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What Made Theodore Roosevelt a Great Leader

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Famous Leader Analysis

Leader history/background (i.e. where did they come from, how did they become a leader, etc.)

Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, in New York, New York, in the United States. And died on January 6, 1919, in Oyster Bay, New York at age 60. He was a sickly child in his youth, suffering from a strong case of asthma. Theodore overcame his health issues via a strenuous lifestyle (boxing, gymnastics, weightlifting, rugby), as well as growing out of his asthma naturally later on. He was home-schooled, and he began a lifelong pursuit of the outdoors before attending Harvard College in the 1870s.

After finishing Harvard in 1880, Roosevelt married Alice Hathaway Lee and entered Columbia University Law School, later dropping out after only one year to enter public service. He was elected to the New York State Assembly at the age of 23 and served two terms in that position (1882-1884). His wife and mother succumbed to Bright’s disease (typhoid) on the same day in 1884. A grieving Roosevelt spent the next two years on a ranch in the Badlands of the Dakota, where he hunted big game, drove cattle and worked as a frontier sheriff. Upon returning to New York, he married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow. The couple raised six children, including Alice; Roosevelt’s daughter from his first marriage.

He then served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, later resigning from that position to lead the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War (1898). He was then elected Governor of New York in 1898 after the war. Vice President Garret Hobart died, and McKinley was convinced to accept Roosevelt as his running mate in the 1900 election by the New York state party leadership. Roosevelt campaigned, and the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket won a landslide victory based on a platform of peace, prosperity, and conservation.

Roosevelt took office as vice president in March 1901 and assumed the presidency at age 42 after McKinley was assassinated the following September. As the 26th president of the United States, he remains the youngest person to become President of the United States. As president, Roosevelt is known for;

  • Posthumously awarded the medal of honor
  • For actions in Cuba
  • Being the youngest President in U.S. History
  • Averted a National emergency by resolving the 1902 coal strike
  • Ending much of the railroad monopoly
  • Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC); is a federal regulatory agency to monitor railroads.
  • The Elkins Act of 1903
  • Authorized the ICC to impose heavy fines on railroads that offered rebates and upon the shippers that accepted these rebates
  • The Hepburn Act of 1906
  • Gave ICC the power to set maximum railroad rates
  • Ended a Monopoly on beef
  • Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, in 1906
  • Food sanitation that led to the FDA regulations today
  • Made conservation a National issue
  • Panama Canal
  • First American to be awarded the Nobel peace prize
  • Treaty of Portsmouth on September 5, ending the Russo-Jap war

Leader personality/traits

Roosevelt exhibited a notably exuberant personality combined with a vast range of interests and world-famous achievements into a rough intellectual personality defined by robust masculinity and jovial academic traits. As a leader; Roosevelt is known for his Vision for the progressive future of the U.S., His adaptability in the face of different threats/conflicts, His strong and oft overt communication skills, his confidence, and the ability to get others to trust him, and his inherent decisiveness when push comes to shove.

Leadership style

‘The leader must understand that he leads us, that he guides us, by convincing us so that we will follow him or follow his direction. He must not get it into his head that it is his business to drive us or rule us. His business is to manage the government for us.’ – Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is a character that has a decidedly transformational style in his leadership. He is a cutting figure that imposed his will upon his peers and subordinates alike; with him or against him, he will demand constant progress and improvement.


Roosevelt’s vision is in terms of the U.S. as an ever-improving country. If Vision is defined as “the ability to imagine different and better conditions and the ways to achieve them”, then Roosevelt is a shining example of this concept on a national level. From improving canning regulations and busting monopolies to adapting and improving the state of the U.S. Navy he forced those in leadership to adapt and transform or resign or leave service. By focusing attention on a vision, the leader operates on the values, commitment, and aspirations of the organization. Great leaders often inspire their followers to high levels of achievement by showing them how their work contributes to worthwhile ends. In most all of Roosevelt’s contributions to America, he emphasizes the worthwhile ends.

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Teddy is adaptive, not subtle, but adaptive nonetheless. In the 1902 coal strike; he threatened to use the US Army to mine the coals and seize the mines, and convinced both the miners and the owners to accept the findings of a commission. The miners needed better pay and benefits, and the trade owners were not willing to recognize the newly established union as an entity with clout.

