Leadership has different connotations in different political systems. In certain political systems, Leaders need not necessarily hold the top position in the government to influence the governmental actions, as in the Great Britain. However, some political systems reflect the prominence of the top political leader who is capable of making a difference, as in the United States (Greenstein, 2000).
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an aristocratic who belonged to a great political family. He had an outstanding education and progressed to the high office at an early age with convenience. Franklin was the epitome of modern presidency in the U.S. His leadership set an example for the future leaders. He relished contests and enjoyed the power acknowledging his desires and having an absolute sense of history (Neumann, 1980).
He had to deal with the internal threats of economic disaster and that of the military dictators wanting to rule the free world. He had a vision for making the United States great and his keenness to bring transformation was evident in his attempts made during his tenure as the president. His vision had everlasting implication on the nation (Hagelberg, 2011).
He has been the inspiration behind the gigantic modern national government and immeasurable bureaucratic mechanism that comprises unlimited power within the nation and abroad as well. It indicates the deliberate intention of the United States to extend its domination throughout the world. This modern Leviathan State has been the major contribution of Franklin Roosevelt to the American government system. The Wall Street Journal described Roosevelt as a great president in its article by Dorothy Rabinowitz on the dedication of the FDR memorial. She praised FDR for “the depth of his hold on minds and hearts.” She insisted that Franklin was a real hero as he provided comfort to people in the midst of the gloominess that had occurred due to Depression (Raico, 2001).
Even Radio Tokyo respected him and recognized his greatness on his demise and called him “a great man” (Raico, 2001).
Franklin transformed the expectations of the Americans regarding their government and presidency. In the pursuit of the expansion of the presidential powers at times he tripped, overreached or moved back before the status quo. However, he managed to control the worrisome challenges mainly the Great Depression and the awful world war. “Through both his policies and rhetoric, Roosevelt became modern America’s economic savior, social conscience, protector and peacemaker” (Troy, 2008, p 95).
The idolization of Franklin by the followers has a significant role to play in the political system of contemporary America. It becomes important to know more about Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a person, his attributes, and his contributions and influence on the American Republic (Raico, 2001). Franklin drew the attention of many writers during his lifetime and became the subject of their writings during his life, after death and to the current times. His long and influential presidential tenure would definitely attract the future writers also for making him the theme of their work (Pederson, 2011).
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, held the title of president for the longest time in the history of the United States. However, when he took the responsibility of leading the nation, the United States was witnessing one of the most challenging economic period. His first term witnessed the wavering economy in the nation that had paralysed the financial organism. Besides, Franklin had to face numerous external as well as internal problems that occurred frequently during his tenure. Dealing with the crucial problems of his times, he earned the title of the most contentious figure in the American history. The years of his presidential term were packed with speedy and radical social and economic transformations. Franklin had countless admirers and adversaries as well (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2014).
He was the most loved and most hated president at the same time. He had created a mass of prominent adversaries, who while supporting the Republic were popular as Roosevelt –haters (Raico, 2001). However, rising above all, he performed remarkably to shape the future of the United States. Franklin won national acclaim at a very early age. He performed the responsibility of the New York State Senator twice, served as the proficient assistant secretary of the Navy and completed two terms as the successful governor of New York. He served the nation as the president for twelve years and was the only president in the history of America to be elected for four terms consecutively. FDR did not have the chance to see the impact of his presidential stature on the people of America. He could not live long to see the complete success of his efforts in changing the American mind-set. Unfortunately, he succumbed to death due to cerebral haemorrhage in 1945, soon after being elected president for the fourth term (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2014).
Biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. Franklin got his second name after his mother’s favourite uncle Delano. Being the only child, he spent his childhood among the adults. He was given lessons by private tutors at home until he reached the age of thirteen. As a child, he was most interested in sports and was fond of sailing (Frith, 2010)
When fourteen, he went to Groton, an esteemed school in Massachusetts and remained there from 1896 to1900. He tried to cope with the traditional of the school. Franklin plunged into all school activities that came his way with great interest. Franklin’s character was shaped mainly during the years at Groton (Coker, 2005).
