Obama Gets High Scores on Leadership Report Card

Expert grades Obama’s leadership qualities high, calling him a “fascinating political specimen.”

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

He's been scored on his popularity, his speaking style, and even his basketball moves. But after a year into office, Barack Obama is getting one of the most important report cards of all: on his leadership qualities. And with the exception of an incomplete grade on political skill as he continues to pursue a victory on his top agenda item—healthcare reform—he's virtually a 4.0 student.

That's according to presidential historian and author Fred Greenstein, professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University. The author of the new Inventing the Job of President has just updated his initial Obama report card and declared the president a "rare political leader."

In a scholarly paper, Barack Obama: The Man and His Early Presidency, Greenstein looks at six key leadership qualities and seems to find that the nation's first African-American president is up to snuff. "Barack Obama is a fascinating political specimen," writes Greenstein, whose books include The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama; The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader; and How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965.

"Indeed," adds Greenstein, "he may turn out to be the rare political leader who is marked by both a first-rate temperament and a first-rate mind."

He sent us the updated version of his initial Obama paper—The Leadership Style of Barack Obama: An Early Assessment—a couple of weeks ago when Whispers was researching a feature about Obama's communication traits. He ranked Obama among the best, with Ronald Reagan, JFK, and FDR.

As we reviewed the paper further, we found Greenstein's views on Obama's leadership insightful and thought readers would too. In it, Greenstein did not give letter grades, though it is pretty easy for us to determine them:

Public Communication: A. Reason: Obama has offered highly substantive arguments for his agenda and moved to respond to a complex media environment.

Organizational Capacity: A. Reason: Obama, surrounded by strong personalities, has kept unity among his troops, delivered a strong message, and shown himself to be even-handed.

Political Skill: Incomplete. Reason: As a conciliator, it's unclear if his style will work in a polarized political world.

Policy Vision: B. Reason: When addressing his vision, he enunciates it in terms of an integrated set of components, though he appears open to junking portions that aren't politically feasible.

Cognitive Style: A. Reason: He has a style marked by a capacity for complex thinking and analytical detachment and a preoccupation with seeking evidence.

Emotional Intelligence: A. Obama has clear command of his emotions, as he himself noted when he said that he doesn't get too high when things are going well or too low when they aren't.

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