The United States: Variations of Presidential Predominance

  • Ludger Helms


There is no other major Western democracy in which the chief executive’s personality is more central to the overall conception of executive leadership than in the United States. From the early days of the republic, personalities have tended to have a stronger hold on the American public imagination than specific policy issues. While this may be considered part of the general American understanding of politics, the constitutional parameters of executive leadership in the United States have worked in the same direction. Both the quasi-direct election of the president and the whole constitutional construction of the political executive, in which the president is the sole representative of executive power, underline the centrality of those occupying the Oval Office. In the more recent political science literature on the American presidency, even leading proponents of the neo-institutionalist paradigm have maintained that ‘the incumbent is the institution’ (Rockman, 1992: 100).


Foreign Policy Leadership Style Domestic Policy Executive Branch Executive Leadership 
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  1. 6.
    Of course, Nixon’s record as a (rather unsuccessful) reformer of the cabinet structure is better remembered for his failed attempt in 1971 to create four new ‘superdepartments’ (Patterson, 2000: 26–7).Google Scholar
  2. 14.
    Some scholars have judged this period to have lasted even less time. According to Michael Genovese (1990: 34), ‘Cabinet government’ was the dominant idea only for a month or two, before it was replaced by ‘staff government’, which was eventually overcome by ‘staff kingship’, marked by a further narrowing of management within the White House.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ludger Helms 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ludger Helms
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

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