Obama has Better Leadership Skills, Survey Shows

Release Date: October 18, 2012 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A survey conducted by the University at Buffalo School of Management that evaluated the leadership skills of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has found that Obama scored significantly better than Romney in most leadership categories and in overall leadership skill.

Jerry Newman, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the UB School of Management, conducted a nationwide survey of 250 professors specializing in American politics and the presidency. He asked them to rate the two presidential candidates using the 10 leadership dimensions that are at the heart of the School of Management’s LeaderCOREā„¢ program, a unique leadership certification for UB MBAs.

More than 100 professors responded, rating Obama and Romney on the 10 competencies of LeaderCORE: problem solving/decision making, global and diversity mindset, strategic thinking, team leadership, team skills, communication, interpersonal skills, integrity, results orientation and self-management/adaptability.

“We put the candidates under the same LeaderCORE lens that we use to assess our MBA students,” says Newman, who initially conceived the LeaderCORE program. “The students then use the results to create their personal development plans.”

The survey asked the professors to rate the candidates’ skill level in the 10 leadership competencies on a scale of 1 (well below the average president) to 7 (well above the average president). They also were asked to rank the candidates for overall leadership using the same scale.

According to the results, Obama particularly showed strength as a leader in global and diversity mindset, communication and interpersonal skills.

In fact, on seven of the 10 competencies, Obama’s scores were significantly better than Romney’s. The only areas where there were no significant differences between the two candidates were team skills, team leadership and results orientation.

Respondents who gave a score of 1 or 7 on any dimension were asked to give an open-ended example of what behavior led to that evaluation.

“We’ve seen what a good presenter Obama can be,” Newman says. “But the professors also commented on his management of the financial and automotive crises. Obama’s ability to adapt in the ever-changing landscape of health care reform and his stance on gay marriage also earned him high marks in adaptability and results orientation.”

In a final question, the respondents were asked to provide their political orientation on a scale of 1 (very conservative) to 7 (very liberal).

Seventy-four percent of the professors described themselves on the liberal end of the scale, yet in a regression analysis, the professors’ political leaning was not a significant determinant of how they evaluated overall leadership.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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Jacqueline Molik Ghosen
Assistant Dean and Director of Communications
School of Management