Since it is Presidents’ Day, I thought I would write about presidents.
Everyone thinks of the president as a leader, but how should he or she lead the country? How should the president lead in relation to Congress and his or her political party?
James MacGregor Burns, historian and political scientist, developed a typology of presidential leadership. His models are named after early Americans and their beliefs on leadership. The question ultimately is: Who Should Take the Lead in Setting Policy?
• Madisonian Model: The president relies on Congress to lead in setting policy. The president mainly administers policies set by Congress.
• Hamiltonian Model: The president should be heroic and above partisanship. He or she should rely on the Constitution and public opinion for support. The president should lead in all areas and ignore Congress if necessary.
• Jeffersonian Model: The president should lead through his or her party. He or she should act similar to a Prime Minister in a Parliamentary System. The party, influenced and lead by the president, sets policy. The president assists the party with getting their platform enacted.
The model chosen to lead the country and set policy is not fixed for any one president. Presidents can be seen as moving from model to model depending upon the situation, including the position in their term or type of policy. A president may lead in foreign policy following the Hamiltonian Model, domestic affairs may lend themselves more to the Madisonian Model, while appointments and patronage decisions may best be done through the Jeffersonian Model.
While there may not be one correct model, presidents should make use of all three models when necessary. A dogmatic approach to leadership is seldom effective. An effective president is one who has a range of skills and is perceptive enough to know when to employ the requisite talent.
Dr. Jasper M. LiCalzi
Professor and Chair
Department of Political Economy
The College of Idaho