Ulysses Grant: Elements of an Effective Leader
To Goode’s (1999) description: he was an enigma (p. 330). Taylor (2006) remembers him being likened to the ‘Sphinx’ – ‘inscrutable and inarticulate’ (p. D05). Among 43 U.S. presidents, from George Washington (1789-1797) to George W. Bush (2000-2008), scholars rank him below average, falling to 32nd place, 3rd among the worst, 7th among the most controversial, and 8th among the underrated presidents (Lindgren & Calabresi, 2001). But if scholars assessed him a failure president, US veterans regarded him a great military leader. Why was Grant perceived differently as a leader? How should Grant’s leadership should be assessed? How would Grant as a leader would fair in the five practices of exemplary leadership framework? Such is the focus of this paper.
The man: Ulysses Grant
Even today, scholars do not totally agree how Grant should be viewed as a leader. He is esteemed as a great Civil War hero and a great military commander, yet some would say he was a butcher. Though many would say he was a major failure as a president; today some scholars are reconsidering such view, saying: “… Grant was a good president; certainly a strong one” (Skidmore, 2008, p. 221). Perhaps, these opposing views could be attributed to the complex character of the man whose life was lived in the most challenging times of US history. Scholars do agree on certain aspects of Grant life.
Hiram Ulysses Simpson Grant, the eldest among six children (3 boys and 3 girls) of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson (Taylor, 2006, p. D05), was no extra-ordinary lad with an extra-ordinary life lived during challenging times. Aside from his unmatched excellence in horsemanship – “a skill that served him well in the Civil War, when he remained eighteen hours a day and more in the saddle without tiring, a feat that astonished his staff” (Goode, 1999, p. 330) – no other indications would bring one to fathom that this quiet, shy and introvert...