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Bush Sr. exerted quiet pull of leadership

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

The first President Bush possessed a deft touch with volunteers, staff and media that made them want to follow him as early as the 1980 presidential campaign, in which Bush bowed out after Ronald Reagan overtook him.

Examples of his leadership:
  • He bestowed responsibility based on initiative. Although one recent college grad, Tom Collamore, referred to himself as just “a punk driver,” he wrote George H.W. Bush a note saying he’d like to help if Bush ran for president. He received something more than a nice note in return. When the time came, Collamore got the nod for a critical role in Bush’s Connecticut campaign.

  • He maintained a sense of humor. On one primary trip to Nebraska, the campaign bus got lost in a snowstorm and, that night, Bush fell asleep across the aisle from Bernard Shaw, a reporter for the spanking new Cable News Network. As a joke, reporters placed a bottle of hooch in Bush’s lap. When he woke up, he said “What the hell is this?” as the reporters laughed and snapped photos that never made it into print. Shaw says the candidate couldn’t stop laughing.

  • He conferred with all his staff. When he considered conceding to Reagan, Bush called together his staff and asked them each to submit a secret ballot on whether he should drop out of the race. He read all their notes before deciding. He also secretly discussed the decision with John Magaw, his lead Secret Service agent, so the agents could plan for when Bush would lose his Secret Service protection.

  • He didn’t drag things out. Pulling out of the primary race was hard, but it spared the GOP infighting. Bush also kept his cool during the hoopla over whether Republican nominee Reagan would tap former President Gerald Ford as his running mate. Bush refused to whine about the matter, and he joined the ticket in the end.
—Adapted from My Father, My President, Doro Bush Koch, Warner Books.

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