It wasn't always a given that we'd have a single executive who has the power to make final decisions about the fate of our country.
Every four years, political frenzy seizes the nation for months building up to the presidential election.
Often lost in the hoopla of the campaign trail, though, is the question of how it all began: Why do we have a president in the first place?
When the Founding Fathers met to design the constitution, in fact, many were skeptical about appointing a chief.
They had a revolutionary view of European history, after all. And from what they'd seen, they worried that putting one person in charge would foster monarchy, tyranny and oppression.
Only after a fizzled attempt to run the country through disparate committees in individual states did the creators of the United States Constitution decide at a historic convention in 1787 that there needed to be a strong national government with a leader on top.
"Things were not really efficient without an executive that has a certain amount of power," said James Pfiffner, a political scientist at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. Psychologically, he added, people like to have leaders to look up to.