He was highly influenced by the school’s founder and rector, Endicott Peabody. Later, he acquired a degree in History from Harvard (1900-1903). He also studied Law in the Columbia University but left the school in 1907 without taking the degree. Before entering politics in 1910, Franklin practised law with a prestigious law firm in New York His home district was Republican, however, he entered politics as a Democrat and was elected to the New York State Senate. Franklin married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt who was a distant relative and had five children. Anna, James, Elliott, Franklin, jr and John. In 1912, Roosevelt was again elected to the State Senate and held the position of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913to 1920. In 1921, Roosevelt faced a setback when both his legs paralysed due to poliomyelitis. He could never use his legs again despite his spirited efforts and strong willpower. Roosevelt’s wife and political friend Louis Howe encouraged him to rejoin politics in 1924. He was elected the governor of New York consecutively in 1928 and 1930.Roosevelt now began campaigning for the presidency and got the benefit of Hoover’s and Republicans failure in fighting economic depression. He combated the situation in New York boldly proving his worth as an efficient leader of the country which made him won the nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for president in 1932. Roosevelt magnetized people by his futuristic approach and personal charm and won the presidential elections in 1932, with huge majority. He took the oath of office on March 4, 1933 and within 100 days; he initiated numerous legislatives through Congress to produce economic relief, recovery and reform. FDR got the opportunity to serve the nation as the president for the second term in 1936. Franklin made crucial proposals to add justice to the Supreme Court, but they failed due to severe criticism.
In the coming years, Franklin focused on the foreign affairs as the World War had started. He tried to support the Allied countries in spite of the neutrality shown by the U.S. He was re-elected the president of the U.S. for the third term in1940. In 1941, Franklin initiated the active participation of the U.S. in helping the allied countries by signing the Lend-Lease Bill. With Japan provoking the United States into war by attacking Pearl Harbour, Franklin sought for the formal declaration of war against Germany in the Congress. In 1942, Franklin stepped forward for creating a splendid coalition of Allied powers through ‘the Declaration of the United Nations’. He was re-elected the U.S. president for the fourth term in 1944, but soon after passed away due to cerebral haemorrhage in April 1945 in Warm Springs Georgia (Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, n.d.).
Contribution of Franklin Roosevelt to the country
Franklin had to face Great Depression when he took office for the first time. People ware jobless, homeless and banks were unsuccessful in dealing with the financial crisis. Franklin proved his worth as a proficient president by bringing aid with fifteen major laws in mere hundred days of joining the office. During the gloomy days of World War II, FDR escorted the country capably. He was so iron-willed that even the polio attack at the age of thirty-nine, that devoid him from walking rest of his life, could not diminish his strength as one of the most powerful presidents of America. His strength lied in his will to stay strong and healthy. He proved this strength in running the country with great optimism and resilience for longer period than any other president in America.
Franklin was the most admired president; however, his ideas were not appreciated by all. His demise left the country in great shock, as people could not visualize the United States without the leadership of FDR as president (Frith, 2010). Roosevelt, as a leader, is known to be the instinctive evaluator of men and historical strengths. He carried out things with distinctive approach that embraced great style and elegance. He was an aristocrat, with capabilities of controlling the enormous social and economic influences and connecting the extensive political constituency in American history (Neumann, 1980). The inherent leader within Franklin was aware of the fact that Americans would reciprocate easily if they were made aware of the direct impact of war on them and thus leading America to war easily. FDR did not have the chance to see the impact of his presidential stature on the people of America. He could not live long to see the complete success of his efforts in changing the American mind-set (Brands, 2008).
Haugan (2006) asserts “For FDR, it was his New Deal legislation that employed Keynesian economics to lift the U.S. out of the Great Depression as well as augmented the role of government in national affairs that solidified his place as one of America’s greatest Presidents” (as cited in Hagelberg, 2011, p.36).
