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Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Leadership Styles


The leadership and management approaches adopted by leaders determine the outcomes of their decisions and actions. Leaders possess different qualities and traits that determine their leadership and management styles. President Ronald Reagan was a visionary and transformational leader who used his courage, perseverance, openness to delegation, and exceptional social and communication skills to transform the United States.

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President Obama’s democratic leadership is characterized by charisma, vision, exceptional communication skills, and ability to inspire hope and change. The styles adopted by both leaders led to different outcomes with regard to the achievement of goals and objectives. Reagan and Obama are among the most respected presidents in the history of the United States primarily due to their exceptional leadership that transformed America in various ways.


Leadership refers to the ability of an individual to inspire and influence people to work toward certain goals or outcomes. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are examples of leaders with diverse leadership styles who used their skills to achieve greatly and improve the lives of Americans in different ways. This paper will evaluate the leadership and management styles of both presidents and determine their influence on the quality of their leadership. Academic literature on leadership as well as publicly available sources of information such as articles and news stories will be reviewed for insights on the topic.

I will argue that Reagan united, inspired, emboldened, and protected Americans with his transformational leadership style while president Obama transformed the US with his democratic/participative leadership style.

Reagan’s leadership and management

Historians have often described Ronald Reagan as a highly complex leader largely because of his private life. During his first term in office, he oversaw the critical transformation of the United Sates’ domestic policies. In his second term, he engineered a strategy that terminated a global conflict that could have led to a world war (Elliott, 2015). Reagan is usually compared with Franklin D. Roosevelt because of his exemplary social skills and a private personal life.

Reagan’s leadership style was highly influenced by Roosevelt as well as his experience as a labor leader and an actor (Strock, 2014). The roles he played on screen prepared him for his presidency. His social skills can be attributed to his acting career in Hollywood. His governorship and presidency were characterized by numerous public events that were aimed at uniting Americans and restoring the country’s traditional values as outlined in the Declaration of independence (Strock, 2014).

Reagan gave his subordinates the freedom to perform their duties without unnecessary interference even though this approach was problematic in certain cases. For instance, he was misled by his advisers on several occasions because he never held one-on-one discussions with them. In addition, he failed to recognize his officers in various instances because of his hands-off manner of management (Elliott, 2015).

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Reagan’s leadership was highly flexible despite his strongly-held convictions regarding various political matters (Elliott, 2015). His convictions were useful in determining his administration’s priorities, which were the highlights of his leadership. His flexibility allowed easy adjustment to different political situations and circumstances (Strock, 2014). Reagan also had exemplary negotiation skills that were useful in stopping a global conflict from culminating into a worldwide war.

These skills were augmented by his strong decision-making abilities. His courage and perseverance were also useful attributes of his leadership (Strock, 2014). He demonstrated his courage when an assassination attempt was made on him as well as during the air traffic controllers’ strike. In addition, his opposition of Mikhail Gorbachev was an act of courage that defended the Strategic Defense Initiative. His perseverance was useful in achieving his objectives during negotiations either with Congress or other nations (Elliott, 2015). He ensured that he always got what he wanted. Reagan’s career was based on absolute integrity because his dealings with politicians, Congress, and other nations were based on the principles of trust and honesty (Elliott, 2015).

Another trait of Reagan’s leadership and management was his openness to delegation of duties and responsibilities to his subordinates (Strock, 2014). Historians have argued that this trait had both positive and negative implications on his presidency. He usually made decisions based on the information given to him by his subordinates because he trusted and believed in their capabilities (Elliott, 2015). He did not question or alter the decisions made by subordinates.

This freedom to make decisions empowered his subordinates to focus on his administration’s priorities regardless of the political pressures that existed. He was an inspiring leader because he used his great social skills to encourage his subordinates during tough times. The media and some political analysts were highly critical of Reagan’s administration. However, he did not focus on thee criticism but set his eyes on national goals and objectives. He shared his vision with his government officers and used it to inspire them and overcome political pressure from critics (Elliott, 2015).

When Reagan took office in 1981, the US was facing numerous challenges that included high rate of unemployment, high inflation, harsh financial times, and energy shortages (Meese, 2011). In addition, the military was weak and lacked resources due to the effects of the Vietnam War. The high position of the US in regard to foreign affairs had declined and Reagan faced numerous challenges in restoring America’s lost glory. Due to his visionary leadership, he had addressed the aforementioned challenges when his second term in office ended. He revitalized the economy, strengthened the military, and ended the Cold War (Meese, 2011).

