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Do Trump and Clinton Have the Leadership Skills Necessary to Be President?

October 21, 2016

election-2016.jpgNovember 8th is a day that several people are looking forward to. People may see it as the day to fulfill their civic duty or to make a stand for what and who they believe in. They may just see it as the day when the negative media ads will end or as a day they are off from work. Regardless, it’s Election Day. It’s a day when we get to elect a new president to run our country.

Being in the business of selection, we posed the following questions:

  • What does it take to be president of a country?

  • Do our current candidates embody some of these traits and skills?

A president or CEO of any business has a lot of responsibility and the decisions they make can shape the direction of the company. The same can be said for the President of the United States. Scary, right? Well, in reviewing several decades of leadership research, we know that high-level leaders need to embody the following broad skill sets:

  1. Executes & Delivers: Leaders must have a drive for achieving the best and must have a tactical plan that will lead the business to success.

  2. Transforms & Innovates: Leaders must think outside the box for ways to spark change and innovation within the company.

  3. Leads & Influences: It’s critical that leaders are able to motivate and inspire others.

  4. Relates & Interacts: Leaders must have good interpersonal skills. They need to read their audience and get along well with others.

  5. Analyzes & Decides: They need to have good problem-solving skills and think well on their feet.

We also consulted O*NET, an online tool used to define the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are necessary for success in all types of positions. For a President or CEO, it lists decision making, complex problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and coordinate as the top five skills. The skill sets above as well as those from O*NET make sense – high-level leaders, including presidents, are constantly making decisions. The decisions they make must be well-thought out and strategic. Sometimes, this involves networking with others to get all the information necessary. Finally, they need to relay those decisions to the public and communicate it in a way that justifies the path ahead.

Now we are led to the next question, do our current presidential candidates have these skills to be successful at the job? We decided to do a casual experiment to find out. Over the past decade, there has been a lot of research on social media. Some research suggests that you can get a reliable measure of an individual’s personality by viewing social media information. However, the catch is that you need at least 6-10 trained assessors. The aggregate of their ratings will be an accurate read of their personality.

So, we asked 15 Master’s and Ph.D.-level psychologists to review the social media content from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and then rate their personality characteristics on a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high). The results of the survey are displayed in the infographic match-up below. As can be seen, Hillary received higher ratings on more competencies than Donald.

Does this mean that Hillary will make a good president? Well, not necessarily. We know that comparing candidates is a common mistake that can be made when selecting a job candidate. Because, after all, we could be comparing between the lesser of two evils…


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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.