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Feb 21st, 2009


Students Present Research at State Capitol in St. Paul

http://news.stkate.edu/images/thumbnailer/feature/816.jpg
Minnesota private college students present their scholarly research in the Capitol rotunda. (Photo: Melissa Kaelin)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Feb. 20, 2009) — Sarah Moore and Angela Rodgers, students at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., presented their research on “The Personality Profile of President Barack Obama: Leadership Implications” at the 6th annual Minnesota Private Colleges Scholars at the Capitol event, Feb. 19, in the State Capitol rotunda, St. Paul, Minn.

Moore is a senior psychology major from Grosse Point Woods, Mich. Rodgers is a junior sociology major from Rogers, Minn. Their research was conducted in the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, directed by College of St. Benedict / St. John’s University associate professor of psychology Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D.

Capitol_Sarah-Moore_Angela-Rodgers_02-19-2009
Sarah Moore and Angela Rodgers in the Capitol rotunda.

Summary of Research Results

The profile reveals that Barack Obama is ambitious and confident; modestly dominant and self-asserting; accommodating, cooperative, and agreeable; somewhat outgoing and congenial; and relatively conscientious. The combination of ambitious and accommodating patterns in Obama’s profile suggests a “confident conciliator” personality composite.

Leaders with this personality prototype, though self-assured and ambitious, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. They are energetic, charming, and agreeable, with a special talent for settling differences and a preference for mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict. They are driven primarily by a need for achievement, but also have substantial affiliation needs and a modest need for power.

The study offers an empirically based framework for anticipating Obama’s performance as chief executive. The following general predictions regarding Obama’s likely leadership style in office can be inferred from his personality profile:

  • Ambitious, self-assured, gracious, considerate
  • Preference for mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict
  • High need for achievement; moderate need for affiliation; low need for power
  • More pragmatic than ideological
  • More task- than relationship oriented
  • Likely to act as a strong advocate in his administration, using his powers of persuasion to advance his policy vision
  • Preference for gathering information from a variety of sources rather than relying solely on advisors and administration officials
  • In dealing with members of Congress, may show preference for avoiding unnecessary conflict by trying to remain above the fray in heated, highly divisive debates
  • Preference for articulating and defending his policies in person rather than relying on staff and administration officials to speak for him

Obama Leadership Style poster
Click on image for larger view

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Update: Related report

The Political Personality of U.S. President Barack Obama
Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, San Francisco, CA, July 7–10, 2010. Retrieved from Digital Commons website: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/25/

2010-07_Immelman-Suedfeld (cropped)
Presenter Aubrey Immelman and discussant Peter Suedfeld (Photo: Irina Rogozar-Kolpakova)

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Related reports on this site


Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Obama Set to Change Course

Barack Obama: A Question of Toughness

Obama’s Decision-Making Style

A Key to Success for Obama?

Barack Obama’s Presidential Leadership Style

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2/14/2010 Update

Book review: ‘Inside Obama’s Brain,’ by Sasha Abamsky (Steven Levingston, Washington Post, Feb. 14, 2010) — Sasha Abramsky promises us a glimpse in “Inside Obama’s Brain.” He tells us right away what his book is not: It’s not a biography, not political history, not inside-the-Beltway prattle. It is, he says, “a psychological profile writ large.” … By the end of the book, Abramsky admits he hasn’t discovered any one thing that explains the question he set out to answer: “What makes Barack Obama tick?” Obama, he realizes, is — guess what? — “a powerfully driven man, ambitious, intelligent, and charming.” … Full story

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4/9/2011 Update

Shutdown threat tests Obama leadership style (Dan Balz, Washington Post, April 7, 2011) — This has been a season of leadership tests for President Obama. From Egypt to Libya and now the budget, he has been called upon to deal with rapidly unfolding events, and the questions about his leadership style have followed a consistent pattern. Is he too slow to react? Is he diffident in the face of serious challenges? Is he reluctant to exercise the full powers of the presidency? Would events have turned out differently had he moved with greater force earlier? If Obama has shown anything in his two-plus years in the White House, it is a combination of substantive ambition and procedural caution [emphasis and links added]. Add to that an innate distaste for ideological confrontation and his dislike for the demands of the 24/7 news cycle that often rules Washington’s political community. … Full story

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3/25/2012 Update

“Personality and Politics: Obama For and Against Himself”

By Benjamin Knoll, Ph.D.
Information Knoll blog
February 5, 2012

Excerpts

I just finished [Personality and Politics: Obama For and Against Himself] written by political psychologist Stephen Wayne. … The author provides an overview of Obama’s key personality traits and then attempts to explain the key decisions of the Obama presidency in light of those traits.

In a nutshell, Wayne describes the following personality characteristics:

  • Extreme self-discipline and self-restraint, combined with a very competitive spirit
  • Extreme ambition and confidence, bordering on vanity and arrogance
  • A driving need for consensus and finding common ground
  • Pragmatic. “He keeps his eye on the doable, not necessarily the optimal.” “He gets frustrated with ideologues [on both ends on the political spectrum] with whom he finds it difficult to reason.”
  • Risk-averse, cautious, and deliberate
  • “Rigor, logic, and rationality … guide his thought process.” So much so that he has explicitly stated that decisions should be made based on logic and evidence, not emotions.

[…]

As I’ve blogged about before (here, here, and here), most voters in presidential elections ultimately make decisions based on partisanship, not on which candidate has the set of preferable personality characteristics. So candidate personality, to me, is not overly useful in explaining who wins presidential elections (although it is helpful when it comes to primary elections). However, personality explains a lot about how a president will govern and make decisions once in office.

Also, as I’ve blogged about before (see here), these characteristics of Obama’s personality are not all that different from those displayed by the current GOP front-runner, Mitt Romney [link to contrary analysis on this site added]. …





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