Bush Hitting Right Notes as a Leader, But Potential Missteps Lie Ahead, Says UB Expert on Leadership Styles

Release Date: September 14, 2001 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- George W. Bush took a solid first step in improving his image as this country's leader when he stepped to the microphone this week to comment on terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, according to a University at Buffalo professor with expertise in leadership, charisma and management styles.

James R. Meindl says President Bush's carefully crafted comments to the American people have given the president's leadership persona a boost.

"A person's ability to appear decisive and in control in a crisis situation is a major component of what makes him or her appear to be charismatic, or a good leader," Meindl says.

"By focusing on just a few key points in a terse manner, without speculating on issues that still are unknown, Bush has been able to present a sense of boldness and decisiveness that people want to see in a leader during a crisis."

Meindl says Bush this week has done an excellent job in his speeches and news conferences of balancing the appearance of empathy and strength, two qualities that are essential to effective leadership. But he cautions that the coming days will present numerous opportunities for Bush to stumble as a leader in the eyes of the American people.

"Just as there's a honeymoon period for new leaders, there's a honeymoon period for leaders during a crisis," Meindl says. "Right now, people's first instinct is to get behind their leader, but soon they will want to see results of Bush's leadership; they'll want to see evidence of decisive action."

One potential misstep in leadership, according to Meindl, is being too contrived in one's communications or actions, which was a criticism made often of former President Bill Clinton's leadership style.

"If Bush is perceived as using this crisis as a stage for his own political agenda or aspirations, his credibility as a leader will be called into question, as will the motives of his actions," Meindl says.

Carmichael Professor of Organization and Human Resources in the UB School of Management, Meindl is the author and editor of numerous articles, chapters and books on the behavioral aspects of organizing and managing. He is internationally recognized for his research on the "romance of leadership," an analysis of charisma and other forms of popular leadership.

Meindl, who notes that "charisma is in the eye of the beholder," early in 2000 used a six-point scale to measure the political charisma of the then four major presidential candidates: Bush, Al Gore, John McCain and Bill Bradley. McCain emerged the clear front-runner, with Bush a distant second, followed by Gore and Bradley.

Meindl outlines six attributes that he says form the basis of political charisma: biography/background, personal style, situation/circumstance, strategy/tactics, position on issues and physical presence.

"Charismatic leadership is very much a personal connection that is made between the leader and follower, be it up-close-and-personal or admired from afar," according to Meindl.

To read more about Meindl's study of Bush, Gore, McCain and Bradley, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/news/fast-execute.cgi/article-page.html?article=46430009.

Media Contact Information

John Della Contrada
Vice President for University Communications
521 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Tel: 716-645-4094 (mobile: 716-361-3006)
Twitter: UBNewsSource