How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader Politics Essay


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Before starting this essay I feel it is important to define the term “Leadership”. Leadership is the relationship among leaders and their followers or supporters who intend to make real changes that reflect their shared purposes. Leadership is much more than the management of an individual or a team it is also the ability to make the team or company as successful as possible.

As the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan was widely renowned for his leadership skills. Through out his two terms in office Reagan used these skills to full effect. These skills where largely acquired during his early acting years when he was involved in the Screen Actors Guild. During Reagan’s first term in office, Reagan created new economic and political initiatives which were often referred to as “Reaganomics”, he brought about de-regulation and he also implemented substantial tax cuts in 1980’s. During this first term Reagan survived an assassination attempt on his life. In the 1984 presidential election Reagan won in an out right victory to earn a second term in office. During this term Reagan was largely focused on foreign policy which was top of his agenda. Ending of the cold war with the Soviet Union which Reagan referred to as an “evil empire” was his top priority. The negotiations that followed with Soviet Union resulted in a decrease of both countries nuclear weapons. This was hailed as a huge triumph. Reagan is widely known today as one of the greatest ever leaders that ever lead America.

Leadership Skills

The art of been able to communicate is vital in any management or leadership role. Been able to communicate plays a very important role for an engineer, on a daily basis an engineer will be in constant communication with various different groups from architects to labours. Been able to get your point across is very important in ensuring the success of the project.

To be an effective leader one must have an effective communication skill. This was one of Reagan’s most talented leadership skills. Reagan had a great ability to been able to communicate with his followers i.e. the people. Reagan was such good communicator that he earned the nickname “The Great communicator”. Once Reagan had a vision what he thought should be done he would then convey it to the people. Often he would use visual aids such as charts to convey his message. Been able to communicate your visions of what you think needs to be done with your followers is crucial for any leader. Any ordinary leader can have a vision of what he thinks will work but it takes a good leader to be able to communicate it with his followers.

Reagan was able to take any complex matter such as his economic initiatives which he proposed and dilute it down to simple terms so the ordinary person would be able to understand it. There are many examples of where Reagan would take complex matters such as his economic initiatives which he proposed to help America’s economy to grow and turn into a non complex matter by doing so the people understood what to be done to help America recover. Once the people understood the matter on hand they would back him. Reagan’s economy initiatives were of huge success, with the economy growing over a third in size and with every group in society benefited the poor grew rich while the rich grew richer.

Another example where we see Reagan making use of his communications skills is where he proposed the Strategic Defence Initiatives a defence system which was capable of shooting down enemies missiles. Reagan explained to the nation why there was a need for such a costly defence system. Even though the media termed it stars wars Reagan pressed ahead with the idea as he knew the people understood. Reagan often used simple charts to convey his message. Reagan said there was a need to able to defend ourselves. Reagan thrived on been able to communicate and building relationships with his people. Often he made people feel that he had a connection with them building these relationships with his people is one many reasons for his success and popularity among the people.

Negotiations and conflict resolutions

The skill of been able to resolve resolutions and been able to negotiate is a very important factor in the characteristic of a good leader. Reagan clearly had this skill in abundance they are many examples where Reagan used this skill to his advantage. The art of negotiation plays an important role of that of an engineer, on a daily basis engineers deals with new clients, contractors and various other professions. Been able to negotiate will play an important role in determining how good of an engineer you will be. The engineer will also on a daily basis have to settle disputes.

Throughout the book D’Souza illustrates many examples where we see Reagan negotiating and solving conflicts with other leaders. For example during the cold war period a time of intense hostile between the democratic American’s and the communism Russians, Russia started to build up a large amount of weaponry and for the first time its army size surpassed that of the United States, Reagan knew that he had to negotiate with Russia to ensure the safety of his country. Reagan began to encourage Gorbachev the Soviet Leader on an arms reduction treaty “STARTS”, Strategic Arms reduction talks. The two leaders agreed on a treaty to reduce its arsenal of weaponry. Getting the soviets to agree on this treaty was an astonishing achievement on Reagan’s part as at this time the two nations where on the brink of a war. Here we seen the negotiations skills that Reagan possessed in managing to pull off such a feat.

