McCain’s Leadership Style

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

Leadership Postulate for this Blog: Each candidate’s leadership style will have a direct impact on his appeal to voters. The way in which they present themselves and their points of view is just as important as their actual opinion, as their method of working with others will be a direct indicator of their ability to lead the country.

Research Findings to Support this Blog: According to Raluca Cozma’s study “The Connection Between the Leadership Style and the Performance of American Presidents,” political beliefs and strategies do not affect the way presidents are rated in terms of greatness, performance in international relations or crisis leadership.

John McCain rose to the top of the Republican field of contenders to be the party’s presidential nominee despite having less cash on hand and fewer overall resources than several other challengers. He achieved his status in part by his distinctive leadership style that connected with primary voters, one that, it should be noted, differs considerably from his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.

While the popular image of McCain before the start of his campaign was that of a maverick with a temper, he gave an impression exactly opposite that during his stump speeches, designed to be engaging to listeners in small groups (particularly town hall meetings) or one-on-one interviews. One observer noted that “his presentation of self is anything but impetuous and irascible. The timbre of his voice is unfailingly soft, even gentle, and his choice of words is equally disarming …” (

Likewise, McCain responds to what he senses from his audience and adapts his delivery to them to emphasize points he knows will resonate. Among personality experts, McCain is viewed as a Promoter, a type which psychologist David Keirsey says is “uncanny at reading people’s faces and observing their body language.” (

Another distinguishing characteristic many analysts have observed of McCain’s style is his wit. He usually has several funny and charmingly self-deprecating lines that provide some levity in his speeches that audiences appreciate. (

McCain also manages to be both straightforward and yet apparently spontaneous while talking, another endearing quality to listeners. He is known to “go off script” and not stick with the specific message or line of attack that he makes with his team before speaking, yet he delivers that new thought with as much emphasis as the rest of his message. (

Both McCain and Obama share a desire to connect to the audiences they address. Compared to Obama, however, McCain is more succinct and prompt in his answers, and he relates more personal stories in explaining his beliefs and positions. ( Voters will have a chance to compare their leadership styles more in depth when the men meet for the three planned debates before the elections, the first being on Sept. 26.

This blog is the third in a series of blogs that examines Obama and McCain’s personal leadership styles. With the presidential election rapidly approaching, we thought it would be interesting to study the similarities and differences between the two. Leadership involves much more than just saying what needs to be done and expecting it to happen, and it will be interesting to see how the two candidates approach our country’s voters.

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