It’s always interesting to analyze the leadership of US presidents through the lens of business coaching. High-level political leadership carries lessons in intelligent leadership that can only benefit leadership coaching specialists and their trade. Presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt continue to provide valuable leadership lessons through the legacies they left.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Hard times bring out the best in leaders. More precisely, the best leaders emerge naturally during strife and crisis. People need solid leadership during such times more than ever. The leadership skills presidents display gain more public exposure and appreciation than during peacetime.

The same seems to be true of US presidents. Those we consider to be the most outstanding leaders tend to be wartime leaders.

mount rushmore

The greatest US presidents led the country through war and crises. 

Some past US presidents we consider to be models of integrity and leadership to this day. At the same time, we scoff at the perceived blunders and clumsiness of our contemporary leaders. We see them as more human, relatable, and thus more prone to moral lapses than their predecessors.

Taking into account the biases and leadership skills involved, here’s my list of America’s top White House leaders from the perspective of a leadership coaching specialist.

1. Abraham Lincoln

As the 16th president of the US, Abraham Lincoln (affectionately nicknamed “Honest Abe”) was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation, the law that freed all slaves on the territory of the Confederacy. He led the country through the Civil War and turned the Republican Party into a national organization.

Following the Civil War, Lincoln sought to reconcile the formerly warring parties, welcoming the southern states into the Union. In his Gettysburg address, he formulated the now-famous concept of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Having presided over the deadliest conflict in the history of the United States, Lincoln was the architect of the future success of America.

2. George Washington

Some may argue that the first president of the United States of America was its greatest. Washington laid the foundations of the country, establishing it as the cradle of democracy and rule of law.

He commanded the armies of the fledgling nation during the Revolutionary War. He triumphed in the face of overwhelming odds through integrity, leadership, and effective communication. Washington’s ability to communicate and reconcile conflicting perspectives is interesting from the point of view of leadership coaching.

Historians see George Washington as a leader who successfully served a purpose much higher than himself. As the first president of the country, he handed down a legacy of integrity, strength, and purpose.

george washington

The first president of the US is a model of integrity and purpose. 

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

As the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was another great crisis leader. Over his three presidential terms, Roosevelt led the country through the Second World War and the Great Depression. He proved his leadership mettle on the military and economic fronts, navigating two of the greatest challenges that befell the country in its history.

Although the Second World War didn’t threaten the existence of the US directly, it was the conflict that established the US as the indisputable leader of the free world and sole superpower.

4. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was the president who turned America into a global political player. He had a hand in Panama’s secession from Colombia and the building of the Panama Canal.

From the perspective of business coaching, his heavy-handed, “big stick” foreign policy approach was the manifestation of his pragmatic leadership. Roosevelt was ahead of his time, assuming leadership in issues like natural resource conservation, consumer protection, and setting limits to corporate power.

5. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s leadership had a far-reaching impact on a Cold War-embroiled US. In addition to his impressive foreign policy accomplishments, the 34th president of the country initiated the desegregation of schools and the armed forces. Executive coaching professionals find the combination of his hard and soft leadership skills fascinating.

Unlike corporate leaders, US presidents have always had to observe and implement the tenets of intelligent leadership. One cannot lead a country like a company; the ramifications of leadership on this level are far more intricate and profound.


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