Teddy Roosevelt had a presence. When he walked into a room, you knew he could make anything happen. made his presence felt from the moment he took command. Newly appointed to the sleepy U.S. Civil Service Commission, “he became a blur of high-speed activity.” He was not one for half measures or losing the advantage. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and Roosevelt was not an object to idle; According to one of his close associates, Roosevelt’s “motto” was “action, action and still more action.” And: “Life is action.” In part, this may have reflected his temperament, but it is also assuredly a strength of living “the strenuous life.”


Theodore Roosevelt was not a subtle man… Nor was he often considered a weak individual. However, we can see weaknesses in the policies enacted by one so blatantly “machismo”, chiefly in foreign policy and aggressiveness. Roosevelt started the US down the bumpy road to imperialism. The war with Spain in Cuba was arguably unnecessary and, in some sources, seemed to be enacted by Roosevelt himself. This alongside the collateral of the capture of the Philippines drew us into East Asia. Leading the future of the United States toward future wars with Japan, Korea, and in Vietnam. If one of his strengths is considered vision, then his weakness may be either hindsight or future planning… or both.

How do they manage conflict?

Theodore Roosevelt is not a subtle man. How President Theodore Roosevelt handled The Coal Strike of 1902 provides a good model for crisis/conflict management. Roosevelt is a character that would rather be overt to solve issues of magnitude in order to set a standard for future issues. The 1902 Coal Strike was an example of how he operated under conflict; with authority and with an iron fist. There is a reason for the saying “walk softly and carry a big stick”; it’s a phrase indicative of the later expansion of the U.S. maritime fleet and the threat carried with it. By organizing conflict into three stages (Recognition, Containment, and Resolution), we can learn how to deal with conflict. First, the leader recognizes that conflict exists that is detrimental to the group or organization. Then the leader contains the issue to the important factions/parties. Lastly, the Leader makes a plan for the resolution of the conflict… even if that plan is simply de-escalation.

How do they address diversity?

Diversity is not something that I believe was a concern for Roosevelt. That being said, our definition of diversity is; “Diversity is understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person.” But when the word passes most person’s minds, diversity is seen publicly as the inclusion of more than one ethnic group… in reality it is much more. For example; Roosevelt gathered a diverse group for the rough riders volunteer group assaulting Cuba during the war with Spain. This meant more along the lines of backgrounds and skills; cowboys, football players and another manner of rough folk owed allegiance to their ranks. This being the case, Roosevelt was a man for whom the ends were often better than the means; as exemplified in the building of the Panama Canal and the holding of the country until its independence. Diversity in the modern world is a buzzword or a quota, often not reflecting the true diversity it takes to accomplish tasks of some magnitude.

Their ethical perspective

Roosevelt was a known conservation activist and a progressive republican. In the words of Roosevelt, it is the president’s “duty to do anything that the needs of the nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws.” Under Roosevelt’s expansionist view, anything the president does is considered acceptable unless it is expressly forbidden by the Constitution or laws passed by Congress. Ethically, there is not much different from the other men of his day, aside from his application of a strenuous or rigorous lifestyle. Put simply, Roosevelt was a doer. He would not stand idle as he could oft not bear it. And his presidency reflected this. The only reason for much of his success is his overt willingness to roll up his sleeves and get to it. As he handled many things not typically overseen by the president himself.

Leadership effectiveness

Theodore Roosevelt though was an overall good man and a great politician. He was for honest government and he believed in a man’s character and morality. With all the individual has championed and accomplished, there is no doubt that Teddy Roosevelt was an exemplary transformational leader.


  1. Roosevelt, Theodore. The Rough Riders. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1899. LC Call Number: E725 .45 1st RI ; LCCN: 99-2686.
  2. Lussier, Robert N. Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development. South-Western College Pub. Kindle Edition.
  3. Theodore Roosevelt’s 20 Key Elements of Leadership.
  4. Kelley, Alison (2009). Theodore Roosevelt. Infobase Publishing
  5. “Theodore Roosevelt.” The White House, The United States Government,
  6. ‘U01: Teddy Roosevelt’s Legendary Leadership | PSY 532: Foundations of Leadership (Dobbs).’ Sites at Penn State – WordPress | Powered by WordPress, 11 Feb. 2017,
  7. Editors, ‘Theodore Roosevelt.’ HISTORY, 13 Nov. 2009,
  8. ‘Presidents Roosevelt Awarded Posthumous J.D.s.’ Columbia Law School,
  9. ‘Theodore.’ S4U Languages – Brazilian Translation. Salvador and Sao Paulo. Ensino De Idiomas and Brazilian Portuguese Translations,

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What Made Theodore Roosevelt a Great Leader. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from
“What Made Theodore Roosevelt a Great Leader.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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