President Obama signing a document in front of staff in the Oval Office.
President Obama signing a document in front of staff in the Oval Office.

The list of qualities required to be a good president is endless. Certainly, public speaking and projecting a positive image often swing public opinion, but the nature of the job requires a combination of unique skills and attributes. The study of past presidents provides insight into what it takes to be remembered as a passionate leader who made a positive difference that changed history.

Skilled Crisis Manager

The president safeguards the constitutional freedoms of Americans and protects their unalienable rights from internal and external threats. Citizens rely on the president to act decisively in times of foreign and domestic peril. For example, President John F. Kennedy resolved the Cuban missile crisis through effective diplomacy and a shipping blockade. War with the Soviets was averted because of the President’s honed crisis management skills. On the domestic front, President Franklin D. Roosevelt exemplified quick thinking when the nation’s economy collapsed during the Great Depression. In response to the financial crisis, President Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration program and similar federal programs that helped 3 million people find jobs.

Big Picture Thinker

Iconic presidents hatch ideas that shape a bigger picture beyond party platforms. They also aspire to develop political agendas that improve the country and the world. In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson displayed such visionary leadership when he proposed the League of Nations to foster peace in Europe; he then traveled abroad rallying support. The U.S. didn’t join the League of Nations, but the idea led to the United Nations, which the U.S. joined in 1945. ,Another big picture president -- Franklin D. Roosevelt – initiated the 1935 Social Security Act that provided retirement benefits to older Americans along with unemployment provisions, state welfare programs and aid for dependent children as a safety net.

Hires the Best and Brightest

A newly elected President identifies the most pressing problems facing the nation and empowers others with expertise to help create solutions. For example, President John Adams asked Thomas Jefferson to work on the Declaration of Independence. Appointments to Cabinet positions that oversee such critical areas as the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor and Veteran's Affairs must be filled with the most qualified people available to advance the President's goals and vision. Encouraging people to lead and share credit is a trademark of an effective President. When a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court, a replacement is nominated by the President and confirmed by Congress. Since these appointments are for life, they're especially important.

Gets Things Done

A Presidential campaign is based on promises that can’t be fulfilled without the support of key administrative leaders and members of both political parties. In fact, the U.S. Constitution requires Congressional approval for the passage of new laws, signing of treaties with foreign nations or declaration of war. The President must quickly learn how to work with Congress to achieve desired outcomes. Presidents also use the “bully pulpit” to gain voter support for their ideas. For example, Lyndon B. Johnson’s passionate public speeches and deft negotiation skills with Congress led to passage of the 1964 Voter Rights Act. This landmark legislation expanded voting rights in southern States where racist policies of segregation had blocked African Americans from voting.