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Franklin D. Roosevelt LeadershipFranklin D. Roosevelt Leadership


Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)


American president (1933-45), known as FDR , who rescued America from the Great Depression (with great poverty and unemployment).

Roosevelt (pictured right) also defeated Hitler and Japan in the Second World War.

A polio attack in 1921 crippled his legs and eventually killed him.


For more detail see... 

D-Day in the History Highlights section.


Why was he a great leader?

1. Vision

His vision for a better world was based on four freedoms:

  • freedom of speech.
  • freedom to worship (God).
  • freedom from want (removal of poverty)
  • freedom from fear.

 Franklin D. Roosevelt Leadership

2. Progress

Roosevelt (pictured right in 1941) always looked to the future, helping to make America and the world a better place.

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today”, he said.

In the 1930’s he committed America to:

  • helping its allies like Britain (“the policy of the good neighbour”)
  • having a “spirit of charity” to all Americans.

This resulted in his New Deal policies, helping poor people through higher government spending.


3. Conservative revolutionary

His New Deal was revolutionary in comparison with previous policies, but it was still quite conservative, keeping government spending and taxes relatively low to protect wealthier Americans.

His biggest achievement was to achieve a revolution in people’s attitudes, giving them hope and protection against exploitation.

He abolished child labour and introduced social security and a minimum wage.


 Franklin D Roosevelt Leadership

 4. Courage

Despite hating war (he experienced the horrors of the First World War), he had the courage to help Britain in 1940 against Nazi Germany even when most Americans didn’t think Adolf Hitler (pictured right) was a threat.




5. Principle

He believed in moral leadership i.e. acting upon the right principles like charity, freedom and democracy. He said:

“The presidency is not merely an administrative office. It is permanently a place of moral leadership”

He wanted America to be the “arsenal of democracy” during the Second World War.

He did what he said and so people trusted him.


6. Great communicatorFranklin D. Roosevelt Leadership

He touched the hearts of ordinary people with:

  • his great speeches.
  • friendly radio broadcasts (his ‘fireside chats’, pictured right).

He convinced people of his ability to solve their problems with charm, calmness, integrity, honesty and optimism.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, he said in his Inaugural Address in 1933


7. Unity and consensus

He wanted to unite America to defeat the Depression, and then Hitler and Japan.

“Our strength is our unity of purpose”, he said.

He invited into his Cabinet the first ever woman and politicians from the opposition Republican Party (he was a Democrat).

To ensure America’s unity, he only declared war once Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941.

 Franklin D Roosevelt Leadership

8. Mutual trust and respect

Roosevelt (pictured right as Time magazine's Person of the Year in 1932). gave ordinary people hope through great sensitivity to their needs, despite his wealthy background.

They returned his love and respect.

Millions cried at his funeral 


9. Action without dogma

He always welcomed new ideas and hated narrow-minded bigotry. His motto was “try something”, if it had a good chance of achieving his policy aims.

 Franklin D. Roosevelt Leadership

 10. Determination

He overcame the disability of polio contracted in 1921 (pictured right in his wheelchair). This made him more resilient and determined. He said:

“If you had spent two years in bed trying to wriggle your toe, after that anything would seem easy”.

This gave him sympathy for the poor and afflicted.


11. Self-confidence

He had great confidence in his ability to overcome the huge problems facing him.


12. Thinking and relaxing

During the Second World War he often spent the weekends in his holiday home thinking and doing his favourite hobby, stamp collecting.Franklin D. Roosevelt Leadership

This gave him time to plan for the future and reflect upon the wisdom of his decisions.


13. Support

He was heavily influenced by his: 

  • mother (Sara). 
  • wife, Eleanor Roosevelt (pictured together right above in 1908 with their children, Anna and James) - a great person in her own right. Franklin D. Roosevelt Leadership
  • mistress (Lucy Mercer, pictured right), who gave Eleanor much heartache.
  • secretary (Missy Lehand).  



Key quote on leadership

The presidency is not merely an administrative office. It is permanently a place of moral leadership.


Key quote on happiness

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.


Key quote on America

“This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny”.


Key quote on human resource management

No business which depends for its existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.


Key quote on change

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.


Key quote on public speaking

Be sincere, be brief, be seated

(his advice to his son on public speaking).


Key quote on influencing people

“A man can be as great as he wants to be”.


Key quote on politics and education

The real safeguard of democracy... is education.


Key quote on corporate culture

Our strength is our unity of purpose.


Key quotes on America

We must be the great arsenal of democracy (in 1940).

I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people (in 1932).

The greatness of America is grounded in principles.

In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbour.


Key quote on success

Men are not prisoners of fate but only prisoners of their own minds.



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