4 Leadership Lessons from Ronald Reagan

April 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Many people in American culture see Ronald Reagan as one of the best Presidents and leaders of the 20th Century.  He led our country during a crucial time of economic uncertainty in America and the Cold War. Because of these circumstances and the way Reagan led our country, he is considered to be an exceptional leader.

pic of Reagan giving a speech

Flickr Photo Credit: US National Archives

In 2009 my family and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. While touring the facility I took almost five pages of notes about Reagan, his life, and the way he effectively led his country. Reflecting on those notes led me to see four distinct leadership lessons Christian leaders can practice from Ronald Reagan.

1. He was a great communicator. (In fact, he was often called The Great Communicator.)
Ronald Reagan personally wrote many of his speeches and he often took time to personally write responses to letters he received as President. In fact, his favorite place to write letters was on Air Force One with his cup of Jelly Beans near by. When Reagan was asked about the way he communicated and how he was so effective, Reagan said that he never felt he was the one writing his speeches, but instead the speeches were being written with the hearts and minds of the American people. He was simply trying to give a voice to the people of America.

2. He had the courage to take an unpopular stance when necessary.
Even though Reagan was considered a charismatic leader he often had the courage to take a position that was unpopular. The main example of this is when the Air Traffic Controllers went on strike in 1981. Because the american country and economy almost came to a halt when this occurred, Reagan and his legal team had to do something to fix it. They were able to craft a case based on the fact that because Air Traffic Controllers were sworn federal public servants they were not allowed to strike. Reagan took this information and issued a firm ultimatum that any traffic controllers who did not report back to work within 48 hours would be fired. Taking a position such as this and broadcasting it to the American people was a very unpopular position and could have had legal ramifications (especially when you consider the power Unions might have had to retaliate).

3. He took responsibility.
There is not a specific example of this leadership lesson observed, but it was obvious throughout my travels of the museum that Reagan rarely, if ever, passed the blame of something wrong onto others. In fact, when things went well he often passed that credit onto others. He once said, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t care who gets the credit” (I thought President Lincoln was the first to say this, but the quote was attributed to Reagan at the library). The proverbial “buck” truly stopped with President Reagan.

4. Reagan’s most important work was done outside of the Oval Office.
Legendary stories always circulate about the famous Presidential Oval Office, but Reagan rarely showed the Oval Office’s importance because he traveled so much. In eight years of presidency Ronald Reagan traveled to 26 counties and logged 661,708 miles. He went “to” the people where they were. Reagan traveled so much that he often joked that Air Force One was his partner in foreign policy. Perhaps the best result of his foreign policy and extensive travels was the relationship he built with Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia. Numerous meetings took place between the two of them in an effort at appease the tension during the cold war years.

These are the four basic leadership lessons I observed while touring the amazing Ronald Reagan Presidential Library which you and I can also implement into our lives as Christian leaders.

Question: What leadership lessons have you observed from Ronald Reagan’s service as our President?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Fresno Pacific University and master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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