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Will Bush Be A Giant Of A Leader?

January 5, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ History demonstrates that rarely do two powerful leaders follow each other, but that relatively ineffectual leaders often do.

That concept is the heart of what Eugene Jennings calls the L- (for leadership) principle, and it suggests intriguing possibilities for the future of the United States, the Soviet Union and much of Europe.

What type of person, for example, is likely to follow Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev? Will the leadership of Eastern European nations be strong or weak? Can George Bush be a powerful leader so soon after Ronald Reagan?

Jennings, professor emeritus at Michigan State University, is author of the landmark volume ″Anatomy of Leaderhip,″ written in 1961, which traces leadership back to the Egyptian pharoahs, and ″Princes, Heroes & Supermen.″

In addition, he has advised corporate chairmen and sometimes political candidates on how to conduct their affairs, the better to demonstrate their leadership.

As he interprets the L-principle, powerful leaders come forth to fill voids, rising in response to circumstances and needs of people. But when they are through they often leave another void behind them.

Into this void step what Jennings calls representative officials, or people who represent the popular thinking of their constituency. Unlike the powerful giants, these folks and their ideas aren’t above or ahead of the people.

In Jennings’ view, Dwight Eisenhower was a representative leader rather than a giant. He was followed in the presidency by John Kennedy, who Jennings feels was emerging as a giant, and then Lyndon Johnson became one.

″Johnson came forth and filled the void,″ says Jennings. ″For better or worse, he changed the direction and character of what the country had been under Eisenhower.″

Under Jimmy Carter, says Jennings, the country lost confidence to do anything right, making conditions ripe for Ronald Reagan to come galloping in on a white horse.

Does that mean George Bush and the nation are in for a dull time?

Not necessarily, says Jennings, appearing to bend the L-principle just a bit. In his first term Reagan was a giant, he says, an example of the wedding of the individual and the needs of the people. ″In his second, he wasn’t.″

After Reagan, says Jennings, ″we should be in a void, defined as the absence of a need or condition for strong-willed chiefs.″ But as he interprets the principle, Reagan actually created his own void in his final four years, leaving room for Bush to achieve the status of giant, should events conspire.

It would be, he concedes, a rare but not unprecedented situation.

More common is the succession of two or more representative officials, such as Harding, Coolidge and Hoover sandwiched between Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. But wouldn’t that have made Harry Truman representative?

That’s another example of bending. Roosevelt, says Jennings, was a giant of a leader in his early years, changing the direction and character of the country, but he was worn and torn by the time he died in office.

With the world turning over, as he puts it, and democracy sweeping old regimes from power, Jennings believes conditions are now ripe for a strong president to exert his will. Bush, he believes, could become a giant.

In Jenning’s interpretation, Winston Churchill was a giant, but Anthony Eden was not. Stalin was a giant, but he was followed by a series of less powerful officials. Gorbachev filled the void they created and, ″depending on how irreversible his initiatives are,″ he will be a giant.

That brings up the future. The L-principle suggests that Gorbachev will leave a void, to be filled by the so-called representative or transitional types. First, however, Gorbachev must nail down his reforms.

Jennings also feels that like them or not, the former leaders of the East bloc were powerful enough to leave a void that will be filled by transitional or representative types. That leaves the question of who will follow them.

If the future remains unstable, he says, it could mean a giant of a leader, perhaps anti-democratic, could follow. The possibility of future dictators still exists, he says.

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