On November 13, the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah & Western Thought, in partnership with the Shevet Glaubach for Career Strategy & Professional Development, hosted best-selling presidential historian Dr. Tevi Troy of the Bipartisan Policy Center in conversation with Dr. Liel Leibovitz of Tablet Magazine. The event, entitled “Lessons in Presidential Leadership,“ brought together Yeshiva University students and alumni to learn about the key characteristics of a successful president. Aside from Dr. Troy and Dr. Leibovitz, several leading figures in the fields of journalism and public policy attended, including Stewart Simonson (assistant director-general of the World Health Organization) and syndicated columnist Micah D. Halpern (host of Thinking out Loud).
In conversation with Dr. Leibovitz, Dr. Troy reflected on his own experience as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration. He identified several leadership qualities common to all successful politicians and noted that the most effective presidents tend to be receptive to feedback and criticism. He also asserted that successful presidents accentuate their strengths and work to minimize their weaknesses.
Dr. Troy spotlighted three effective presidents from American history, emphasizing the leadership tactics they utilized in navigating moments of national crises: John F. Kennedy would actively seek out dissenting opinions in order to consider a situation from all angles; Franklin D. Roosevelt capitalized on the growing popularity of the household radio in order to quickly communicate his policies to the American public; Dwight D. Eisenhower hired Hollywood stars to coach him in preparation for important television broadcasts.
At the end of the session, Dr. Troy addressed students’ questions regarding how the role of the president should adapt to the current political climate in America. Dr. Troy expressed confidence that the president will always have a communicative edge over other public figures. Thus, the president need not pander to everchanging social media trends in order to appear hip or trendy. Instead, a successful president should focus on communicating policy in a clear and thorough manner.
Finally, Dr. Troy shared leadership tips with the students, drawing on his experience as deputy secretary of the largest civilian department in the federal government. He asserted that an effective leader should assume full responsibility for their organization, invite trusted associates to work with them and prepare a successor to one day assume their leadership role.