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The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush Second Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691119090
ISBN-10: 0691119090
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Princeton University's Fred I. Greenstein caps off an illustrious career as a presidential scholar with The Presidential Difference. This book won't fundamentally change the way anybody looks at the last 11 chief executives--Greenstein's earlier work The Hidden-Hand Presidency revolutionized the academy's view of Eisenhower--but it does provide a worthwhile series of minibiographies and analytical summations. Greenstein rates his subjects in several categories: communication, organization, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence. His assessments can be quite frank: Roosevelt is the source of "endless positive lessons"; Truman "illustrates the cost of a defective communication style and a situation-determined approach to presidential leadership"; Ford is "underappreciated"; and so on. Who is Greenstein's favorite? It's clearly FDR, even though he confronts the question with an amusing anecdote about LBJ. Walking on a tarmac in Vietnam, an airman says, "This is your helicopter, Mr. President." Johnson replies, "They are all my helicopters." Writes Greenstein: "Each of the modern presidents is a source of insight, as much for his weaknesses as his strengths. The variation among them provides intellectual leverage, permitting comparisons and expanding our sense of the possible." And so, he writes, "They are all my presidents." --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

What makes a successful president? Greenstein (The Hidden-Hand Presidency), a noted Princeton political scientist, attempts to answer that question by examining the terms of every chief executive of the last 70 years. He considers them in six categories: political communication, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style and emotional intelligence. FDR receives high marks almost across the board; Eisenhower wins the prize for organization and Reagan for vision. In Greenstein's view, "emotional intelligence"--which is his shorthand for maturity and levelheadedness--is the most important attribute: "In its absence, all else may turn to ashes." As negative examples, he points to the terms of LBJ and Nixon, whose impressive respective domestic and foreign achievements were all but destroyed by their stubborn paranoia and mercurial tempers. Unfortunately, the brevity of Greenstein's case leads to some rather cliched observations, evident in such hackneyed chapter titles as "The Paradox of Richard Nixon" and "The Highly Tactical Leadership of George Bush." But what Greenstein loses in depth, he gains in contrast, and his most illuminating lessons come when he weighs the advantages of one president's style against another's (such as Eisenhower's military-like staff organization vs. the freewheeling chaos of the Clinton White House). This book may not become the executive tutorial that Greenstein seems to hope, but it is nonetheless a concise, interesting analysis from one our most knowledgeable presidential scholars. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Second edition (March 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119090
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,697,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton.
Professor Greenstein has provided us with a highly readable book with much sound analysis of the Presidency and the last eleven men who have held the most powerful political office in the world. Each President is given a chapter that covers the essentials of his presidency and each ends with a summation of its importance under the heading of 1/ Public Communication, 2/ Organisational Technique, 3/ Political Skill, 4/ Vision, 5/ Cognitive Style, 6/ Emotional Intelligence. This is a vast subject and the author's discipline is remarkable in keeping within his tight framework. Although there are moments where the reader may wish that he had succumbed to some of the more seductive questions.
FDR emerges as he usually does, as the effortless president- a man whose exquisite political touch was applied at just the right moment and whose guile was limitless. Yet his style may have led to destructive competition between members of his staff. Truman effectively gets a roasting - man better suited to the politics of his home state of Missouri than to the national stage, while Eisenhower is the 'Clark Kent' of American presidents whose skills have only recently been recognised. The point where many readers will part company with the author's conclusions is where he asserts that Kennedy lacked vision. This view is supported by Kennedy's lack of a consistent approach to the Soviet Union, which presumably represents the lack of a sound underlying political philosophy. This startling claim is further undermined when the author claims later that Reagan did indeed have 'vision'. Worse still, this latter claim is scantily justified by Reagan's opposition to communism. On that basis Senator Joe McCarthy had vision.
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Format: Hardcover
Fred Greenstein has written a readable, enjoyable account of the modern presidency covering FDR to Clinton. The author reveals the tone of his book when he states in Chapter 1 "Each of the modern presidents is a source of insight, as much for his weakness as his strengths. The variation among them provides intellectual leverage, permitting comparisons and expanding our sense of the possible." Each president is covered in chronological order by a chapter where they are analyzed on six qualities, Public Communicator, Organizational Capacity, Political Skill, Vision, Cognitive Style and Emotional Intelligence. The reader may be tempted to skip and read only the chapters for the presidents that interest them; however, the book should be read from beginning to end "in sequence" as the evolution of the modern presidency is clearly illustrated as the chapters unfold.
The author avoids the pitfall of attempting to rank the presidents leaving the reader to form his own opinion. Presidents are shown to have defects, and all presidents are shown to have certain strengths making for a balanced analysis, i.e. none are total losers or absolute winners. Readers may be surprised by positive qualities for presidents, such as Johnson and Nixon, as well surprise with the shortcomings of the more popular chief executives such as Kennedy and Reagan. The author lists features of these modern presidents that future incoming presidents and their staffs should study and/or emulate.
An interesting observation Greenstein makes is the critical importance of Effectiveness as a Public Communicator .
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Format: Paperback
This book by political scientist Fred Greenstein is the first I've read focusing, not on presidential achievement but on effective leadership. Using a series of criteria including vision, cognitive ability, management style and most importantly emotional intelligence, Greenstein looks briefly yet closely at each president from FDR through Clinton with a special afterword on George W. Bush. (pre 9/11) Greenstein chronicles the successes and failings of each president he profiles. Roosevelt receives the highest regards for his ability to translate his popularity into bold leadership. His secretive and manipulative management style is condemmed. Truman is praised for his management style but criticized for his inability at times to lead the nation along the lines of his vision. There is truth to this criticism but Greenstein doesn't look at external facotrs that effected Truman's ability to govern such as the Republican demagoguery of the Democrats as "soft on communism". Eisenhower is highly praised, and properly so, for his strong management style and his strong, quiet leadership. Kennedy gets deserved criticism for his early failings but not enough credit for his later growth. One thing Kennedy is properly criticized for, in my view, is his overreliance on intellectuals, something that would plague Clinton as well. After Kennedy we have a series of failed presidents, with Ford excepted. The common denominator between Johnson, Nixon and Carter are their weak emotional intelligence quotas. All are thin skinned, unable to work well with others, naturally suspicious of those outside their circle. Clinton too is regarded as weak emotionally. Greenstein's thesis is that persons of low emotional intelligence should not become president as it is a recipe for failure.Read more ›
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