HKS Authors

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Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus


As we debate our role in the world today, it is worth asking how American global primacy came about in the last century. After all, George Washington celebrated our “detached and distant situation.” Some see our global role as the result of divine providence; others credit impersonal changes in a continental scale economy. But what about our leaders? Did it matter who was president? Leadership experts stress the importance of transformational presidents with grand visions and an inspirational style rather than incremental leaders with a transactional style. In a careful study of the 20th century leaders who presided over the growth of American primacy, I found that many mattered — but not always in the ways that experts predict.


Nye, Jr., Joseph S. "Is the Vision Thing Important?" New York Times, May 21, 2013.