Harry S Truman — man of the people. John F. Kennedy — bold, articulate leader with a great deal of charisma. Richard Nixon — introspective President with a deep knowledge of and interest in foreign policy. Each person who has held the office of President has brought to it a unique style. Each style reflects a President's character.
James Barber published a well-known study of presidential character in which he studied personalities in order to predict presidential performance. Barber believes that Presidents can be categorized as having "positive" or "negative" attitudes, and as being "active" or "passive." His findings indicate that "positive active" Presidents are more successful than passive/negative ones. For example, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt had positive active personalities. According to Barber, their personalities cause them to approach the presidency with enthusiasm and a drive to lead and succeed.
This research is controversial, but it is based on the assumption that presidential character and personality are extremely important in determining how successful a President is in office.
Most Americans have their own ideas about which Presidents deserve to be called great, and which ones were failures. Historians even get into the ratings game, with Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger starting the modern game with his invitation to 55 prominent historians to rate the Presidents. Although the lists have varied over the years, some Presidents consistently rate at the top. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin Roosevelt have locked up the top three spots in nearly every ranking survey. Others with high scores are Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry Truman. Usually near the bottom are James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, and Warren Harding. Historians are reluctant to rank modern Presidents, because not enough time has passed to assess their legacies.
Some common leadership qualities that good Presidents appear to have are the following:
All Americans have different ideas about the importance that character plays in the job performance of the President. Considering all of the hats that a President must wear, perhaps the symbolic role that the President plays is most affected by character. Presidents must somehow symbolize what American citizens believe to be the essence of their country. They must represent what is valued now and in the past. But even more importantly, they embody the direction of America's future.