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 Post subject: Obama, the Introvert?
 Post Posted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:39 am 
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Is Obama an introvert? Obama is often characterized as distant and aloof. Other politicians seem to think it's because he's arrogant. Donors criticize him for not schmoozing enough. For not going out of his way to make friends with them. Pundits say he lacks warmth on the campaign trail. He seems too much like a professor and not enough like a beer buddy. Journalists complain that he doesn't like to hang out with them, and are puzzled that he doesn't seem to enjoy media attention. Those who trailed him during the campaign said that they felt like fifth wheels - their few interactions with Obama himself were highly stage managed. Obama is someone who can give a rousing speech when he wants to, as long as he sticks to his script. But he does less well in unscripted press conferences and doesn't seem to like to socialize. All of this is sounding awfully familiar to me. I think he is an introvert.

In the age of 24 hour TV news coverage, it seems very unusual for an introvert to succeed in politics, let alone win the highest office in the land. Especially in American culture, which highly values extroverted personalities and often sees introverts as deficient. Look at all those Hollywood movies about shy gawky teens who go through a transformation and become popular and outgoing (and get the hot guy/girl). College admissions boards prefer the kid who is president of three clubs or the team athlete over the kid who builds computers or creates sculptures in his basement. Employers are always advertising for "outgoing, go-getting, multitasking team players". You never see a job ad for a "quiet, focused hard worker". Voters seem to judge politicians based on who they'd like to have a barbecue with. Through all of this runs the assumption that leaders ought to be extroverted. So when faced with a leader who displays typically introverted behaviours, people seem to be all "WTF?" And he's getting grief for it. (On top of the grief he's getting because people hate his policies, but that's not what I'm talking about here).

Do you think that effective leaders need to be extroverted?

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 Post Posted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:33 pm 
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no.

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 Post Posted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:13 pm 
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Effective leaders need to be effective.

I realize Obama's policies aren't your focus, but please consider this question - if he was developing and pushing policies that people respected and thought had some chance of working, would his personality even be noticed? I think the focus on Obama's lack of personality reveals something about the modern american people - they've given up the expectation that their leaders are bringing anything to the table at all except personality.

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 Post Posted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:14 pm 
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In general IMO introverts can be effective leaders, where thoose parts of leadership are required, that border on administration. Making sure the efforts of motivated "underlings" are pooled effitiently, coordinating them and such. You find that sort of leader often in organistions like trade unions. Both actual underlings and the people represented by that union are by and large already comitted to the cause, the leader makes actual strategic decisions and negotiates the nuts and bolts of policies with outsiders.

An other possiblity is a compromise candidate, that 2 rivaling factions can agree on. There being an introvert is actually an advantage, because introverts tend to raise fewer fears that they are grabbing too much power on average.

Where leadership borders on sales though, i think you need an extrovert. Like when you need to inspire unmotivated followers, or need to convince outsiders to join your cause.

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 Post Posted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:31 am 
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OldCrow wrote:
Effective leaders need to be effective.

I realize Obama's policies aren't your focus, but please consider this question - if he was developing and pushing policies that people respected and thought had some chance of working, would his personality even be noticed? I think the focus on Obama's lack of personality reveals something about the modern american people - they've given up the expectation that their leaders are bringing anything to the table at all except personality.

THIS. The notion that his level of introversion or extroversion even matters is a distraction from real issues.

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 Post Posted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:29 am 
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I don't think that's true - people like to dissect the personalities of political leaders whether their policies are effective/popular or not. Scores of pages were written about the personalities of Bill Clinton when the economy was booming, Tony Blair before he jumped the shark, and George Bush pre-Iraq. John McCain's and John Kerry's personalities were also a big factor in people's voting decisions (McCain was seen as impulsive and bad-tempered; Kerry as stiff and snobbish). It's just the way modern politics is. I think if you want voters to judge politicians based on their policies and positions, you'd basically have to take away television.

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 Post Posted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 2:31 am 
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Kea wrote:
I think if you want voters to judge politicians based on their policies and positions, you'd basically have to take away television.

And radio.

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 Post Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:02 pm 
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I was actually just using Obama as a case study to discuss the idea of introverted leaders and political personalities in general. Do you think it truly doesn't matter what kind of personality the president has? I mean, doesn't that have some bearing over whether or not he can get his policies implemented? Regardless of the strength of his ideas, if he can't persuade people to support them, he's finished.

And quite apart from that, being the president doesn't just involve putting a pre-made plan into action. It involves a lot of other things. Crisis management. Building alliances. Doing deals. Managing public opinion. Crap happens, and your plans will surely change. Bush didn't get elected as a warmonger in 2000, and surely part of his undoing was his tendency to listen to only what he liked to hear, a.k.a. Cheney.

As an aside, when's the last time the US had an introverted president?

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 Post Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:58 pm 
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I believe the last one was (you may disagree) Ronald Reagan.

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 Post Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:51 pm 
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G.H.W. Bush never seemed all that outgoing to me...

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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:58 am 
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He was in his circle; he just never left it.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:08 am 
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That's typically introverted behaviour, Were.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:04 am 
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I suppose I was imprecise; he was outgoing with the upper classes in society, business, and government. His circle. The man was a reasonably successful ambassador to the UN, remember. He just never mixed down.

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