6 Lessons About Leadership We Can Learn From Ronald Reagan
Image Credits: Reagan Foundation
Reagan is remembered today as almost the perfect model of a conservative. He was a faithful man who advocated for small government, tax reform, and peace through strength. Reagan wasn’t successful just because he was an advocate for conservative ideals, he was successful because he knew how to lead a country. Beyond Reagan being an example for conservatives today, he provides several different leadership lessons that can be used across party and ideological lines.
Communication is key
To many, Reagan is known as the Great Communicator. Part of what made Reagan such an admirable leader was his ability to communicate to the country and individuals effectively in the wake of all imaginable circumstances. Sometimes, Reagan’s voice and his presentation were sometimes even more impactful than the words he was saying. In devastating moments such as the Challenger Disaster, the country was looking for a father figure. The country needed someone to comfort them – and that is precisely what Reagan provided. Maybe most important, though, was the fact that Reagan was always at the forefront. In every situation, whether it be celebration, remembrance, or crisis, President Reagan had an impactful message for the nation.
Nobody can do it alone
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Reagan proved that the same can be said about leadership. As one person, Reagan may not have known everything and may not have been able to do it all. He was always able to surround himself with individuals who were, in many cases, more skilled in certain areas than him. Whether it be Counselor to the President and Attorney General Edwin Meese III, or speechwriter Peggy Noonan, he created and built a team with passion and a will to make a difference in this country. Reagan exemplified the principle that an effective leader doesn’t need to know everything. Instead that leader knows how to surround himself with those that do. Alongside those people, Reagan became one of the most admired Republican presidents to ever hold office.
It’s okay to make mistakes
The Reagan Administration is admired as an overwhelmingly successful and influential presidency, but it is important to remember that the success we now admire did not come without failures. As can be expected of any human being, Reagan faced defeat multiple times during the course of his presidency – the Iran Contra Affair and the failed appointment of Robert Bork to the United States Supreme Court, to name a couple. What’s important, though, is that coming out of these scandals and failures, Reagan admitted defeat, and then continued to lead the country. He took responsibility for his actions and recognized the resulting consequences, but he did not let that stop him from continuing to build and lead a prosperous country. Reagan demonstrated that admitting your mistakes shouldn’t be taken as an opportunity to give up. Instead, failure is an opportunity to grow and learn how to be a more successful leader.
Leadership is more than just a title
In the way he led, Reagan exemplified leadership as a wholesome way of life. He wasn’t a leader simply because he was President of the United States. Reagan was a leader because individuals around him admired him and looked to him for advice and encouragement. From the moment he gave his speech for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, A Time for Choosing, Reagan was a leader for the vision and spirit he displayed to the world. Reagan continued to be viewed as a leader even after he was President. This was because not only for his legacy as leader of the free world, but for instilling a passion in the American people that the country had never seen before. Reagan didn’t lead from nine to five every day because it was his job. President Reagan led 24 hours a day, 365 days a year because it was who he was as a person.
Leaders come from all walks of life
Throughout most of history, Presidents have come from wealthy, politically involved families. Reagan, however, was the exception to that rule. He was born into a working class family. His father was a store owner and didn’t hold a single profession for an extended period of time. Prior to entering politics, Reagan was a Hollywood actor. When he was elected governor of California, he essentially had no political background, and no wealthy family to support him. Yet years later, he was elected into the White House. Reagan’s triumphant story of starting from the ground up is a demonstration of the fact that a leader doesn’t have to be born into the position. Leaders can be made. They can be cultivated from anywhere in the world. To assume that influential leaders must come from affluent backgrounds is to underestimate many individuals’ capabilities.
Quite possibly the single largest contributing attribute to the Reagan Revolution was Reagan’s character. This is not just as a president, but as a man. Demonstrated in his communication style, his relationships, and his vision for the country, Reagan held a charismatic leadership style. This led to him being liked by individuals across all walks of life. Reagan was able to appeal emotionally to the country and attach credibility to his ideas and thoughts. He engaged people ideologically to build a trusting relationship. The integrity and humor that he exhibited on a day to day basis allowed him to cultivate relationships far past surface level. In several memoirs, including Peggy Noonan’s When Character Was King, and Peggy Grande’s The President Will See You Now, a common thread is that Ronald Reagan was far more than just a President and a boss to those he worked with, he was a friend and a trusted confidant. And to an extent, thanks to his amicable character, he played that same role in the lives of the American people.
Emily is an aspiring Elle Woods with a hint of Nancy Reagan. Searching for cute dogs on instagram is only a side hobby to politics. When she's not teaching people about conservatism in Starbucks, you can catch her meeting princesses at Disney or binge watching Gilmore Girls and The West Wing for the millionth time.
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