The American historian H.W. Brands has a useful model of presidential leadership styles which he calls the “legislative” and the “executive.” Legislative presidents — think Lyndon Johnson — have the ability to cajole and compromise, to acknowledge that other people have a portion of the truth of a situation. Executive presidents — think Ronald Reagan — believe they have a lock on the truth and govern accordingly.
This construct is a useful one in thinking about the Obama presidency. Obama, whose experience was entirely legislative, has spent most of his first term in that leadership style. One can debate the success of that approach — in fact, the Supreme Court is doing so right now! — but one can see signs that the president is moving to executive mode, in which he starts making decisions and leading from the front. There are little signs of this, like the EPA decision and even the Medvedev comment — he is looking forward to more running room after re-election — and larger ones where he is starting to frame our economic future on his and his allies’ terms, as opposed to accommodating the views of his opponents.
For many, this more executive style is long overdue for Obama. For what it’s worth, Brands, a man who has studied the presidency for much of his life, believes that only executive-style personalities make great presidents.