AUTHOR'S NOTE: All views and opinions expressed herein are personal and not institutional. I would like to thank Matthew Glassman, Steve Stathis, and Lorraine Tong for their comments and assistance.
The Contemporary Presidency: The Political Utility of Empathy in Presidential Leadership
Article first published online: 15 OCT 2009
© 2009 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 39, Issue 4, pages 859–877, December 2009
How to Cite
SHOGAN, C. J. (2009), The Contemporary Presidency: The Political Utility of Empathy in Presidential Leadership. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 39: 859–877. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2009.03711.x
- Issue published online: 15 OCT 2009
- Article first published online: 15 OCT 2009
In simple and precise terms, empathy is feeling what another person feels. It is the perception of another person's emotions. A debate over the importance of empathy in political leadership has generated considerable controversy since the 2008 election. However, Barack Obama's presidency is not the first to be affected by empathy; it has played an influential role in presidential leadership throughout American history. Focusing on the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, this essay explains why empathy is a critical governing and political resource, and argues that a paucity or excess of empathy can prove a dangerous liability for presidents.