The first steps give lasting signals. Bush knew from his study of previous presidencies that many of his predecessors started off balance and struggled to regain their footing. He worked hard to develop and project a confident stride, in style and substance, because he knew that first impressions last.
Develop a plan—and stick to it. Writing a plan is relatively easy. However, what happens when unforeseen crises arise and demand attention? Bush dealt carefully and decisively with the crises, but he never forgot the main points of his strategy and constantly returned to emphasize them.
Don’t fight battles you can’t win. Part of Bush’s success came from choosing fights he could win—and avoiding being entangled in those (like the California energy crisis and the Middle East conflict) where he wasn’t sure he could succeed.
Never allow disputes among aides to simmer too long. Bush showed remarkable patience in allowing his aides to battle each other through the media about the administration’s Iraq strategy. When, in Bush’s mind, the issue ripened, he stepped in, framed a sharp and clear policy, and put an end to the feuding. Strong strategies require allegiance from aides and a broader consensus from the public.