Decision Making and Presidential Leadership

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Irving Louis Horowitz's article "Legalism as an Executive Ideology: Foundations of Barack Obama's Leadership Style" is a commentary designed to investigate the sources that President Obama considered in formulating his judgments. The article emphasizes the importance of law journal editing, legal education, and the early occupational activities involved with law practice. The author observes that Obama's early presidency might be defined by a legalist mindset rather than sweeping remarks about nation, class, and race. These are frequently the considerations at the heart of the president's options, particularly in areas such as global challenges and foreign policy.  The author argues that legalism is meant to implement stern limits on independent actions and initiatives as well as putting a brake on the tendencies of imposing a new imperial presidency. These conceptual checks and balances exhibit special dimensions to the president, as well as a continuity of the previous limits to extremism (Horowitz, 2010).

Presidential dilemmas arise when the responsibility of making decision cannot fall on the legal authority, but risky and dangerous decisions must be made. A good example is the instance of civic action programs supported by the continuous increase of military personnel in the troops deployed in Afghanistan. Leaders have the responsibility of making decisions that are not always favored by public opinion. As the President, it is very important how one decides to lead, because the country puts great trust in the ability to keep the land, the people and all interest involved, safe and sound and in the best interest of the country. Leadership involves a level of risk taking and a leaders’ willingness to take risk are believed to be linked to a key psychological variable-locus of control (LOC) internal or external. The social democratic America takes after the European welfare lines since there are policy concerns where few imposing guidelines are available. Legal examples that follow such a direction are hard to find or can be done away with quickly. However, the long-range presidential objectives are deeply rooted in the Western values, mostly of the European sort. The objectives are not embedded on divisive and bitter political theologies (Keller & Forster, 2012). The difference between foreign and domestic policymaking usually becomes hard because the president is required to confront the political systems in the regions of the world where the circulation of elites is less frequent. In America, the presidential tenure cannot be dictated as any other place. Therefore, it will be very hard and close to impossible for the president to make decisions using force.

Leaders have a mixture of political incentives and risks presented by diversionary strategies. In this case, risk can be defined as the uncertain likelihood of facing challenging outcomes. There are theories that assert that diversion is important support the incentives while the other theories emphasize on the risks. Research studies conducted regarding political decision making and leadership suggest that political leaders, as well as scholars who examine their behavior will understand the risks and incentives in different ways and disagree regarding the diversionary strategies attractiveness. Traditionally, as Joe Wert and Cliff Staten (2017) note, the citizens feel that the president gets his way when dealing with issues of foreign policy. However, things are different when it comes to treaty making, a factor that is much related to foreign policy.


Horowitz, I. L. (2010). Legalism as an Executive Ideology: Foundations of Barack Obama's Leadership Style. Perspectives On Political Science, 39(3), 160-165.

Keller, J. W., & Foster, D. M. (2012). Presidential leadership style and the political use of force. Political Psychology, 33(5), 581-598.

Wert, J., & Staten, C. (2017). Weak Presidents, Treaty Ratification, and Presidential Leadership Style. Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, 18(1), 11.

May 02, 2023
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