Picture it: The year is 1981 and you’re sitting in front of the television. It is a cold January morning and CBS News has broadcasted the inaugural address of the new President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. His speech has captured your attention just by the way he words. The charisma that radiates off of him and the adjectives that he uses to describe the current political events in the nation demands people to take notice. Ronald Reagan has started his role as a national leader in such a manner that later on labels him as one of the greatest leaders. What traits make him such a leader that people looked up to? What flaws, if any, does he have that could be compared to terrible leaders in the likes of Adolf Hitler? Who is Ronald Reagan and how did he become such a strong leader?
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Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. Born in February of 1911 in a small town of Tampico, Illinois and worked his way through school and ended up at Eureka College studying economics and sociology. Once he graduated, Reagan went on to be a radio sports announcer where he was found during a screen test contest. He became an actor and appeared in fifty-three films. From an actor to a TV show host, he started to travel the country for his show and become the spokesperson for conservatism. Once in California, Reagan ran and won his spot as the Governor of California where he was re-elected a second time. From there, Ronald Reagan ran for president; and won. Why does his life story matter? Simply because it shows just how well adapt his leadership style was. Ronald Reagan started from the bottom in a little town and worked his way up to being the President of the United States.
Ronald Reagan had a take charge attitude. He saw the issues within the nation and worked on solutions for the people. “Reagan obtained legislation to stimulate economic growth, curb inflation, increase employment, and strengthen national defense” (“Ronald Reagan” n.d.) all in the first term of his presidency and “…obtained an overhaul of the income tax code, which eliminated many deductions and exempted millions of people with low incomes” (“Ronald Reagan” n.d.) in the second running term. People viewed Reagan’s eight years in office as “…a restoration of prosperity, and the goal of peace through strength seemed to be within grasp” (“Ronald Reagan” n.d.), a desired outcome after the people recovered from after the Great Depression in 194.
What leadership traits does Ronald Reagan have that made all he did such a success? There are countless articles stating all the various traits he had during his presidency. According to National Review, Ronald Reagan had four key abilities: he “united, inspired, emboldened, and protected” America. When he united the nation “he always spoke to us as ‘we’ – citizens connected by the same love for America, the same values of family, faith, neighborhood, work, peace, and freedom” (Elliot, 2015) something that the future President of the United States, Donald Trump, would destroy by pitting the people against one another by race, religion, sexuality, and gender. Reagan inspired the nation when “He assured us that every American is created with the rights to life and liberty” (Elliot, 2015) making all Americans feel as if they could do or be anything that follows their specific American Dream. President Reagan’s views of how he wanted to run the nation created a “…daring vision and policies that told the world America is back and, once again, we will be doing great things” (Elliot, 2015) which helped embolden the nation as a whole. Lastly, Reagan “…rallied the free world and worked secretly with Pope John Paul II to roll back the Soviets” (Elliot, 2015) as his way to protect the American people from war and destruction that they did not need. These traits are ones that helped restore the nation and raised the American people’s morale to great heights. Therefore, Ronald Reagan possessed such desirable leadership traits that he will forever be known as one of the greatest leaders in American presidential history.
On the other end of the spectrum is a leader that, thankfully, was so bad that he was unsuccessful. Adolf Hitler was a dictator who lacked all the right leadership skills to guide his people into what he considered a victory. Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889. He never graduated as he never got past high school. However, he always wanted to be an artist and tried to be enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts twice, both times he had gotten denied. If people had paid attention to him like they do in today’s society, they would have seen the warning signs like they do of school shooters. Adolf displayed his personality traits of “…loneliness and secretiveness, a bohemian mode of everyday existence, and hatred of cosmopolitanism and the multinational character of Vienna” (Knapp & Lukacs, 2020) meaning he was an extreme introvert who despised people that were free of prejudice, and viewed those who did not stay within their own nationality as disgusting.