He had a clear and strong vision of how the US should be governed and what it should be. Reagan used his exceptional communication skills to share his vision with the people and inspire them to work toward its achievement (Meese, 2011). His optimism was useful in convincing Americans that their country was the greatest in the world and they had innumerable opportunities for building a bright future.

Obama’s leadership and management

As mentioned earlier, President Obama exhibits the democratic style of leadership. Like Reagan, he gives members of his administration freedom to present their ideas and opinions as well as make some decisions. A democratic leader takes the views and ideas of his subordinates and uses them to make decisions (Edwards, 2012). When Obama became the US president in 2008, he was expected to turn around the ailing economy. He brought together experts and stakeholders from different fields to find a lasting solution to the failing economy. In addition, he took the opinions of Americans because he is a great believer in active citizenship (Edwards, 2012). The efforts to turnaround the economy were largely successful because President Obama based his decisions on opinions and ideas given by experts and citizens.

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As mentioned earlier, Reagan always listened to people and used their input to make decisions without the interference of personal emotions. In contrast, President Obama listens to other people but rarely uses their input in making decisions. He has been widely criticized for ignoring the opinions of experts and relying on his personal perspectives to make decisions (Edwards, 2012). Regan engaged his subordinates in conversations that led to implementation of policies while Obama uses individual judgment to choose the policies to implement.

His first term in office was characterized by openness to dialogue and the incorporation of ideas and opinions from external sources in decision-making (Edwards, 2012). However, this approach to management changed gradually and he began to rely on personal perspectives and ideas when making decisions.

Another trait of Obama’s leadership style is charisma and ability to inspire people to achieve certain goals and objectives (Edwards, 2012). During his first term in office, Obama used his charisma to woo politicians and citizens to embrace his vision of making the US a better nation (Westen, 2011).

He used his great communication skills to show them how they could make an impact by implementing various domestic and foreign policies. As a transformational leader, Obama has become an epitome of hope and change with regard to cultural attitudes and behaviors toward minority groups. He has transformed people’s lives by spearheading the creation and implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He has reignited hope among people of color and inspired them to participate fully in the various sectors of the American economy (Westen, 2011).

His open-mindedness has facilitated the development of cross-cultural leadership around the world. This leadership approach has restored America’s image of a nation that embraces diversity that was lost during the administration of President Bush. In that regard, Obama incorporates the interests of both the US and the world in his leadership (Westen, 2011). He travels widely and visits different countries with diverse cultural norms and traditions.

Wherever he went, he pays careful attention to the norms and traditions of the people he interacts with. This leadership approach has been criticized because opponents of Obama’s leadership style argue that it fosters weakness and defaces America’s image of a superpower (Edwards, 2012). It has been attributed to several political struggles that are currently going on. For instance, the squabbles between China and Japan, the conflicts in the Middle East, and the frequent threats by Russia to attack Ukraine have been attributed to his lack of global leadership. As the leader of the world’s superpower, he is required to find solutions to global issues.


President Obama and President Ronal Reagan are among the most revered presidents of the United Sates primarily due to their styles of leadership and their contributions. Reagan leadership and management style included delegation of responsibilities, strong social and communication skills, exemplary negotiation skills, courage, vision, and perseverance. Obama’s leadership and management style includes charisma, vision, exceptional communication skills, and open mindedness.

Reagan used his leadership to transform America by revamping the economy, end the Cold War and improving America’s status with regard to foreign affairs. Obama use his transformational and charismatic leadership to improve the lives of Americans by fostering cross-cultural ties, fostering hope and change, and revamping the economy due to the effects of the Great Recession.

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Edwards, G. C. (2012). Overreach: Leadership in the Obama Presidency. New York, NY: Princeton University press.

Elliott, B. (2015). Why Ronald Reagan’s Example is Still Relevant for America Today. Web.

Meese, E. (2011). A President of Great Vision and Leadership. Web.

Strock, J. M. (2014). Reagan on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Great Communicator. New York, NY: Roxby Media Limited.

Westen, D. (2011). Leadership, Obama Style. Web.

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"Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Leadership Styles." StudyCorgi, 20 Feb. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Leadership Styles." February 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Leadership Styles." February 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Leadership Styles." February 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Leadership Styles'. 20 February.

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