New White House Fellows survey: Leaders are less trusting, less cynical

October 2, 2009,
This is the logo for the White House Fellow Project. Credit: Rice University's Baker Institute

Contemporary leaders are less trusting, but also less cynical, than those in top positions nearly four decades ago, according to a new comprehensive survey of White House Fellows -- a group that includes more than 600 prominent leaders in nearly every sector of American society.

On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the executive order establishing the President's Commission on White House Fellowships, D. Michael Lindsay, Rice University sociology professor and Baker Institute for scholar, today released the results from a yearlong study, which resembled the last major survey of America's leadership cohort (the American Leadership Study of 1971-72). Leaders represented in the study include corporate CEOs (of such companies as Levi Strauss & Co. and JCPenney), political leaders (such as presidential cabinet secretaries as well as U.S. senators and representatives), along with top leaders in higher education, nonprofit life and the media.

The report, "Surveying America's Leadership: A Study of White House Fellows," reveals striking differences between America's leadership cohort and the general public as well as differences between leaders today and those of the 1970s. America's leadership cohort has greater confidence than the general public in certain institutions — such as the Supreme Court and the scientific community — and less confidence in others — such as education or organized labor. The study reveals significant differences on hot-button topics such as executive income and political representativeness.

"This study shows some important ways that the federal government is recruiting not only future political leaders, but also training leaders for the private and nonprofit sectors," said Lindsay.

The nonpartisan White House Fellows program is 45 years old this week. Credit: White House

The study was co-sponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Carnegie Corp. of New York. Through its grantmaking, the Carnegie Corporation funded the first few years of the White House Fellowship.

"Leadership has always been one of the highest values at Carnegie Corp. of New York because leaders make a difference in institutions, in peoples' lives and in society," said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corp. and a current member of the commission that annually selects White House Fellows. "When John Gardner, the former president of the Corporation, worked to create the White House Fellowship program he believed the men and women who won these competitive slots in government could make a difference.

"For the first time in 45 years, however, we now have hard data [from Rice University] on how important a role the Fellowship can be, not just in the lives of our nation's leaders but also in American society. We are proud the corporation, present at the creation of the fellowship program, could support this important research. Anyone who cares about developing leaders can learn from these findings."

Source: Rice University (news : web)

Explore further: Psychologist reveals the secrets of leadership

Related Stories

Psychologist reveals the secrets of leadership

August 20, 2007

New research has found that leaders are most effective when they transform themselves into ‘one of us’. The study by the University of Exeter, University of St Andrews and Australian National University shatters the stereotype ...

Harvard seeks to tap soul of leadership

November 13, 2006

A "cutting-edge" psychological program is helping Harvard fellows tap into and cultivate their natural leadership capabilities, the Massachusetts school says.

Study: Americans Expect Business Leaders to Be White

July 15, 2008

( -- Despite decades of progress for minorities in corporate settings, Americans still expect business leaders to be white, and they judge white leaders as more effective than their minority counterparts. This ...

Report warns of challenges to U.S. leadership in space

June 24, 2005

The U.S. must bolster the competitiveness of its commercial space industry, expand international cooperation and refocus on basic science to hold on to its traditional leadership position in space, according to a paper that ...

No such thing as a 'born leader,' study in fish finds

January 29, 2009

Followers are just as important to good leadership as are the leaders themselves, reveals a new study of stickleback fish published online on January 29th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

Recommended for you

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2009
They are 1000 times more cynical and even worse they are much more corrupt!! Nobody has published statistic on political corruption lately. It seems very politicians career is ended by special prosecutors or by exposure of compromising information to the press. That's not how it used to be in this country. (the USA)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.