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The past ten years of television have given us many incredible leaders of men, but I wanted to pay homage to the cream of crop. Making the cut are the most benevolent, the most selfless, and the the most determined of commanders. Their domains range from entire countries down to single departments, but they are all inspiring figures and deserve recognition for their roles in modern television.
Josiah Bartlet (The West Wing)
“I'm confident in your loyalty to me. I'm confident in your love for me. If you lie to protect me, if you lie just once, if you lie just a little, if you lie because you can't stand what's happening to me and the people making it happen; if you ever, ever lie, you're finished with me. You understand?"
In its two terms, “Jed” Bartlet's presidency saw more than its fair share of ups and downs, but throughout it all he acted with the nobility and honor usually reserved for storybook kings. Like all great leaders he was not perfect, but he came closer than any real president ever could. Of his many qualifications, it was his skills as an orator that cemented his position on the list. Whether it was a few words amongst the staff or a speech addressing the nation, Bartlet's monologues were so moving it was hard not to applaud during them. He could make you laugh when you felt like crying and make you stand tall when you felt like cowering in fear. His words gave all who listened hope of a better tomorrow and provided comfort during the darkest hours. Bartlet led the nation with intelligence, foresight, and fortitude, speaking with the conviction that few men can muster – that Nobel Prize in Economics didn't hurt either.
William Adama (Battlestar Galactica)
“Take a good look at the men and women that stand next to you. Remember their faces, for one day you will tell your children and your grandchildren that you served with such men and women as the universe has never seen. And together, you'll accomplish the feat that will be told and retold down through the ages, and find immortality as only the gods once knew. I'm proud to serve with you. Good hunting.”
Adama was the man you would want giving the orders in the heat of battle, the man you knew would do his best to bring his crew home safely. The gravel-voiced, former fighter pilot saw action in both Cylon wars, and commanded the Galactica through its most perilous moments. In addition to his military prowess, Adama often served as Laura Roslin's conscience. He supplemented her cold and calculating form of leadership with the warmth of someone who sees casualties as more than just numbers on a page. He grieved with his crew during their defeats, and celebrated with them in times of victory, while never forgetting those who gave their lives under his command. The hardest conflicts he faced were always within himself though. Adama's struggle with the anger and guilt that constantly threatened to consume him only made him more endearing. He is as flawed and broken as humanity itself, but still rises to the challenge, never backing down from the fight going on inside him, or the one on the battlefield.
“Last week most of us were strangers, but we're all here now. And god knows how long we're going to be here. But if we can't live together, we're gonna die alone.”
Perhaps the most conflicted of those on the list, Jack fought against the very idea of being a leader. He was thrust into the role by the fellow survivors of Flight 815, who sought his guidance after he established himself as a man worthy of being followed – even more so because he never asked them to. The inner turmoil he faced ensured his ego never swelled, but it was his compassion that earned him a spot in this feature. Jack's altruistic nature is clear from his first moments on the island, when he is frantically rushing to save as many lives as he can. The inborn concern he feels for others would wax and wane over the course of the series, but even when he tried, he could never shake it completely. In the end, Jack would make the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends, followers, and the world itself. Proving no matter what he had done in the past, he was still the man they could count on.
Daenerys Targaryen(Game of Thrones)
“I am Daenerys Stormborn, of House Targaryen, of the blood of old Valyria. I am the dragon's daughter! And I swear to you that those who would harm you will die screaming.”
Though Daenerys is still coming into her own, she is doing so more quickly than anyone not familiar with the novels would have thought possible. The series started with her as nothing more than a milksop and trophy wife, but it wasn't long before she became the Dothraki's Khaleesi(queen). In learning to command her people she showed the adaptability and strength needed of a leader. She's hardened from a girl kowtowing to her brother's wishes, to a woman that didn't flinch when he died screaming for her mercy. Dany is no more cruel than the world she lives in, and only to those who cross her. Even after her husband's untimely death and most of her army abandoning her, Dany did not throw in the towel, only strengthened her resolve to take back the throne her family once held. Those that stayed have seen her literally walk into fire to earn their loyalty, and she came out of that fire with something more powerful than a hundred armies. The only question is: how long does it take for dragons to reach adulthood?
Ron Swanson(Parks and Recreation)
“Under my tutelage you will grow from boys into men, from men into gladiators, and from gladiators into Swansons!”
He might not run a country or command an intergalactic warship, but Ron Swanson is the mold from which all leaders should be struck. By itself his mustache could make a better ruler than any real or fictional person ever would. The director of the Pawnee Parks Department doesn't rule with an iron fist, but rather one wrapped around a glass of scotch. The bitter libertarian wears his contempt for the government on his sleeve; which is exactly why he should be in charge of it all. His plans for privatizing every facet of the political structure might not sit well with some, but that hasn't stopped fans of Parks and Recreation from dreaming of a White House run by Ron Swanson. An inspiration to men around the world, the character even created a set of rules dubbed, “The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness,” just so everyone can be a little more like him; and the world a better place for it.