ST. BONAVENTURE, NY -- Presidents need to be trustworthy, visionary and have connectivity to the public, said faculty panelists at a forum in the Rathskeller on March 2. 

“If you don’t trust the person at the head of your government, it is tough for them to get things done,” John Stevens, lecturer at St. Bonaventure and founder of JB Stevens Organizational Solutions, told an audience of around 15 faculty and staff members and guests, during a discussion titled, “What Skills does a U.S. President Need to Succeed?” 

Stevens was one of three panelists chosen to discuss skillsets that presidents have brought to the office, how business skills translate to the public sector, and the political skills the office of president requires. Danette Brickman, chair of the political science department, and Phillip Payne, history department chair, also sat on the panel. The forum was a part of the weekly Thursday forum series usually held in the University Club, but relocated this week due to conflict.  

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Moderator Rich Lee, associate professor of journalism and mass communication, warned that business does not always correspond with politics. 

“Just because you have good business skills, doesn’t mean it will translate into good government,”  Lee said.

Since America has a businessman as president, Lee said he deemed the panel's topic as important for discussion. 

Businessman Stevens said there are a few business skills that translate in the political sphere and listed the five traits needed in any organization; intelligence, connectivity, persistence, leadership and, most importantly, honesty. 

Leaders, Stevens noted, "need to depend on their followers. Everybody needs to be on board.”

Brickman and Payne also mentioned honesty and connectivity in their portion of the presentation. 

“Presidents need to be able to inspire others, and it is a very important skill,” Brickman said, explaining that presidents must work every day to get through to the people who had not voted for them.  

Payne cited the ability to articulate a vision and then to communicate the vision and inspire others to see that vision as a very important skill to bring to the presidency.  

“If they don’t, they have an unsuccessful presidency,”  Brickman added.  

Stevens mentioned that President Donald Trump is noted for a lack of honesty. He questioned how a leader can gain support, trust and respect, if he is known for blatantly lying.  

Payne earlier made the argument that to be successful, a president cannot tell lies, citing Richard Nixon as an example of the detriments of dishonesty.

One audience member was quick to disagree with Payne, saying that sometimes a leader is forced to step around the truth. Payne clarified his point by explaining that at the very least, a president must not tell a large lie.

Stevens wrapped up the discussion summing up the role and skills of a leader as a person who does not complain or criticize.

“You reinvent,” Stevens said, “and you give people hope.” 

The talk, originally intended to remain nonpolitical, ended in a discussion among audience members about the current state of leadership in the United States.