Lyndon B. Johnson

By in Political Leaders



“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.”

-Lyndon B. Johnson



Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, exercised leadership as he proudly led his nation into a “great society.” Johnson took over after the sudden assassination of John F. Kennedy and portrayed one of the greatest skills of political leadership. The skill that Johnson used, knowing when to go forward with each of his goals, set a significant example to society within the United States during his time in office. One of the most notable techniques of Johnson’s career was be able to share a respect for both the Democratic and Republican Party. The understanding of government that Johnson possessed was a masterly characteristic of his and it delineated his knowledge to be able to lead a nation. Being able to transfer from vice president to the president of the United States shows that he easily adapts to new environments and is able to make positive change in areas he was not accustomed to. 


Early Life

Lyndon B. Johnson was born on August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas. Lyndon’s family was known around the area for their farming and ranching. Even the nearby town, Johnson City, was named after Lyndon’s family due to their exceptional work on the farm. Lyndon, the oldest of five children, attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College, where he became extremely intrigued in the field of politics. Johnson graduated from college in 1930 and just a year after he became a legislative secretary to Texas Democratic Congressman Richard Kleberg. Lyndon’s new job brought his ambitious mind to the nations capital, Washington D.C, where his political connections multiplied.




 Johnson is recognized for many of the great accomplishments during his time in and out of office. He has made many very positive effects to society and signed important acts, which still have an effect in today’s society. Some of the most important acts that Johnson signed were the Immigration Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, Medicare law in 1965, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Higher Education Act. For a short time of Johnson’s life he served in the Navy as a lieutenant commander and impressively won a Silver Star. Johnson was later elected in the 1960 election as the vice president of the United States while being accompanied by president John F. Kennedy. Lastly, another great accomplishment of Johnson’s came four years later when he was elected as president with 61% votes.


Techniques of Leadership

The greatest leadership technique that Lyndon B. Johnson expressed while in office was his intelligence for government. This may be an unusual leadership technique, but Johnson was an almost flawless master in the political field. He knew everything there was to know about the system of government and this benefited him immensely because he was able to have a head start on others. “Johnson’s greatest strength as a leader was his superb understanding of the process of government, specifically the legislative process.”[1] Another specific technique of leadership that President Johnson practiced was empathy. Johnson was able to sense what the needs were of his teammates. Coming together as a team is essential, especially when leading a nation of millions. “Empathy is particularly important today as a component of leadership for at least three reasons: the increasing use of teams; the rapid pace of globalization’ and the growing need to retain talent.”[2] The combination of having an abundance of knowledge in a specific field and empathy for your team of workers is very lethal. Being effective becomes a lot more accessible when any technique is linked with empathy. “He took seriously and understood the needs of each representative and senator, and worked hard to build relationships with them.”[3] The extent of which Johnson took time to know his senators and representatives will always be something he is known for. In today’s society, it can be very rare because many let distractions road block them to success. 


Strengths of President Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson had an abundance of strengths as he lead the nation as the 36th president during 1963-1969. One strength that he was praised for was his ability in the domestic affairs field. “The pendulum of presidential prestige is now swinging in Johnson’s favor, largely because of his impressive record of achievement in domestic affairs.”[4] Johnson was able to sense the correct timing of when to address a specific decision, especially when dealing with domestic affairs. “As president, Johnson mastered one of the great skills of leadership– knowing when to go forward with each of his goals. He had an instinctive sense of timing about when to introduce a bill, and which ones would create momentum rather than divisiveness for the next bill.”[5] 




Weaknesses of President Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson’s accomplishments outweighed his negative actions, but obviously nobody is perfect and he did in fact have weaknesses. Many critiqued Johnson’s famous “Great Society.” “One is the idealism that criticized the prevailing consensus and argued that Americans could do better.”[6] Another reason that people were against Johnson’s program was “As the Great Society sought to enlarge the consensus, critical movements for social and political change argued that too often the consensus was racist, sexist or homophobic.”[7] Another weakness that has characterized President Johnson is the way he treated those he worked with. The consistency of his mood was extremely unstable. “He’s thoughtless and thoughtful, cruel and compassionate, simple and immensely complicated. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel ambivalently about him.”[8] Lyndon was often critiqued for only being able to make little positive changes over the years in office. The people wanted a major change at the time and Johnson was simply not fulfilling their needs. “Johnson climbed by successes so small that the cumulative grand success seems an accident, as indeed in more than one way it was.” [9]