Besides, he was a keen observer of people’s desires. Information received on a piece of paper was not sufficient for him. He wanted to know things himself or with the help of his wife who used to travel a lot. Roosevelt’s success was based on his voracity for keeping in direct contact with the people. He made them feel that they were an important part of the decision making practice, however, the main motive behind this approach was to attain the perceptive appraisal. He was manipulative in his decisions but knew the limits that could be easily tolerated by the people. Roosevelt had a distinctive style and skill that left even his enemies in wonder. Franklin was the epitome of modern presidency in the U.S. His leadership set an example for the future leaders. He relished contests and enjoyed the power acknowledging his desires and having an absolute sense of history (Neumann, 1980). President Ronald Reagan was a great admirer of FDR’s leadership quality. In 1984, while sharing his memories and experiences of the Depression period with the students of his alma mater, Eureka College, he said, “All of us who lived through those years remember the drabness the depression brought. But we remember, too, how people pulled together, that sense of community and shared values, that belief in American enterprise and democracy that saw us through. It was the engrained American optimism that sense of hope Franklin Roosevelt brilliantly summoned and mobilized” (Snyder, 2008, Para 2).
He not only safeguarded the American center but also repositioned and fortified it with elegance, charisma and, a fascinating smile. FDR dealt with several critical conditions with appropriate leadership style during his office time and resolved them too leading the way for the United States become the world power (Australia, 2013).
Analysis of Roosevelt’s leadership behavior
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an aristocratic who belonged to a great political family. He had an outstanding education and progressed to the high office at an early age with convenience (Neumann, 1980). Franklin is included in the league of popular and effective Presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He was a complex and controversial leader; but was extraordinarily effective in office and attained the stature of one of the most powerful leaders persistently in the U.S. history.
FDR possessed several qualities of an effective leader. According to historian David Kennedy, FDR “was a quick study; he could connect with people; he was self confident; he was committed to public service; he developed a strong character; he had the clear vision of the nation and its role in the world; he had the political skills to get his vision off the drawing board; and –he had luck “(Kennedy, 2003 as cited in Franklin Roosevelt as a Leader, 2005, Para2).
However, FDR did not get acclaim from all for his decisions. A significant number of historians have found fault in his leadership style. He faced criticism for unbalanced budgeting and excessive spending. The U. S. Supreme Court declared his New Deal Acts unconstitutional. Millar (2000) criticizes FDR for not being a humanitarian in the cases of Japanese –Americans interment and apathy to the Jews plight during World War II (Miller, 2012).
Folsom &Folsom (2001) presents FDR as a devious leader who was best at winning the elections only. He would ignore the law and Constitution for achieving his goals. This catastrophic leadership style was one of the most damaging legacies of Franklin. Folsom considers Roosevelt as cataclysmic in his handling of the warfare during the World War II for not considering the advice of council of military men and involving into war without knowing the state of the U.S. armed forces and undervaluing the strength of the Japanese. He criticizes FDR for not treating the German-Americans in the same manner, as he did with the Japanese- Americans for gaining their votes. He applied the similar approach to the Italian-Americans (as cited in Leef, 2012).
The dishonourable act of omission in the U.S. history: the Holocaust showed Roosevelt’s insensitivity towards the plight of the Nazi refugees during the World War II. Moreover, the cover up of the Polish massacre in Katyn by the Soviets in 1942 that revealed through several national documents recently, is another example of his ethical weakness (Miller, 2012).
People have loved and loathed FDR for his leadership. To analyse the leadership behavior of Franklin D Roosevelt, we need to look into the different aspects of leadership traits that are essential for effective leadership and to what extent Franklin possessed these qualities.
FDR offers a benchmark to his successors with respect to public communication. Franklin exhibited a dynamic, passionate nationalism and believed that comprehensive appeal to the nation could stimulate Americans towards productive achievement. Franklin was a good orator and his soaring oratory enthused souls. Besides his charming and influential physique, fireside chats drew a large crowd to his appreciation (Green stein, 2000).
Roosevelt dominated his times at home and abroad, however, he did not offer any promising organizational method for the future presidents. His chaotic organizational skills that relied more on playing aides off against one another led to unnecessary rivalry among them. He could have carried out his policies well with more sound and stable elucidation.
Roosevelt set an example for future leaders with reference to handling the inflexible political system. His Hundred Days present a model for leaders to acclaim success in a very short period. His actions like setting an outline for congressional action,, timing proposals and approving the bank deposit insurance just before it was about to be passed by Congress, are some of the strategies that show his political skills as the president. Moreover, his foreign policies such as the gradual alignment of the United States with the Western democracies in the world war period and invention of lend-lease are the illustrations of his political wit. However, leaders need to look into the other side of his inadequate political performance that brought failure to his political ventures. The major weakness in his political presentation was his disinclination to reveal his intuitions and perceptions to his advisory group.
