership? Here, Prof. Allen C. Guelzo, an authority on Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg College, suggests five leadership standards, personified in such figures as Lincoln, Churchill, and Admiral Nelson.

British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill (left), US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (center), and Soviet leader Josef Stalin (right) at the Yalta conference, where they made final plans for the defeat of Germany in February 1945. Churchill organized his sleep to get more work hours out of a day. (National Archives/Reuters/File)

1. Love of the daily toil and mechanics of governing

Leadership means not only knowing, but loving the knowing. American essayist Logan Pearsall Smith once said, "The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves."

It's become fashionable to sniff at this as workaholism or wonkishness. But it's really describing someone who has found joy in the innumerable nuts and bolts of work. And that is precisely what the greatest leaders of free societies have possessed. Winston Churchill even arranged his sleeping hours into two parts so as to "press a day and a half's work into one." Oddly, it's been the hallmark of dictators to be careless and spendthrift of governing, preferring to franchise the real work to underlings who must then compete for the dictator's attention.


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