Leadership Style of John F. Kennedy
What were the leadership styles of John F. Kennedy? Kennedy was born in May 29th 1917 in Massachusetts and was a son to Joseph Patrick Kennedy and his mother was Rose Fitzgerald. He was a university graduate from Harvard where he graduated in 1940. In 1946 being a democrat he became the president of USA. He was widely traveled and a strongly advocated for civil rights and improved social welfare. It is at this time as a president of USA that his leadership qualities were witnessed and developed. He was much admired by people because he knew how to present himself to the public. His leadership style was greatly influential and has been admired by many up to date. For now I’ll limit my scope to look at his leadership styles.
His first leadership style was taking responsibility. Taking responsibility involves accepting that you are solely accountable for all of your actions. Most people when they do mistakes point a finger of accusation to others. They do not want to acknowledge their involvement. People develop a strategy that is referred to as escapism. According to (Naegele T D. 2005) John F. Kennedy, when things in a country go wrong, people blame the president but he said that there is nothing wrong with people saying that as the head of state is paid to lead the state therefore for that reason he should be held accountable. For example when the military operation to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro in 1960s failed, he accepted that United States failed to accomplish its mission without blaming the war strategists, his advisors and the government that was before him. He said, “victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” He was simply referring to those who never accept their wrongs.
Learning from mistakes as well as from failures was another tactic he used. This implies that you should revisit the history to know where others have erred or where yourself have gone wrong so that you can rectify your mistakes. This leadership style was well portrayed on 16th October 1962 when the U-2 air plans captured photo acts of Khrushchev, the soviet leader placing nuclear bombs in Cuba. This was an open threat to the U.S and it was able to read between the lines to know that all was not well. (Barnes J. A. 2007). Kennedy did not want to engage his country in another war after the Second World War though there was no way he could let them to do whatever they wanted. He took the necessary measures by taking his navy to block soviet’s further plans. It was clear what Soviet Union wanted though they claimed they had no malice aforethought. They accepted to with draw their war weapons from Cuba and even accepted to dismantle the remaining ones.
He was well aware of the damage that was caused by USA when it dropped a bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and therefore he did not want a repeat of the same. Thus, he capitalized on this situation to sign a pact to agree that they would never test nuclear weapons on the earth. He also acted first in installing a direct line from his white house to Kremlin to avoid future misconceptions like in this case. (Reeves T., 1997)
Compassion Mr. John F. Kennedy was a very compassionate person. He was very concerned with the welfare of others. He strongly advocated for increase of the foreign aid to the third world countries. He also created a department of the Peace Corps. He was determined to assist the underdeveloped countries in as much as he could. His scheme of Peace Corps was geared towards promoting peace in the Latin America, Africa and Asia. This Peace Corps amounted to ten thousands. He asked his citizens not to be expecting good things always. He also urged them to be patriotic and that is why during his inauguration in 1961 he challenged people that “ Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country”. He was pursuing his foreign policies just to build mutual trust among nations and to inculcate a culture of interdependency.
Always be a team leader. Kennedy being the president of United States of America was like he was leading a team. He was able to bring people together to work as a team for their well being. He said that a leader should be able to bring people together and should be able to lead his people in the right direction for example he steered America clear of the racial injustices and lead his team in exploring the world. (Schlesinger A., Jr. 1998) Basically a team leader is somebody who guides, instructs and directs his people in the right direction. Many people admire a leader who lead by example and that is why john F. Kennedy became so popular in the whole world. He weighed all the decisions before they could be implemented. He always listened carefully to the needs of the citizens. A team leader must be a decisive person and that is how john Kennedy was. For example he led a meeting to discuss on the missiles in Cuba. He wanted to hear the views of his people before he could act. (Schlesinger A., Jr. 1998)
Kennedy was articulate and spoke his mind openly. It takes a strong person to stand in front of the people to express your thoughts. This depends on the trust you build with your people if you do not have a good relationship with citizens then you cannot have the guts to stand in front of people to give your thoughts. If you are an effective leader then people will follow your footsteps. As Kennedy once said, “courage is not complacency”. He took it upon himself to argue for civil rights act in 1960 and was able to get seventy of the votes that were cast. He also tried to convince the congress to provide free health care to all those that were above 65 years old though his proposal was rejected. He never failed to say what was in his mind as he was aware that it was the only way he could express his thoughts to the people. Many people were influenced by his words and today he is severally quoted.
He was challenging Americans not to just sit down and wish the status quo would remain but they should strain their every nerve to improve on what they have.
To influence many people then you must learn to be a great communicator. People who speak fluently command a great following. Kennedy himself was not that good in speaking especially when he talked to the congress for the first time but later he improved on his communication skills and with time he was able to drop his regional accent, talking without pausing and also talking too fast. He did all this when he became the president of United States of America. He became the best orator ever who spoke with a lot of enthusiasm. His speech passed the intended message and created the impact he wanted for example when he was talking on the Vietnam War he said, “No other challenge is more deserving our effort and energy.
Our security may be lost piece by piece, country by country”. Here he was condemning the communism that was spreading in Asia. He believed that if the South Vietnam were to become a communist state then countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Burma and others that were non-communists would follow soon. He strongly convinced Americans using this speech that America was ready to confront problems no matter what to support their allies and oppose their enemies in order for liberty and peace in the world would be realized. (Clark.D. 2005)
This speech had profound effects on many because he knew how to play on worlds a young man became touched and decided to join the United States marines. This man said that he felt challenged by that speech by asking what the youth were doing for their country. He decided to join this department to show loyalty for his country.
We can conclude this essay by saying that were it not for John Kennedy’s leadership skills he would not have gained popularity as he is today. He used various strategies to lead his people as the president of USA. He was decisive, confident and accountable for all his actions. He communicated fluently something that influenced Americans very much. He was a role model who led by an example, many people started behaving and dressing like him.
Schlesinger A., Jr. 1998. John F Kennedy Revisited: A noted historian and Kennedy
Administration insider refutes the revisionist version of JFK’s legacy.
Clark.D. 2005. Leadership – Character and Traits
Schoenberg P. E., 2000. Kennedy on Leadership,
Barnes J A. 2007. John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Legacy and lessons of a
president. New York
Reeves T., 1997. A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy. Three River
Naegele T D. 2005.Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy: A
Question of character.