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Battle of Strengths: Obama vs. Romney

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    In November, America will select its next employee-in-chief.  Evidence from positive psychology shows that strengths-matching can boost employee success.  As the (albeit distant) managers of our president, maybe we should take a cue from positive psychology when making our next hire:

    Romney’s Strengths

    Generosity, Compassion
    In 1996, Robert’s Gray’s daughter went missing after a party in New York.  Gray, a partner at Bain Capital, confided in Romney, who promptly shut down the billion dollar investment fund and organized a firm wide search effort.  Other firms and companies related to Bain joined in the search, and thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of fliers later a tip was called in and the girl was found.1

    Despite his considerable fortune, Romney lives extremely frugally.  He plays with Kmart golf clubs, bargain hunts for flights and once spent six weeks building his own fence.2  He runs three miles a morning, eats healthy and hasn’t smoked or drunk since his teenage years.3

    In his early twenties, Romney spent two and a half years in France as a Mormon missionary.  Faced with the daunting task of converting a wine-loving people to a famously ascetic religion, Romney worked his way up to head of mission and led his fellow missionaries to a ten-year record for converts despite by being seriously injured in a car crash.4


    Obama’s Strengths

    Love of learning
    Obama has a serious love of learning.  Obama was top of his class at Harvard, a senior lecturer at Chicago and has written two bestselling books.  Clearly, Obama is an intellectual to the core.5

    Humility and modesty
    Perhaps not always considered a strength in politicians, humility is certainly a personal strength.  And despite his enormous success and intelligence, Obama shows personal humility on a regular basis.  His Nobel Prize acceptance speech was a call to action and an acknowledgement he had yet to truly earn the honor.  He has also received a lot of flack for supposedly showing deference to foreign leaders.  True or not, Obama clearly value humility and modesty.6

    Few following the 2008 campaign could fail to notice the passion of Obama supporters for the man they wanted elected president.  But Obama’s own passion has much deeper roots, stretching back to his formative years.  Out of college he worked on the south-side of Chicago, working tirelessly on behalf of the community.  At Harvard, he was elected president of the law review, the first African American to hold that role.  In 1992 he ran a campaign that registered 400,000 voters across Illinois, called Project Vote.  All these things have more than success in common – they expose a core strength of passion, a strength that drives Obama to this day.7


    Elijah Goldberg works at EmployInsight as a marketing strategist.  He is interested in human resources, technology and foreign aid.  He co-founded the non-profit Walimu and studies at Yale.


    1. http://www.snopes.com/politics/romney/search.asp

    2. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/us/politics/two-mitt-romneys-wealthy-man-thrifty-habits.html?pagewanted=all

    3. http://www.pewforum.org/religion08/candidates/mitt-romney/

    4. http://www.acefitness.org/blog/2102/fitness-on-the-campaign-trail-romney-s-exercise,

    5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_life_and_career_of_Barack_Obama

    6. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-acceptance-nobel-peace-prize

    7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_life_and_career_of_Barack_Obama