Franklin is acclaimed for his remarkable performance as the national leader during the period of the Great Depression and World War II. His policies were driven by intuition and had no analytical basis. He succeeded in strengthening his political connections at the international level pertaining to his democratic fervor, however, at domestic front; he presented a vague and ambiguous perception regarding the policies (Greenstein, 2000).
Roosevelt demonstrated his intelligence in synthesizing different thoughts and facts and welcoming spiritual thoughts; however, he was not good at discovering the contradictions and inconsistency in his policies and was careless about concepts.
Franklin exhibited an intricate emotional persona. He was always manipulative and enigmatic and ignored the displeasing truths. However, he played the convincing role in building public confidence at the time of crises. His emotional integrity was perceptible in his speech when he assured the Americans not to fear the “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror,” and proclaimed that, “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory” (Green stein, 2000, p.25).
Franklin Roosevelt has proven to be the model of efficient leadership through his genuine care and concern for the public. He demonstrated the attributes and behaviours of a transformational leader. However, he lacked in some aspects of skilful leadership that brought him criticism and created a crowd of adversaries against him.
FDR could improve his leadership style, avoid criticism, carry out his plans effectively and satisfy his opponents by paying attention to some aspects of leadership behaviour.
- Strategic Planning: Political scientist James Macgregor Burns, in spite of being a proponent of FDR, was critical of his political attempts for improvising and pursuing strategic campaigns (Ciulla, 2008).
- Roosevelt should have adopted an appropriate strategic approach to his plans to accomplish them successfully. Milkis & Mileur (2002) claimed that FDR could not establish a planned economy and presented the ambiguous New Deal that led to awkward statist interventions burdening a liberated society. Roosevelt could bring better results to his policies if he had planned them strategically. According to Reef (2012) Roosevelt was cataclysmic in his handling of the warfare during the Second World War. He could pay attention to the advice given by the council of military men before plunging into war without knowing the state of the US. armed forces and undervaluing the strength of the Japanese.
- Leaders should be transparent regarding their strategies and tactics. Roosevelt could confide more in his aids and advisories by listening to them. His leadership style lacked in group thinking that develops shared values and postulations. He could involve his political aids to share their assumptions to avoid failure and ethical disasters (O’Toole & Bennis, 2009).
Greenstein (2000) suggests the political leaders should learn lessons from Roosevelt’s failures that cropped up due to his reluctance to share his ideas and perceptions with his advisory group. FDR adopted the style of receiving varied proposals by pitting his assistants against one another that, instead of producing valuable outcomes, only resulted in rivalry among them.
- Greenstein (2000) believes that Franklin could have carried out his policies well with more sound and stable clarification if he had better organizational skills.
- Roosevelt, as many critics believe, lacked in principles. He should have shown certain ethical values while treating the Japanese –Americans and with reference to the holocaust of the Jews during Wold War II. He could have avoided the criticism of historians like Herbert Hoover who called him “chameleon on plaid” and H. L. Mencken for ‘being tricky to get votes’, had he been more sensitive and impartial in the treatment of Japanese –Americans and had not shown apathy to the Jews perish in Hitler’s camps (Leuchtenberg, 1995).
Miller( 2012) ridiculed his decision of deliberate internment of thousands of west coast Japanese- American citizens, without the due process of law, during the World War II. Roosevelt should have maintained the legacy of Lincoln, who a century before, had fought against racial slavery. He also recommended that FDR could prevent the serious consequences of the Polish massacre that characterized him as a weak moral character.
- Roosevelt did not show adequate intellectual veracity. He needed to develop intellectual versatility in order to plan the New Deal intelligently. Allen Nevins described “his mind, compared with that of Woodrow Wilson, sometimes appear superficial, and…..he possessed no such intellectual versatility as Thomas Jefferson-to say nothing of Winston Churchill.”
- One major aspect that Roosevelt left unattended was not developing an impressive design. He could have benefitted the future political system of the U.S.by revealing and sharing his ideas with the people around him. Great leaders should be able to provide a consistent idea that can bring success to their policies. Political scientist C. Herman Pritchett says that Roosevelt’s New Deal failed to create any consistent social and economic idea that could give sense and rationale to its various accomplishment agenda (Leuchtenberg, 1995).
