A look at candidates’ leadership styles

Marketplace Staff Sep 8, 2008

A look at candidates’ leadership styles

Marketplace Staff Sep 8, 2008


KAI RYSSDAL: Where the candidates stand on the issues is what most of us are going to be looking at when we decide who to vote for this fall. That kind of stands to reason. Things like health care and tax policy hit us most directly. But, seeing as how the president is the government’s chief executive officer, what about management style?

Kevin Cashman from the executive management firm Korn/Ferry International spent some time looking at both Senator McCain and Senator Obama with that in mind. Mr. Cashman, good to have you with us.

KEVIN CASHMAN: Well, Kai, it’s great to be here.

KAI RYSSDAL: Take me inside the McCain White House on that first day. What is McCain, Inc., look like running the White House?

Kevin Cashman: Well, you know, the atmosphere would be very action-oriented. You’re going to hear a lot of boiling down things to key principles. You know, what do we really stand for? What are we about? And are we being consistent with those things? And you’re going to see kind of firey debate atmosphere and so on and kind of a firey tenacity interpersonally to get stuff done.

RYSSDAL: And what about Obama Amalgamated come January 20th? What’s it going to look like inside that White House?

CASHMAN: Well, I think it would be a very different atmosphere. And what’s interesting about these two individuals is that they’re not only different with policies, they’re very different from their leadership approach. You know, Obama’s kind of culture and atmosphere would be looking and exploring collaboratively for multiple courses of action.

RYSSDAL: So you have broken down these two gentleman’s management styles into different categories. You call McCain . . . you put him in the “warrior” category. We’re going to play a cut from his acceptance speech in St. Paul the other night and I’m going to ask you, sort of, to explain what that means.

JOHN MCCAIN: Fight with me. Fight for what’s right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

RYSSDAL: I guess “Fight” is pretty much the operative word there for the warrior style of management.

CASHMAN: Pretty much. When you look at that speech in that last segment — I don’t think you captured all of them — but there are at least 10 “fights” there. And, you know, this fits McCain’s history. You know, he is a warrior. He was a warrior. And his stories are stories of overcoming. They’re very much the kind of what we would call I-it stories — how personal power produces results. And courage and honor and things along those lines.

RYSSDAL: All right, let’s play some Senator Obama here from a couple of weeks ago in Denver.

BARACK OBAMA: But this, too, is part of America’s promise. The promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

RYSSDAL: And how did you categorize him?

CASHMAN: Well, it’s different, obviously. It’s more of a healer kind of archetype — bringing people together, and so on. His conclusion to his speech was about mending lives, and so on. Also, when you analyze the content of the different acceptance speeches, McCain — consistent with a heroic leader — said “I” almost twice as many times as Obama did.

RYSSDAL: Can’t let you go without asking you about the first MBA president, of course. The incumbent in the White House. There are those who will say, “You know what? He did exactly what he promised he would do, delivered on his management style. And there are others who will say his management style really hurt the country. What do you think about that?

CASHMAN: Well, you know what I think is interesting when I view McCain and when I view Obama now, they’re both demonstrating at least a relatively high level of emotional intelligence. Meaning, they understand themselves well, and they understand their impact of others pretty well, too. And I really think this is an emerging thing in leadership. And, not only with Bush but with leaders in the past, there’s this kind of invulnerability that’s presented, you know, to the market or their constituencies. And it really erodes credibility and authenticity over time.

RYSSDAL: Kevin Cashman at Korn/Ferry International. His book is called “Leadership From the Inside Out.” Mr. Cashman, thanks a lot for your time.

CASHMAN: Thanks, Kai.

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