Leadership Forms Manifested in the Presidential Debate

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When watching Wednesday evening’s first presidential debate hosted at the University of Denver between President Obama and former Governor Romney, I came to identify multiple types of leadership styles, just from a two-person podium-style debate.

From the start of the debate, Romney seemed to be more confident and alert than Obama; just from countenance and body language. I thought it was fun and interesting that they both jovially joked between each other after Obama mentioned it was his anniversary with his wife, and Romney responded, saying, “I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — with me.”  I think being personable with a sense of light- and good-hearted humor is important for a leader, which in the realm of current politics, Obama has been known and lauded for.

As the debate delved deeper, the two candidates debated statistic-filled tax plans, health care and government regulation. For the most part, I think both candidates did an excellent job trying to prove their points without getting visibly angry or aggressive, which is necessary for a leader to hear out and respect the viewpoints of another on crucial issues.

For instance, Romney remained grounded and to-the-point when he called out Obama pushing his “Obamacare” (a favorite term for the night) health care plan on a completely partisan basis, instead of working together with both parties on such a crucial issue. In a political form of service leadership, Romney cited his own successful experience, working with an 87 percent Democrat Massachusetts legislature on a bipartisan basis.

I also thought it was interesting that throughout the debate Obama did not counter a lot of Romney’s comments that were ripe for picking, such as his vague tax plans and leaked 47 percent comment that has gained attention within the past few weeks. I assume that both candidates took this seriously and had ample time to prepare for the debate, so I think most people were surprised by Obama’s lack of energy and sharpness, since he is usually relatable and personable across complex American demographics.

I think it’s also important to look at overall presentation, or dress. Whether people are consciously into fashion or not, clothing does make a subconscious impression. I mean, would anyone have taken either Obama or Romney seriously had he walked up to the podium in shorts and a T-shirt? Probably not. I thought Romney’s confidence for the night was symbolized by his bold-striped red tie. However, his suit was a victim to “black hole syndrome” (where the lapels seem to blend into the rest of the suit), whereas Obama’s featured clean, crisp lines. Both candidates presented themselves sartorially well, however Obama stood out with minimalist ease, while Romney’s attire definitely seemed to mirror the confidence in his voice and gestures.

Overall, America seemed to view Romney as the leadership winner of the night. A CNN survey gave the Republican the debate by a margin of 67 percent to 25 percent. A CBS poll was nearly as one-sided, favoring Mr. Romney 46 percent to 22 percent.

I guess we’ll see where the next debate takes us in two weeks.

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