“Presidents & Prime Ministers: What Makes Great Leaders In Times Of Crisis?”

This was the title of a talk given this week by Mark Malcolmson, Principal of the City Literary Institute in London, which I was able to attend online. Mark structured his address around three principles of leadership.

  • Having a clear sense of what is right

He cited as examples of this Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon to heal the US post-Watergate, John Kennedy’s acceptance of blame for the Bay of Pigs fiasco which was Eisenhower’s plan, JFK’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis which took the world to the edge of nuclear war, Truman’s sacking of General McArthur when he overreached in the Korean War, and Eisenhower’s opposition to the British and French invasion of Suez.

  • Having a clear vision of the future

Here he gave as case studies the sustained opposition to the Soviet empire of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher, Lyndon Johnson’s promotion of civil rights and the Great Society, and Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with China.

  • Capturing the zeitgeist

Instances of this were Ronald Reagan’s response to the explosion of the “Challenger”, Tony Blair”s reaction to the death of Princess Diana, and George W Bush’s visit to New York City immediately after 9/11.

Mark acknowledged that some of his choices would be contested or controversial, but I enjoy discussions of history that cut across time and place.

Incidentally, if leadership generally is of interest to you, you might like to check out my advice of “How To Be A Good Leader”.


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