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In Pursuit of Energy Conservation: President Carter's Attempt to Change American Culture and Pass a Transformational and Non-incremental National Energy Policy Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationIn Pursuit of Energy Conservation: President Carter's Attempt to Change American Culture and Pass a Transformational and Non-incremental National Energy PolicyThe success rate of modern U.S. presidents in passing significant, non-incremental policy initiatives, that involved transformational change, has been much slower than the rate at which unresolved, major issues (e.g., energy, deficits, and immigration) have been accumulating. Since congressional leaders play a major role in ensuring the passage of non-incremental legislation, understanding the leadership approaches used by U.S. presidents with congressional leaders could provide insights into the challenges faced in passing non-incremental legislation. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative, historical case study was to explore President Carter's leadership approach in his attempt to gain the support of the two congressional leaders - Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Robert Byrd, the Majority Leader of the Senate in his quest to pass a comprehensive energy policy. The following research question guided this study: What was the nature of President Carter's leadership approach as evidenced by direct communication with the two congressional leaders during his attempt to pass a comprehensive energy policy between January 20, 1977 and November 8, 1978? This historical case study was conducted at the Carter presidential Library in Atlanta, Georgia. Written documents, as well as audio and video recordings provided multiple sources of data and allowed for data triangulation. In the instance of this energy legislation, President Carter rarely engaged in transactional exchanges and primarily limited his attempts at transformational leadership to public speeches; nearly to the exclusion of all other methods of direct communication. The president's limited use of other traditional presidential leadership tools (private meetings, letters, and the use of reciprocity or bargaining) was perhaps the reason that he was unable to secure the enthusiastic support of Senate Majority Leader Byrd. Unlike the House, which had passed the president's proposal nearly intact, the energy bill was eventually dismembered in the Senate and only a shell of the original plan was enacted. Presidents should give special attention to their working relationship with the congressional leaders and utilize both transactional and transformational leadership approaches.

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