Icons of Democracy: American Leaders as Heroes, Aristocrats, Dissenters, and Democrats

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Icons of Democracy: American Leaders as Heroes, Aristocrats, Dissenters, and Democrats

By Bruce Miroff
Basic Books, 1993
422 pp. $25.00
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Examining the leadership styles of nine Americans--Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King--this study aims to "distinguish those types of American leadership that foster democratic political life from other types--often more prominent and heralded--that undermine it." It comes down solidly on the side of democratic leadership (sharing, teaching, nurturing, "feminine") versus aristocratic, heroic or elitist styles (handed down, "masculine"). It quotes Richard Nixon as the supreme example of the wrong way to lead: "To wish is passive; to will is active. Followers wish. Leaders will." Miroff disapproves of Nixon's statement and the style that went with it, but does not prove him wrong. Another addition to the continuing debate over leadership styles that tells us more about the author's politics than about the subject.