Communication Lessons From Two US Presidents


Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Ronald Reagan.

fdr reagan

Two US Presidents on opposite ends of political ideology. Two Presidents who faced severe international crises in different ways – one a world war, the other a cold war.

But these Presidents had 2 things in common. First, was they inherited their country in a difficult time economically and geo-politically. Both situations called for these men to lift their country up.

And what these men did sets an example for all leaders to follow. The key reason these presidencies were historic was the second thing they had in common:

They were incredible leaders who were able to effectively communicate to their people.

Whether you agree with their politics or not, both Roosevelt and Reagan possessed an incredible talent to connect with their constituents and pull together a nation. They give leaders some tremendous lessons in being more effective communicators in engaging our people and building connections in a body of people any size.

Here is what we can learn from Reagan and Roosevelt:

  • Understood their people’s needs. Roosevelt knew the devastation to families reeling from the Great Depression and the burgeoning World War II. Reagan understood the poor economy and internal and external threats to the citizens safety and quality of life. Both men knew who their people were, what their concerns were, and acknowledged that they were appointed to resolve these issues on behalf of their citizens. In order to be an effective communicator, know who your audience is, and what their needs are at any given moment.
  • Reassured and comforted. In any new leadership role, there is always the anxiety people have of how the new leader will respond and show the way. Both men understood that the country needed them to be steady and reassuring, consistent and comforting to allow their message to be heard and resonate. Leaders who stir more anxiety are not effective communicators; those who can calm the waters can assure a receptive audience that will listen and respond favorably.
  • Made clear the challenges both present and future. While Reagan and Roosevelt spoke in a comforting paternal fashion, they also did not shirk their responsibility to be realistic about the dangers of the times. They knew that they could not have any credibility if they minimized or ignored the challenges they all faced. By being honest and upfront about the road ahead, a leader can help their people realize the work and obstacles that must be overcome in order to succeed.
  • Cast vision for how bright the future can be. Each time these men spoke, it was to show their vision for where the country is going, and what it looked like for it’s citizens. When laying out their plans for how these goals would be implemented, they still wrapped it around a core of vision and hope for their people. Great leaders infuse vision into every interaction to keep the chances of success high and the mission in front of everybody.
  • Used media and technology to access their people. Made themselves available to speak. Both men knew that the best way to heal and rally a country (or any group of people) was to put themselves out there and be visible. In order to effectively make themselves available to their people, they had to make use of the technology available to them. Roosevelt used the popular new medium of radio to host his “Fireside Chats” and virtually bring himself into everyone’s living rooms. This was of particular importance when he had to address the nation after the Pearl Harbor attacks that led the US into World War II. Reagan’s use of television and his relationship with the press were able to allow him to re-ignite a passion and purpose for the country during the Cold War and severe economic recession. He took Roosevelt’s use of radio to a new level by instituting a weekly radio address to the nation which was carried on by his successors. Both men knew how to reach their people through the most effective means of their time. Leaders today can follow their suit by using all the various social media, web, and technology tools for communicating to their people. Never before have leaders had so many options to reach everyone in their organization so effectively.
  • Used a calm yet confident voice and posture. Roosevelt and Reagan’s voices and posture before their people helped convey their message positively. Neither were condescending, but rather they spoke in a manner that helped allay people’s fears and knew they were in good hands. People want to follow leaders who speak with, not at, them, and the effectiveness of their presence, even over the airwaves and in person made other’s feel confident and at peace with the direction they would soon be headed.

Be a great communicator and connect with your people to keep the vision ahead of them. Use your influence to positively share and plan with them and make yourself accessible for all as much as possible. Use the best tools for reaching out and remember that the best tool for communication is simply yourself.

How do Reagan and Roosevelt inspire you to be a better communicator? Share your thoughts below!

(microphone image: morguefile; presidential images: wikicommons)

About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on April.4.2016, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love the comparison and the insights in this post Paul! Thank you!


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