Presidential leadership

Is Obama or Romney a better leader? How to judge.

August 14, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

Here are five crucial leadership skills for the most powerful CEO of all -- the U.S. President.

By John Ryan

FORTUNE -- With the U.S. presidential election fast approaching, we will hear a lot from pundits and partisans over the next few months, not to mention President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney themselves, about how one candidate's leadership skills are superior to his opponent's.

You can take their word for it -- or you can decide for yourself. And if you're interested in making up your own mind about which candidate is the better leader, please read on.

Here are five crucial leadership skills for the most powerful CEO of all -- the U.S. President. As you watch the conventions and debates this fall and follow press coverage of the election, give some serious thought to how the candidates score in each of these areas:

1. Self-awareness:  Effective leadership starts with real knowledge and acceptance of our own strengths and weaknesses. And, typically, we are our own worst judges in both areas. So candidates shouldn't try to figure this out themselves. Instead, do they attract people who tell them what they need to hear about their performance, instead of what they want to hear? And do they make positive changes based on that feedback?

MORE: The myth of the 'entrepreneurial employee'

George Washington was not always the soul of steadiness and reason that history books make him out to be. In fact, as Ron Chernow writes in his award-winning biography of the first president, Washington had a hair-trigger temper that could lead him to say and do foolish things. But some trusted associates wouldn't let him get away with it, and, at their urging, he worked for years to master this problem. By the time he became our first president, he had mostly corrected it, which was crucial for our country in its early years.

2. Vision: A compelling view of the future inspires, clarifies, and focuses the work of individuals, organizations, and entire nations. Take a look at both candidates' visions of success. What are they? Do they even have one, or are their goals mostly small and tactical? In the rush to win an election, candidates can ask people to get behind an effort without ever really giving them a good reason why. More

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