Summary and Conclusion
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an aristocratic who belonged to a great political family. He had an outstanding education and progressed to the high office at an early age with convenience. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of the five great presidents of America, who possessed the traits of a powerful and influential leader. The stature and approach of political leaders are important elements of their leadership style and he exhibited these traits in his leadership. Franklin served the nation as the president for more than any other president did in the U.S. history. The present day gigantic national government and vast bureaucratic mechanism with absolute power within the nation and abroad is the major contribution of FDR. He had the vision of extending United States’ domination all over the world and his keenness to bring transformation was evident in his attempts made during his tenure as the president. He had to deal with the internal threats of economic disaster and that of the military dictators wanting to rule the free world right from the beginning of his presidency. Without the appropriate leadership skills, it would have been difficult to manage such crucial situations and FDR dealt effectively with these critical conditions during his office time and resolved them too leading the way for the United States to become the world power.
FDR was criticised by many historians and political scientists for the scantiness of his decisions and created a large group of adversaries around him. His insensitiveness towards Jews and partial treatment of the Japanese-Americans proved him lacking in ethical values. His incapability in providing an impressive design through the New Deal presented a vague and ambiguous perception regarding the policies and brought him criticism. Franklin had to face harsh conditions in his personal and political life but he managed to surmount the difficulties and face the criticism with sporting spirit.
Franklin brought aid with fifteen major laws in mere hundred days of joining the office and was able to escort the country capably during the gloomy days of World War II. He was so iron-willed that even his physical deficiency could not diminish his strength as one of the most powerful presidents of America. His strength lied in his will to stay strong and healthy. Franklin exhibited a dynamic, passionate nationalism and believed that comprehensive appeal to the nation could stimulate Americans towards productive achievement. He was the quintessence of modern presidency in the U.S. and his leadership set an example for the future leaders. He is among those very few powerful leaders who have had an ever-increasing impact on the posterity. He demonstrated the attributes and behaviours of a transformational leader in leading his country with great zeal and bravery during crises and showing the way to reach top position in the world and become the greatest world power.
Australia, I. (2013) What made Franklin Roosevelt a great leader?, Web.
Biography of Franklin D Roosevelt (n.d.), Web.
Brands, H.W. (2008) FDR and GWB: Unlearned lessons of a wartime presidency, World Affairs Journal, Web.
Ciulla, J.B. (2008) Leadership at the crossroads, Greenwood Publishing House, Wesport
Coker, J.W. (2005) Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport Franklin Delano Roosevelt (2014). Web.
Franklin Roosevelt as a leader (2005), Web.
Frith, M. (2010), Who Was Franklin Roosevelt?, Penguin, England
Greenstein, F.I. (2000) The Qualities of Effective Presidents: An Overview from FDR to Bill Clinton, Presidential Studies Quarterly, 30 (1), 178-185
Greenstein, F. I. (2000) The Presidential Difference- Leadership style from FDR to Clinton, The Free Press, New York, Web.
Hagelberg, T.M. (2011) Leadership: The tabletop concept , The Journal of JVBL, 4(1)
Leef, G. (2012) Folsom’s book portrays FDR as devious opportunist, Web.
Leuchtenburg, W.E. (1995) The FDR years, Web.
Milkis, S. M.& Mileur, J.M. (2002)The New Deal and the Triumph of Liberalism, Thompson-Shore, Massachusetts
Miller, J.R. (2012) FDR’s failed moral leadership, Web.
Neumann, R.G. (1980) Leadership: Franklin, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Today Presidential Studies Quarterly, 10 (1), 10-19
O’Toole, j. & Bennis, W. (2009) What’s needed next; a culture of Candor, Harvard Business Review, Web.
Pederson, W.D. (2011) A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wiley Blackwell, West Sussex
Synder, K.A. (2008) Ronald Reagan on Franklin Roosevelt: The Significance of Style, ISI web Journal, Web.
Raico, R. (2001) FDR: The Man, the Leader, the Legacy, The Independent Review, Web.
Troy, G. (2008) Leading from the center: Why moderates make the best president, Basic Books, Philadelphia