The first 100 days

The phrase ‘the First 100 Days' was first used to describe US President Roosevelt's now legendary First 100 Days in office, in which he delivered unprecedented results in the First 100 Days in his new role as President. The concept has since made its way into the business lexicon to describe the early phase of a new leadership appointment. A leader’s approach, behaviour and success in the First 100 Days is used as an indicator of future success, and failure to excel in this period can be the difference between success and failure in a new role - and that has consequences for a leader’s whole career and reputation.

The importance of the First 100 Days is the difference between success and failure in a new role- and that has consequences for someone’s whole career.


Roosevelt’s First 100 Days

Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) was inaugurated as President of America during the infamous US bank crisis on 4th March 1933. Historian Arthur Schlesinger described the mood at FDR's inauguration: "It was now a matter of seeing whether a representative democracy could conquer economic collapse. It was a matter of staving off violence - even, some thought - revolution"

President Roosevelt had his work cut out for him in the early stages of his presidency. Nearly 13 million people in the US - one in four - were jobless. Nineteen million people depended upon meagre relief payments to survive. Workers lucky enough to have jobs earned, on average, only two-thirds what they made at the start of the Depression in 1929. Many of those who had money lost it: over four thousand banks collapsed in the first two months of 1933. So great was the emergency, some urged dictatorial powers, but FDR rejected the suspension of constitutional government. Instead he embarked on a plan of "Action, and Action Now" to meet this vast crisis. The speed and scope of his actions were unprecedented, and the results achieved in his First 100 Days set him and the United States up for longer term success.

FDR’s legendary "First 100 Days" concentrated on the first part of his strategy: immediate relief. He successfully prevented a run on the banks by immediately declaring a "bank holiday," closing all banks indefinitely until bankers and government could regain control of the situation. From March 9 to June 16, 1933, FDR sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. The second part of his strategy was to provide long-lasting reform to the nation's economy. The First 100 Days was important because it got the New Deal (a series of domestic programmes enacted in the United States between 1933 and 1938 including both laws passed by Congress and presidential executive) off to a strong and early start, resulting in many essential programmes taken for granted in the US today.

Later presidents have used the "First 100 Days" as a measure against which to mobilise their own administrations. But none has succeeded in achieving FDR's legislative agenda. In less than four months the economy was stabilized, homes and businesses were saved from foreclosure, and massive relief and work programs addressed the dire needs of the people. The First 100 Days restored hope and, in the process, preserved democratic government in the United States.