The Post-Heroic Presidency
Leveraged Leadership in an Age of Limits, 2nd Edition
by Michael A.Genovese and Todd L. Belt
June 2016, 302pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3704-3
$66, £49, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3705-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In today’s “post-heroic” era, American presidents will have to exercise a less-muscular strategy internationally: leveraged leadership.

This book examines how presidents from Nixon to Obama have faced the challenges of global leadership in a dramatically changing world—one with more limited resources and an increasing number of threatening challengers.

The immediate post-World War II era was undeniably a period of American power and influence. Even during the Cold War, the United States was the leader of the West, exerting wide-ranging power internationally. But beginning with the Vietnam War, America began experiencing a series of setbacks and challenges to its power. The Post-Heroic Presidency: Leveraged Leadership in an Age of Limits examines how U.S. presidents have attempted to reverse or contend with this new era of limited power in which presidential leadership is hamstrung due to an increasingly globalized and interdependent world—one where power is more diffuse and the system of checks and balances bind a president in an age of hyper-partisanship.

The book examines presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries, explaining how the first U.S. president to confront this new age was Richard Nixon, who—along with Henry Kissinger—developed a sophisticated approach to deal with the recalibration of American power. It documents how other recent presidents have either tried to make peace with limited power (Jimmy Carter), reverse the decline (Ronald Reagan), ignore the implications of limits (George W. Bush), or find ways to lead that were less ambitious, more prudent, and less unilateral (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama). In the cases of Clinton and Obama, this shift to using “soft power,” persuasion, and multilateralism earned them criticism that they are “weak,” thereby undermining their efforts to lead—both at home and abroad.


  • Examines what challenges future U.S. presidents will have to deal with in our globalized world
  • Addresses the important question of what role can and should the United States play in the international arena
  • Explains why the office of president—once seen as one of the great engines of American power—now exhibits decline in presidential success and appears handcuffed and ineffective in creating change
Michael A. Genovese, PhD, holds the Loyola Chair of Leadership Studies, is professor of political science, and is director of the Institute for Leadership Studies and president of the World Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He has written more than 45 books, including Leadership Matters: Unleashing the Power of Paradox (with Thomas E. Cronin), named Outstanding Leadership Book of the Year by International Leadership Association. Genovese has won more than a dozen university and national teaching awards, including the Fritz B. Burns Distinguished Teaching Award and the Rains Excellence in Research. Genovese received his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1979.

Todd L. Belt, PhD, is professor of political science at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He is the author or coauthor of four books, including The Presidency and Domestic Policy: Comparing Leadership Styles, FDR to Obama, Second Edition, more than a dozen chapters in edited scholarly books, as well as more than two dozen scholarly articles. Belt is the recipient of two teaching awards, including the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He received his doctorate at the University of Southern California in 2003.


“All geopolitical empires eventually decline. Nevertheless, a not-as-dominant U.S. might still use a more collegial brand of leadership to guide a Western alliance badly in need of a viable strategy for remaining an effective counterweight to ‘a rising China and an intemperate Russia.’ So argue Michael Genovese and Todd Belt in this sweepingly ambitious, thoroughly sourced, and well-written new book. The change agents will be future American presidents. By operating in ‘post-heroic’ mode, they can use ‘leveraged leadership’ to accommodate new power-sharing realities in ways that most recent presidents, bent on sustaining or restoring U.S. dominance, could not. This book adds useful historical grounding and a vision of the future to the debate about the potential role of the U.S. and its presidents in a still-emerging world order."—Bruce Buchanan, Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin

“In this insightful analysis, Genovese and Belt explain how the last seven presidents exercised presidential power within the constraints of a globalized world. They propose a sophisticated and realistic foundation upon which future presidents must base American foreign policy in a world undergoing increasingly disruptive change. Anyone interested in the exercise of presidential power in the international arena will benefit from reading this book.”—James P. Pfiffner, University Professor, School of Policy, Government & International Affairs, George Mason University
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