WHY PRESIDENTS SUCCEED: A Politcal Psychology of Leadership by Dean Keith Simonton

WHY PRESIDENTS SUCCEED: A Politcal Psychology of Leadership

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A scholarly study of the elements of success among American presidents, by a professor of psychology at U. of Cal./Davis. Simonton enters the already crowded field of analysts of the presidency (Bailey, Presidential Greatness, 1966; Barber, Presidential Character, 1977; et al.), but he offers something new in his role as ""political psychologist,"" studying such oft-ignored factors as motivation, cognitive style, intelligence, childhood experiences, age, attitudes, and environmental stimuli. Unlike the psycho-historians, such as Mazlich or Freud/Bullitt, Simonton's research is inductive in nature, ""proceeding from the particular to the general by abstracting laws from the whole set of chief executives."" From his methodology, Simonton discovers that certain factors make certain outcomes almost predictable. For example, ""If we wish. . .a president with a favorable disposition toward peace-building agreements with other nations, an affiliation-motivated executive may be a reasonable choice, but that very choice may carry with it an increased risk of scandal in the administration."" Simonton lists six ""predictors"" of greatness: years in office, war, scandal in the administration, assassination, war heroism, and intelligence. He demonstrates how even ""naive raters""--undergraduate students--given these six items of information about our 39 presidents correlated almost exactly with the greatness ratings of a group of noted historians. Heavy-going stuff from academe, but likely to hold up well next to its predecessors.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press