This study will examine the qualities of leadership demonstrated by President John F. Kennedy. The study will focus on both personal and political strengths which allowed Kennedy to effectively and imaginatively exercise leadership in domestic and foreign affairs.
It has often been said that Kennedy was more style than substance, and that, in any case, his brief thousand days in office prevented him from doing anything substantial in either the economic or the foreign realm while in office. Some analysts grant that he averted nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but he is just as often criticized for his handling of that event. He is almost universally criticized, on the other hand, for the fiasco known as the Bay of Pigs. While he is given credit for advancing the cause of civil rights, he is also criticized for having stalled action in that area until it was no longer possible to do so and he absolutely had to involve the Presidency.
It is certainly true that Kennedy was in office for less than three years and obviously did not have the time to demonstrate his leadership fully. However, he did accomplish enough and set in motion enough trends and policies to allow us to argue that he was indeed an effective leader, and would have likely developed into an even greater leader had he lived and been re-elected.
The personal power of a leader is crucial to his carrying out his policies, and Kennedy undeniably possessed such personal power. However, the same can be said for Hitler. Personal power is judged not only by its intensity, but by the goodness or evil which it generates. History judges hitler as a clearly evil leader, no matter how intense his personal power. Kennedy, on the other hand, was generally viewed by the world as a leader who inspired people to hope and enthusiasm.
His successor, Lyndon Johnson, in the Foreword to Kennedy's The Burden and the Glory, first notes briefly the role Kennedy played in ad...