I met Gerald Ford in 1981, after his Washington years had come to an end. He was the guest lecturer for a leadership class I was taking at the University of Vermont at the time.
My impressions, even today, run deep. First and foremost, when talking to the man who had the leadership of the free world thrust upon him, I was struck by a single thought: this is a good, caring man.
He sat with us for over an hour, discussing both history, and leadership. Many of those in the room, like Jim Louderback, now Editor in Chief at PC Magazine, or Phil Kennedy, the son of former Ambassador Moorehead Kennedy, have gone on to become just what the course intended, leaders.
One of the group asked the former President what is was like to reach the pinnacle of political success, and Ford reminded us that the presidency was not a job he’d ever wanted. The job he’d preferred was that of minority leader in the house, where he’d been able to broker deals, and make things happen. A skill which is unfortunately lacking in this day.
That led him into a discussion of the leadership styles of others he’d known, and inevitably to his own. He felt that he was most effective when he led by consensus – a style that he noted was better suited for the House of Representatives than the White House.