Adolf Hitler rose to fame after leaving the military with an Iron Cross twice. He found being disciplined and comradeship to be rewarding. His tour in the military opened political positions that soon developed into the Nazi party. Adolf worked is way up the ladder within the Nazi party by “…threatening resignation, and because the future of the party depended on his power to organize publicity and to acquire funds” (Knapp & Kukacs, 2015) which simply means he rose up the ladder by scare tactics; not a good way to gain power. Adolf Hitler also relied on being charismatic and dynamically forceful leadership style. Those two traits alone do not equal a great leader. Hitler also relied on violence and strong arming his way to what he wanted. Since the strong arming and violence was getting him what he wanted, Hitler became a dictator by force. However, unlike Reagan getting a second term, Hitler’s leadership style as a dictator soon became his downfall.
Hitler relied too much on his belief of a superior race and hatred. Unlike Ronald Reagan who believed in uniting the American people, Hitler separated the people of Germany as the superior race. The people under Nazi Germany were separated by race, religion, gender, height, and bodily characteristics such as eye and hair color. Adolf did not protect his people either as he displayed such hatred in the country and surrounding countries that he took over creating a war that would be so great it would become known as World War II. The only thing Hitler inspired during his ruling was fear and superiority through brainwashing. While he was not a smart man in terms of books, he was smart enough to be able to say what the people wanted to hear or say things in a way that made the people feel like that was what was best for them. If the brainwashing did not work, he backed it up with force and fear. A good leader cannot rely on force and fear, sooner or later someone will get enough courage to stand up against it and over throw the leadership. According to BBC, “…Hitler was thought charismatic only by a bunch of fanatics…What changed was the economic situation”, since people were going hungry due to the Wall Street Cash of 1929, they were all grasping at any straw they could get their hands on. “Hitler told millions of Germans that they were Aryans and therefore ‘special’ and racially ‘better’ people than everyone else…” (“Viewpoint”, 2012) helping to form the connection that got the people of Germany to follow what he said. The people of Germany are an example of desperate times
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While I am not a leader like Adolf Hitler, I also am not a leader like Ronald Reagan either. When I personally am stuck in a leadership role, I have the leadership traits of integrity, empathy, resilience and vision. Everything that I do, I try to remind myself that if I didn’t want someone to know what I have done, I should not do it as my moral compass is a leading force within my being. I hold integrity very closely to my heart. Being empathetic means that I can both see how things could impact others and their feelings as well as understand why those actions make others feel that specific way. Looking at all I have overcome in my life, one could see how resilient I truly am. That trait being a core concept of my entire life bleeds into when I am put in a leadership role of any sort. Lastly, I always am thinking about the next step in life. I always have a vision of what is to come and how to make it happen. Like President Reagan, as a leader I look for how to create a better tomorrow.
On the other hand, the traits I really lack as a leader are: accountability, humility, influence, and positivity. Accountability is a difficult trait for me to have as a leader. When I am in the position to lead, I am often stressed out and anxious. When stressed out, I often miss a step necessary to properly lead. That is also why I lack positivity in leadership. While I can often fake the positivity needed, it is never quite correctly placed or does it last as long as it is needed. Influence is something I have never truly had. I have never been a leader over much except my younger siblings. No academic, professional or personal leadership roles have ever been present for me to take and develop the influence needed. Last but not least, humility or being humble, is a difficult task for me because since I lack leadership roles, I often have to fight back a power trip due to an increased ego.
In conclusion, the 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan was a strong leader who was able to unite, inspire, embolden, and protect America. Adolf Hitler relied on violence, force, and terrible economic times to gain power without the ability to hold onto it. While I am not Adolf Hitler, I can only work to better myself to hopefully be able to get as close to Ronald Reagan and his leadership qualities one day.
- Adam Enfroy, Adam Enfroy, Haroon, F., Betrand, A., Greene, T., Hazra, A., … Jesus, M. (2020, March 7). 11 Leadership Qualities: A List of Skills To Make A Great Leader (2020). Retrieved March 7, 2020, from https://www.adamenfroy.com/leadership-qualities
- Elliott, B. T. (2015, June 5). Why Ronald Reagan's Example Is Still Relevant for America Today. Retrieved March 7, 2020, from https://www.nationalreview.com/2015/06/ronald-reagan-leadership-qualities-four-strengths-made-him-exceptional/
- Knapp, W. F., & Lukacs, J. (2020, January 9). Rise to power. Retrieved March 7, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler/Rise-to-power
- Ronald Reagan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/ronald-reagan/
- Viewpoint: His dark charisma. (2012, November 12). Retrieved March 7, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20237437
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