School leaders, especially independent school types, can sometimes talk about teaching leadership in ways that make the process sound thoroughly scientific. It’s as if a measured approach to developing vision, time management and communication skills will lead ineluctably to success. But there is something in the nature of leadership that doesn’t lend itself to easy analysis.
Chris Matthews, author of “Jack Kennedy,” was on “Meet the Press” this morning, and he offered an interesting comparison of JFK’s leadership style with that of President Obama’s.
According to Matthews, JFK was focused on relationships. “He had troops under him as a navy commander, and when his ship was torpedoed, he risked his life to protect his men. They then went on to do everything they could to support him for the rest of their lives.”
Kennedy was able to forge similar relationships with politicians and key thought leaders, and it was those relationships that gained him the presidency.
By contrast, again according to Matthews, President Obama is a “transactional” leader. He doesn’t actually enjoy the company of politicians, and as a result, he doesn’t bond easily with them. Like any political leader, he dispenses favours, punishes opponents, and rewards friends, but think about this:
“He appointed John Huntsman ambassador to the most important country in the world (China), and he turns around and runs for president against him. What does that say?”