Public Administration Paper on Models of Presidential Leadership

Models of Presidential Leadership

A country’s presidency is one of the most attractive and prestigious offices that command sizeable power and authority around the world. However, presidential leaders often face exceedingly complex responsibilities of directing the country through the creation of opportunities and taking charge of difficult situations such as war. In this respect, presidents need an over-the-top set of leadership skills that are instrumental to enable them to face turbulent political climates (Gaval, 2009; Michael, 2013)). Oftentimes, they employ personal competencies in discharging duties though they at times depending on the people around them for support (Edwards & Mayer, 2014). This paper analyzes the three main leadership models presidents can employ as brought forth by, Paul Quirk, a renowned political scientist. Quirk identifies the three common presidential leadership models as self-reliance, minimalist president, and the strategic competence presidency.

The self-reliant model is somewhat self-explanatory since it founded on applying a personal approach to governance. A per the model, the problem takes sole responsibility when addressing issues without any delegation. The model is on the assumption that the president very literate and equipped with adequate knowledge deemed necessary to administer the country’s resources and address challenges with ultimate wisdom. However, Quirk believes that such a model is almost impractical and unattainable simply because nobody can stay fully up-to-date with even 50 percent of the issues associated with the office of the president (Quirk & Cunion, 2011). But then there are quite a number of American presidents that have to some degree portrayed the self-reliant model. For instance, President Franklin Roosevelt is known for his utmost dedication in facing the country’s challenges head-on. Roosevelt is a self-reliant leader as revealed in his self-confidence, knowledge, and wisdom that enabled him to lead the United States.

The minimalist presidential model brings out a big contrast from self-reliant leaders. The model does not necessarily need for the presidential leader to have any knowledge or comprehension on issues or challenges affecting the country rather rely on delegating to subordinates to come up with solutions to address the country’s issues. Going with the provisions of this model, the president plays a passive role since he or she becomes merely a facilitator when changes or policies are implemented. One cannot be entirely wrong to envision a minimalist and a puppet president in the same light. The better part of the model is that it allows for active subordinate participation and distribution of power. But then, the minimalist approach to presidential leadership is ineffective because the role of the president is undermined and there is room for error because of the delegation of power and authority.  President Ronald Reagan is the best example of a minimalist due to his connection and involvement of citizens in his leadership (Quirk & Cunion, 2011). Reagan goes down in history as a charismatic leader who wanted to have a common view of the people in order to move forward.

Strategic competence model of presidential leadership blends both self-reliant and minimalist models. In the model, the president can have little knowledge about issues affecting the country but still be able to make excellent decisions to address challenging situations. As such, the models allow the president not only to be a facilitator of change but also take the leading role (Quirk, 1991). Therefore, the president can make important decisions while he delegates some of the matters to the junior staff members who have the required qualifications. Due to the incorporation of self-reliance and minimalism, this is basically the most effective leadership model.  President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is a good example of the strategic competence models as evidenced by his precise decision making and delegation (Hald-Mortensen, 2009).


Conclusively, presidents employ various styles or models of leadership. The model adopted impact their performance and relationships with the people. A strategic competence model is deemed the most ideal as it involves personal abilities and incorporation of the abilities of other capable people (Quirk & Cunion, 2011).



Edwards, G., & Mayer, K. (2014). Presidential leadership: Politics and Policy Making. Stamford: Cengage Learning.

Gaval, K. D. (2009). Presidential transitions: Presidents’ perspectives on building the senior leadership team (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania).

Hald-Mortensen, C. (2007). John F. Kennedy-Leadership Qualities That Moved A Nation (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh).

Michael, N. (2013). The presidency and the political system (10th ed., pp. ISBN: 978-1452240435). CQ Press.

Quirk, P. J. (1991). What do we know and how do we know it? Research on the presidency. Political Science: Looking to the Future4, 37-65.

Quirk, P., & Cunion, W. (2011). Governing America. New York: Facts On File.