Community & Government

Making Tough Decisions

George W. Bush

Lesson time 13:58 min

Tough decisions are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for them. President Bush outlines the values and principles he uses to make decisions—large or small.

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Topics include: Tough decisions are inevitable. President Bush outlines the clear set of values and principles by which he makes decisions — large and small.


[MUSIC PLAYING] GEORGE W. BUSH: One of the real dangers in politics and in life is to chase popularity. If one's goal is to be well-liked, that may mean that one's goal is either unrealistic, or the behavior is unseemly. In other words, I'm going to go around getting people to like me. For a politician, that makes sense only on election day. For a leader, you've got to make decisions. And if you do so based upon the Gallup poll, then you're a lousy leader. [MUSIC PLAYING] It's important to develop a framework that allows you to make decisions based on a set of values and principles, that way, you always have a reference to come back to, and those you're leading can understand what to expect. With foreign policy for example, after 9/11, my administration laid out a set of principles to deal with threats before they fully materialized. And those principles became known as the Bush Doctrine. A doctrine is simply a set of principles by which decisions will be made. The war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the case the Bush Doctrine, developed right after 9/11, I thought long and hard about it, and I meant it. And by the way, the Bush Doctrine, I didn't concoct this on the back of an envelope on Air Force One. I mean, I sat down with some very serious thinking people all throughout our government, and I said, I want to address this issue. And I've got strong thoughts on this, but I'd like to hear yours. And Condoleezza Rice, and Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor, and Deputy National Security Advisor, when I said, we've got to develop a strategy to deal with this, they understood exactly what I meant. And they went around and collected opinions from the various cabinet secretaries and/or deputies. I didn't need to say much more than that. The key thing though, whether you're a manager of a corporation, a manager of a nonprofit, or president, when you say something, you've got to mean it. Oftentimes, people say things to maybe get an agenda out of the way, say I've addressed it and move on. But you say it, you got to mean it. And I meant it. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the real challenges in public life is, do you make decisions based upon what you think is right, or based upon what the people want, even though it may not be right in your mind? And so I should say, I think of Mayor Michael Curley of Boston. He said, there goes my constituency. I must follow them, for I am their leader. And that's the dilemma. And sometimes, I had information that the American people didn't know, and weren't allowed to know. And therefore, had to make decisions what was best for the country on knowledge that wasn't evident. And people didn't want this, but I did it anyway kind of thing. But that's just the nature of leadership. And so long as you're guided by principle, and so lo...

About the Instructor

Step inside the Oval Office with the newest instructor in our White House series, President George W. Bush. With insight from former First Lady Laura Bush, the former commander in chief opens up about the tough calls and life lessons that shaped his career. Develop and own a leadership style that’s true to you and learn to lead by connecting personally with everyone in the room.

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