How Would the Presidents of the United States Rank as Business Leaders?


How Would The 42 US Presidents Rank as Business Leaders?


Where does your favorite President of the United States rank in terms of business leadership in the new millennium? Could all or any of the US Presidents successfully run a large corporation today? Did they have what it takes to be a true leader or were they more concerned about themselves and their legacy? Were their decisions sound and founded on unwavering principles, or were they constantly swayed by the winds of political expediency or public opinion?


Running the United States and running a large, for-profit corporation have more similarities than differences. Whom would we choose to run our company if we had our pick of the 42 men who served as President of the United States?


The editors at scoured the history books and looked deeply at each President’s record as a leader. We ignored the popularity of their decisions and judged these men solely on the traits that we feel make a good leader: the ability to execute; honor; intelligence; character; and, most of all, service. To determine the final rankings, we graded each President on six weighted categories: humility; ability to delegate; integrity; vision; success (during their term); and impact on future generations.


From worst to first, here are the rankings. (Please note: there are only 42 ranked Presidents even though George W. Bush is considered the 43rd President. Grover Cleveland’s two terms were not consecutive, so he is referred to as the 22nd and 24th President. On our list, we only count him once.)


The Bottom Ten


Distinguished by their inability to lead with integrity, humility and/or vision, these ten Presidents deserve their own Leadership Hall of Shame:


42. Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

41. James Buchanan (1857-1861)

40. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

39. John Tyler (1841-1845)

38. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

37. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)

36. George W. Bush (2001-2009)

35. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

34. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

33. James A. Garfield (1881)


The Below Average Group


Many of these Presidents made notable contributions to the country, but overall they lacked many of the traits it takes to be considered a good leader:


32. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

31. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

30. William Henry Harrison (1841)

29. Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

28. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

27. Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

26. Chester Arthur (1881-1885)

25. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)


Our Above Average Presidential Leaders


Though not the greatest of all time, these fourteen Presidents distinguished themselves as good to very good leaders. Their ability to drive the country through tough times all while keeping an eye on the future helped most of these Presidents accomplish great feats of leadership:


24. William McKinley (1897-1901)

23. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

22. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)

21. George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)

20. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

19. James Madison (1809-1817)

18. John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

17. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

16. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

15. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

13. (tie) William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

13. (tie) James Monroe (1817-1825)

12. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

11. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)


The Top Ten Presidential Leaders of All Time


As we’ll clearly detail in tomorrow’s post, these men stand out as the best leaders ever to serve as President of the United States:


10. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)

9.   James K. Polk (1845-1849)

8.   Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

7.   Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

6.   Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

5.   John Adams (1797-1801)

4.   Harry S Truman (1945-1953)

3    Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

2    Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

1    George Washington (1789-1797)


It’s important to note that these rankings are based on how these Presidents and their decisions would impact a Fortune 500 company. Are they capable of true leadership or were they just popular pawns of their party?


This is the first article in a three-series post. Please follow this link for comments that detail why we ranked each President where we did.


On Monday, September 8, 2008 we released the final scores and rankings in each of the six weighted categories: humility; delegation; integrity; vision; success (during their term); and (their impact on) future (generations). To see this post, follow this link.


As we grow ever closer to the November 4, 2008 Presidential Election, the real question for America is where would Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin rank on this list? With the current economic climate and uncertain foreign affairs, it’s clear we need a leader. To view our fantasy rankings of these four Presidential and Vice Presidential hopefuls, please see our post from September 9, 2008 by following this link.