What about those times when a leader needs to lead immediately and authoritatively? For all of the attraction many may have toward collaborative and affiliative, somewhat “backstage” styles of leadership as Simon Walker might describe, there are occasions when a more “commanding” style of leadership is necessary. For those in the military, this is probably the expected style. For many who are only familiar with surface-level aspects of leadership, this is likely the most familiar example of leadership.
Doris Kearns Goodwin highlights Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first hundred days in the White House as an example of this style of leadership. Simon Walker lifts two eras of FDR’s presidency, his actions to bring the country out of the Great Depression and his leadership during World War II, in his explanation of the “Commanding” (PSC) strategy.
When FDR was elected president in 1932, the United States was in a mess. The stock market crash in October 1929 had plunged the country into the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover’s general approach had been not to interfere with commerce, expecting the economy to recover without (or with very minimal) government intervention. This strategy might have been consistent with Hoover’s ideology, but it had not worked. And by the spring of 1933, the entire banking industry was on the verge of shutting down and the nation’s financial system was near death. Goodwin writes, “no leader was more prepared to diagnose the national malady correctly and assert himself as ‘a vital human need’ than ‘old Doc Roosevelt’.”
Before even taking office, Roosevelt was formulating a strategy to address the nation’s crisis. His inaugural address was an honest assessment of the challenges ahead, but also an invitation for the country to rally around new leadership and new possibilities. He, his cabinet, and Congressional leaders hit the ground running to create and implement a new strategy to breathe living into the banks. Following that, other efforts aimed at job creation and infrastructure were hatched. “Before Congress adjourned on its hundredth day, fifteen major pieces of legislation had been passed and signed into law. Billions of dollars were appropriated…to weave the vast safety net of protection and regulation that would eventually become the New Deal.”
This is not a commentary on political ideologies. Certainly the New Deal had its challenges and its critics. But there is no mistaking the unprecedented effectiveness of Roosevelt’s first hundred days. The country was facing an enormous problem. FDR arrived with a mandate from the electorate and a plan to do something. What is more remarkable, especially given today’s political climate, was the willingness of Congressional leaders from both parties to try. Some of this can be attributed to the desperate nature of the times. And some must be attributed to Roosevelt’s “success in developing a common mission, clarifying problems, mobilizing action, and earning people’s trust.” 
Roosevelt certainly did not suffer from a failure of nerve. His demeanor was determined and optimistic. He would toss out big ideas, then leave it to the team members to work out the details. Friedman writes, “the expression of self in a leader is what makes the evolution of a community possible.” There was definitely a sense within Roosevelt’s administration, extending into the country itself, that FDR had become a father-figure to the nation and they wanted to make the father proud. And a new era of US American productivity and confidence emerged. “Well-defined self in a leader…is precisely the leadership characteristic that is most likely to promote the kind of community that preserves the self of its members.”
In describing Roosevelt’s Commanding strategy, Simon Walker acknowledges that this style is most closely associated with totalitarian regimes, where the authority has all of the power. However, what the Commanding strategy can achieve is effectively containing fear and anxiety so that it does not become overwhelming. Walker uses the example of a calm adult who helps to reassure a child. Roosevelt claimed his authority as the nation’s leader and sprang into action to try to move the country in a new direction. But he also presented a face and voice of calm resolve to the people. His famous “fireside chats” are a great example of how FDR sought to make his case while also raising the confidence of the nation.
It has been said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. Certainly if one is only capable of operating from a Commanding strategy of leadership, then authoritarianism may seem to be the solution to every problem. On the other hand, there are moments when an organization, family, team, or nation needs someone to claim center stage. We can only hope and pray that in those times, the right person rises.
 Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018,) 274.
 Ibid, 293.
 Ibid, 305.
 Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve,” (New York: Church Publishing, 2017,) 174.
 Simon Walker, “The Undefended Leader,” (Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2010,) 214.
 Ibid, 211.