On coming to office the main goal of Reagan was to prevent the spread of communism. Reagan hoped of to end Communism and its control around the world. Reagan began a process of negotiations with the Soviet Leader; from the start Reagan knew that it was going to be a challenge. Reagan persisted and in the end brought about an end to the cold war. Gorbachev was stated as saying, “He was a man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War”. Here we can learn a lot from a great leader, in his pursue of his goal. Reagan set out to end communism which he manage to so by employing all his leadership skills which was mainly his negotiations skills.

Leadership Styles

There are many different types of leadership styles some of these styles include directive, supportive, participative and achievement-oriented leadership. Directive leadership is where the leader provides guidance of what should be done. Supportive leadership is showing concerns for the needs of the employees while be approachable. Participative leadership: consulting with employees and seriously considering their ideas when making decisions. Achievement-oriented leadership is where the leader encourages the employees to perform at their highest possible level he/she does this by setting challenging goals and also by demonstrating a significant confidence in their employee abilities.

Throughout this book D’Souza makes it very clear that Reagan’s leadership style was that he was both a supportive and a participative leader. Reagan was very supportive of the various aides and advisers that he had around him. Reagan would always listen to their concerns on various matters; he would sometimes leave his advisers debate the topic on hand without intervening in either side till both sides were finished. Reagan would seriously listen to both sides before then making the final decision on the matter on hand. Reagan did this as he felt if he gave his opinion at the start it would influences the debates, as he felt some times his advisers picked the side of the president. D’Souza also it makes it very clear that he and other advisers never had any trouble approaching Reagan on any matter and that he was always friendly. A truly great leader is approachable at all times, a person who employees do not fear of going to or are not afraid to give their opinions on matters which are of concern to them.


According to Burke motivation is an inner force that causes or induces someone to be inspired to do something (Burke, 2007). It is important to note that what inspires one person may or may not inspire someone else. It is up the manager to influence this working environment which encourages the individual in question to motivate them in such a way that they achieve the project goals set out.

D’Souza highlights many situations where the staffs working for Reagan were motivated to work. Such examples where we see how the staff where motivated include Reagan handing over many sections of the running of the country to his advisers and aides. By giving his staff more responsibility for the running of the country they were motivated to work as it gave them a sense of achievement. Reagan also encouraged his staff to lead a balanced life, come 5 O Clock he would often he would go into the various offices in the white office telling his workers to go home. This motivated them as they felt the president cared for them and their families as he wanted them to lead a balance life style between work and at home. One of Reagan famous quotes dealing with issue of hard work “it’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” .This quotation is typically of Reagan showing his humorous side and his take on work.

Working with stakeholders

Stakeholders are people who are either actively involved in the project in hand or who are effected by the project being implemented. It is the leader’s job to identify all the stakeholders and to determine their expectations. These expectations should be managed to determine its success (Burke, 2007).

In “How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader” we see that Reagan’s stakeholders were the general public. It is the people who are affected by every decision that Reagan makes. To work with his stakeholders Reagan did his best to communicate with them. Reagan would call press conferences in which he would inform the nation in the most simplicity way that he could the topic that was on hand. Reagan believed it was best telling the public in the simplicity of ways as it gave them of a clear picture of what needs to be done. The other stakeholders working with Reagan were his advisers and aides, Reagan would always encourage them to contribute their skills and knowledge on the topic on hand as he believed it was vital for the success of the project.


Throughout the book with can see that Reagan was always optimism. D’Souza gives many quotes from Reagan through out the book showing his optimism such quotes include “To believe that together we can and will, with Gods help, resolve the problems that now confront us”. Which Reagan gave in his first inaugural address Reagan was trying to be optimistic telling the nation that better times were ahead. Having optimism is very important when been a leader as it offers hope to your followers


Another important trait that Reagan held is that Reagan was not afraid to hold people accountability we see an example of this is when on August 1981 workers in the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization walked went on strike in an organized strike they demands been a reduce working week to 32 hour week. When the striking air traffic controllers refused to return to work, Reagan fired them and banned each of the members from federal service for life. Ronald Reagan the air traffic control workers accountable. This is action of a good leader as he shows he willingly hold people responsibility while also being strong.


To be a good leader you must be likeable. The more likeable a leader is the more people will follow him as people tend not to follow people they dislike. Reagan was vey much a likeable man, throughout the book we see that he was described by people who worked for him as a kind and a decent person. A lot of the time Reagan would use humour which people enjoyed if they weren’t on the receiving end. Reagan would often use humour to avoid answers from the press or to win crucial arguments in public debates.

