5 standards for presidential leadership

When it comes to presidential leadership, how should voters judge the candidates? Prof. Allen C. Guelzo, an authority on Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg College, suggests five leadership standards, personified in such figures as Lincoln and Churchill.

5. Persistence

I don't mean mere stubbornness but a determination based on the ability to foresee the likely long-term results of decisions. It was, again, a characteristic of Lincoln that his "whole life was a calculation of the law of forces," as one of his close friends put it.

The friend remembered, during the awful years of the Civil War, that "whenever I would get nervous and think things were going wrong," Lincoln would bring out "a kind of account book of how things were progressing for three, or four months, and he would get out his estimates and show how everything on the great scale of action – the resolutions of Legislatures, the instructions of delegates, and things of that character – was going exactly as he expected."

Persistence, though, is costly. No matter how determined someone is, no matter how righteous their enterprise, few people are thick-skinned enough to stand as proof against all the slings and arrows of fickle fortune. What saved Lincoln from being consumed by resentment was his resilience, his willingness to absorb punishment and then walk away from it.

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce professor of the Civil War era at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., and the author of "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President."

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