 The Great Society

During 1964-1965, Lyndon Johnson presented the United States with a set of programs, known as “The Great Society.” Johnson’s intention was for these domestic programs to erase all types of injustices that are connected to race, as well eliminating poverty. When Johnson first purposed his idea of “The Great Society” in Athens, Ohio, he stated “Poverty hides its face behind a mask of affluence. But I call upon you to help me to get out there and unmask it, take that mask off of that face of affluence and let the world see what we have, and let the world do something about it” Johnson’s portrayal of empathy as he asks the citizens of his nation to help him conquer a goal that many might view as unrealistic. Some of the specific programs that Johnson introduced were Medicare, Medicaid and The Older Americans act. Furthermore, Johnson stated during his speech at the University of Michigan “But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor. This quote from his speech delineates the purpose of “The Great Society.” Johnson achieved Medicare through the Social Security Act of 1965, which gave funding at the federal level for many medical expenditures. The legislative branch fought hard to provide citizens of 65 years or older with Medicare. This is only one of many extreme achievements that “The Great Society” produced. 


Primary Source: Speech on Civil Rights Bill

On July 2nd, 1964, Lyndon Johnson made speech on his opinion of signing the Civil Rights bill. Johnson stated, “We must not approach the observance and enforcement of this law in a vengeful spirit. Its purpose is not to punish. Its purpose is not to divide, but to end divisions—divisions which have all lasted too long. Its purpose is national, not regional.” Johnson portrays his excellent technique of leadership (understanding the government exceptionally well.) He also describes that even certain regions are more effected by the signing of the Civil Rights bill, we need to take as a stand as a whole nation. I believe this is great leadership because he is not excluding everyone and has high expectations for his peers. “We will achieve these goals because most Americans are law-abiding citizens who want to do what is right.” Johnson then describes that our nation will be able to be successful with this problem due to the fact that he believes the United States consist of citizens who really do care. He really believes in his country. This is a great technique of leadership as well. “So tonight I urge every public official, every religious leader, every business and professional man, every workingman, every housewife—I urge every American—to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people—and to bring peace to our land.” To finalize Johnson’s speech on signing the Civil Rights bill, Lyndon pushes each citizen of America to make a positive change for those who are suffering due to this national problem. 



[1]Doris Goodwin, Lessons of Presidential Leadership: Leader to Leader 9, (Summer 1998), 23.

[2] Daniel Goleman, What Makes A Leader?, (Harvard Business Review, 2004) 8.

[3]Daniel Goleman, What Makes A Leader?, (Harvard Business Review, 2004) 8.

[4] Donald M. Barnes, William M. Blackbum, David R. Bryant, and Rick Perlstein, LBJ’s Legacy, (1976), 5.

[5] Doris Goodwin, Lessons of Presidential Leadership: Leader to Leader 9, (Summer 1998), 23.

[6] John A. Andrew III, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society, (Chicago), 6. 

[7] John A. Andrew III, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society, (Chicago), 7.

[8] Marvin E. Gentlemen and David Mermelstein, The Great Society of Reader: The Failure of American Liberalism, (Random House 1967), 36.

[9] Robert A. Divine,  Assessing Lyndon Johnson,  (1976), 144.




What do you think Johnson’s greatest achievement was? Why?


About the Author: Connor Nolan


Connor Nolan, born on April 24th, 1996, is son of Bill and Sharon Nolan. He is currently a freshman at Wagner College in Staten Island, NY. Connor is a Business Finance major with a minor in Economics and also a member of the Wagner lacrosse team. Connor has two sisters: Katie (20) and Meghan (14) 



Andrew III, John A. Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 

Barnes, Donald M., William M. Blackbum, David R. Bryant, and Rick Perlstein. “LBJ’s Legacy.” 24, no. 3 (1976): 4-7. JSTOR.

Divine, Robert A. “Assessing Lyndon Johnson.” 6, no. 3 (1976): 142-50. JSTOR.

Goleman, Daniel. What Makes A Leader. (1998). 

Goodwin, Doris. Lessons of Presidential Leadership. (1998).

Gentleman, Marvin E., and David Mermelstein. The Great Society of Reader: The Failure of American Liberalism. Toronto: Random House, 1967.

“The White House.” The White House. Accessed November 18, 2014.