Modern Politicians Leadership

Fire service needs leadership and new blood. That being said, there are a variety of styles of problem-solving. Case studies involving highly visible public figures present situations which most Americans can relate to and adapt to a variety of contexts. For example, President Barack Obama and former US Secretary David Patraeus are leaders with very different approaches to leadership, management, and adaptation. Especially in the tumultuous political world, powerful leaders must have excellent reasoning and problem-solving skills which could be applied to a wide range of challenges. For this reason, this paper will examine the specific styles of each man and apply them to a modern problem.

Leadership Style

President Obama’s election campaign was undoubtedly one centered upon hope and fueled by the inspirational leadership of a single phrase: time for change. This emphasis on change assumes a positive direction and is known as transformational leadership. Specifically, Obama employs the idealized influence conceptualization- in which followers are expected to “respect, admire, and trust the leader and emulate his or her behavior, assume his or her values, and are committed to achieving his or her vision” and in line with the persona example which is set out (Eeden, Cilliers, & Deventer, 254). This style of leadership implies a very structural approach which hinges on conscientious application and adherence to rules (ibid.). Assistant Secretary Gordon described the Obama administration’s European foreign affairs policy as a globalization effort for the spread of democracy, which specifically seeks to engage Europe in global problems and promote peace throughout and improve American relations with Russia (Gordon, 2009). 

Although Patraeus also exhibits a transformational leadership style, it manifests in a very different way- in the conceptualization of individualized consideration. In this approach, the individual abilities and needs of the followers are given great weight in the decision-making process (Eeden, Cilliers, & Deventer). Successful military leaders must use this approach to some degree, because knowing that a skilled lieutenant should lead a charge is pointless information when none of them are up to the task. Military leaders are also used to the clear, complex regulations which Baran and Scott claim are also necessary for efficient leadership (2010).

Management Style

Leadership and management are “two sides of the same coin” and together impact the dual roles which are crucial to success (“Strong Leadership and Management”). Obama has handled each situation with a “tough love” approach and promised that the U.S. will continue to uphold its treaty with NATO as forcibly for its allies as for the U.S. itself (Gordon, 2009). Regardless of bipartisan conflict, he has always been a man who knows how to produce an action. When Congress was faced with the second possibility of a government shut-down, President Obama commented that his 13-year-old and 10-year-old daughters could have come to an appropriate decision in a shorter amount of time (Gardner, 2011). The comment was received by Congress as an abrasive attack on their capabilities, despite the fact that they had already exceeded former deadlines and gave no indications of progress. Needless to say, Congress was embarrassed by these remarks and did cancel their extended holiday following Independence Day. (It seems fitting.)


Obama and Petraeus are both adaptable men but in entirely different ways. Obama acts proactively, working ahead of deadlines and attempting to project the nation’s needs. This proves difficult, though, when these projections are incorrect or incomplete, as was the case with his multi-billion dollar economic plan. He did not give up or retract his previous assertions but soon began to draw up new plans for the remainder of the money (Gardner, 2009). Petraeus’ professional body of work was militant leadership, which take some preventive measures but pays the most attention to the reactive nature of international politics. Nonetheless, Petraeus (2009) took an unusual interest in preventive countermeasures, funneling some reconnaissance toward the early identification of insurgencies and revolutions; he also asserted that a broad objective, such as the prevention of terrorism, may need to be divided and subdivided, as he did with Iraqi regional operations.

Applied Problem-Solving

The generation gap is an undeniable barrier to the optimal performance of the fire service. With less experience in the field and a more lax code of ethics, the modern worker is not expected, in most cases, to perform at the level which fire service requires for survival. There is no room for second-guessing orders or one’s own intuition, for inexperience, or for the miscommunications which can result in injuries and deaths. The high-reliability organizational theories have dedicated themselves to the study of these specific conditions (Baran & Scott, 2010).  Obama’s inspirational leadership approach would recommend that a seasoned, well-respected fire captain mentor to newcomers and to professional training and education- just as he took a very international stance on modern American politics (Gordon, 2009). Petraeus’ leadership and management approaches are particularly relevant to the fire service, which also requires the constant heightened performance of military careers and other high-reliability organizations (Baran & Scott, 2010). Petraeus’ individualized consideration would recommend that active duty status for firefighters be analyzed on a strict, case-by-case basis (“Strong Leadership and Management”). This encourages each worker to think independently and to develop a positive and reflective behavior pattern (Baran & Scott, 2010). Regardless, the everyday challenges can be met by following these steps: plan, organize, implement, solve problems, and monitor and evaluate (“Strong Leadership and Management”).  


Leadership is not one-dimensional or field-specific. “Leadership skills often are not taught in conventional training and education programs”, as was recorded in Population Reports (p.11). While specific rules and regulations may change, a variety of styles still represent a transformational perspective. For this reason, even the lofty presidential and militant offices have much to teach us about leadership in everyday situations. For fire services, using both Obama’s inspirational leadership approach and Petraeus’ individualized consideration, the narrowing of the generation gap is possible through ‘sensemaking’. Sensemaking is “the process by which leaders and those with whom they interact develop fundamental assumptions about a number of attributes such as the level of risk present in a situation” (Baran & Scott, 2010, p. 45). The problem will not go away entirely, but a compassionate management hierarchy can lessen the gap through excellent, adaptable leadership and management.