Obama’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.

How did Barack Obama manage to surprise the pundits and overtake the expected nominee Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic candidate for president? There are many reasons for his success, but a major one involves his leadership style.

 Obama communicates an air of confidence verbally and physically. He tends to remain very calm and steady, and he rarely gesticulates with his hands unless he wants to prove a point. He wants to give the impression of being in control and ready to handle the needs of his duties as president in a cool, collected manner. (

 Obama also employs a measured, deliberate speaking style with an even tone that some regard as “conversational.” He emphasizes making as much eye contact as he can with his audience. When asked a question, he looks the person directly in the eyes and answers seriously with purpose. For example, when he appeared at evangelical Rick Warren’s forum, he spoke directly to Warren when the latter questioned him. (

 He believes in working in an agreeable, cooperative fashion when among groups. One observer credited him for embracing this “female” style of leadership better than Hillary Clinton did as a reason for his campaign success. She said Obama is “the embodiment of the gentle, collaborative style without threatening his masculine side. He’s being more feminine than she can be.” (

 Another term associated with Obama’s leadership style is introspection. He does not wear his emotions on his sleeve. ( Instead, he prefers to invoke emotions among his listeners with a visionary presentation style, emphasizing great themes over specific details. (

 All these elements of his leadership style differed considerably with what Hillary Clinton presented to Democratic voters. In the end, more of them favored his approach and gave him the nomination. Whether it will appeal to a majority of Americans will be seen on Election Day come this November.


This blog is the second 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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