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  1. Joseph S Nye Jr

  1. Harvard Kennedy School of Government, UK
  1. Joseph S Nye Jr, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138, UK. Email: joseph_nye{at}harvard.edu

Abstract

During the 20th century, the United States went from being a second rate power to becoming the world’s sole superpower. Did
leaders matter? In the cases I examined in Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era, most presidents mattered, but not necessarily those that one might expect. Leadership experts distinguish transformational
leaders with broad visions and an inspirational style (such as Woodrow Wilson or Ronald Reagan) from transactional leaders
who have modest vision and a managerial style (such as Dwight Eisenhower or George H.W. Bush). Experts and editorialists generally
prefer transformational leaders and consider them both more effective and more ethical. But the concepts have been poorly
defined, and the normative preference for transformational leaders is not justified. Leadership theorists need to be more
careful in their definitions and assessments.

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Transformational and transactional presidents