Admit Mistakes

A key component to any good leader is to been able to admit to your own mistakes. This is very important as through your life time you will make mistakes, and a good leader will put his hand up and admit that he is wrong, he will the move on. An example of this we see when Reagan admits that he is wrong through the intervention in Lebanon. One of Reagan policies was to intervene in other countries policies in order to preserve democracy but this had devastating consequences when in Lebanon an attack on an army barks killed 240 American soldiers. Reagan was quick to realise his mistake and quickly withdrew from the area. Being able to recognise your mistakes is a key element in becoming a good leader.


From reading this book we learn some important lessons on leadership. We learn how one man Ronald Reagan used the different leadership skills to achieve so much while in office. We learn the importance of been able to communicate and how important it is to be able to communicate your visions with your followers. One of the most important lessons we learn is how importance is it to reduce your visions to the simplest terms so that your followers will be able to understand them. We learn how to deal with conflicts and how to resolve them as through out the book we see how Reagan resolved various conflicts. On the bigger picture we learn about the different leadership skills and how important that they are in order to be an effective leader. By reading this book the reader will quickly learn how important it is to know the key requires of being a good leader.

Reason why you choose this book

One of the main reasons why I choose this book Ronald Regan “How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader” by Dinesh, is that I feel that it would be very beneficial to a young graduate engineer entering the workforce. This book gives us an insight into the life of possible one of the worlds greatest ever leaders Ronald Reagan the 40th president of America. From this book we learn about the different leadership skills that Reagan possessed. I feel it is truly amazing how a man who came from such an ordinary background managed to be elected as the most powerful person in the world. Reagan came from a working class background whose father was an Irish emigrant. Through out his education period Regan was an average achiever he obtained a grade C in his finals, yet he still managed to become president of United States of America. Not only did Reagan manage to become president, but he also accomplished many achievements that will never be forgotten in history. From reading this book the reader will learn about the different traits that a good leader must have.

The achievements that Reagan managed to accomplish through out his terms in office are truly inspiring. Some of his most noticeable achievements include: introducing new economic initiatives to help America recover from the 1980’s recession, introducing policies to help with the energy crisis that was happening at the time, introducing substantial tax cuts in 1981, one of his greatest achievements that Reagan will always be remember was the part he played in ending the cold war, as Margaret Thatcher the British prime minister later recalled “He ended the cold war without firing a bullet”. I feel that a lot can be learnt from reading this book as the reader learns how Reagan used his leadership skills to guide America through a difficult period in their history. We see many of his leadership skills that he possessed been deployed through this book. Achieving the above achievements as mentioning above takes a special kind of leader, a leader that has all the known leadership skills, this enforced my reason for the selection of this book.

How is this relevant to graduate engineers?

I feel that this book would be of huge benefit to a graduate engineer going into the workforce as it demonstrates how such an ordinary man became such an inspiring leader. Throughout the book we can see the characteristics of Ronald Reagan that made him such a great leader. As an engineer you are expected to lead large groups with such a diversity of talents on a range of different and complex jobs, even though the groups you will be leading won’t be as large as the groups Ronald Reagan had to the lead, the basic traits of a good leader are the same. These traits that Reagan used are highlighted by D’Souza throughout the book.

By reading this book we see how Reagan managed individuals and groups such as his advisers on various matters, we see his negotiations skills in action also. Such examples include: when he is negotiating with Gorbachev the Soviet leader in various arms treaties. We see how he communicated with his followers; we see how he resolved conflicts, such as avoiding a nuclear war with Russia during the cold war. We see how he used motivation to encourage the productivity of his staff, such as handing over more responsibility to his staff they felt that had a personal achievement if they got the task done.

Throughout the career of an engineer he/she will have to put to the test their management skills, negotiations and conflict skills communication and motivation skills this book will help in understanding theses key skills and how an ordinary man managed to mobilise them to great effect. As engineer you will be faced with a varied of different challenges that will test your leadership skills by reading this book the reader will understand the concepts of a good leader. I feel that many of the techniques that Reagan used during his time in office to lead the nation, are very applicable to us engineers.