Analyzing the Presidential Candidates’ Defintions of Leadership

We have been discussing and developing our definitions of leadership as well as describing the traits and behaviors of good leaders. We were asked to consider if any of our definitions or characteristics could be applied to our current presidential candidates. The following article from The Washington Post analyzes the difference between key words used in the presidential candidates’ definitions of leadership from the recent televised “Commander-in-Chief Forum.” Both candidates used the words leader, decision, and judgement throughout their answers; however, the article points out two very different words used by the candidates to define good leadership. Hilary Clinton used the word “listen” while Donald Trump used the word “control.”

These two words depict drastically different views of leadership. A leader who listens to followers is working to build relationships and rapport with followers. In class, we discussed a good leader as someone who develops strong relationships by sharing a common vision and including followers in the process of developing the group’s vision. We also discussed relationship oriented leaders who listen, consider others’ ideas, and care about followers. In contrast, a leader who controls followers uses their power to intimidate and manipulate. We also discussed that a manager, rather than a leader, uses control to ensure specific outcomes, maintain order, and provide consistency. Considering the election polls show a very tight race, Americans are divided on their views of what type of leader is best for our country.

As we found in class, developing a definition of leadership and describing desirable leadership qualities and styles are difficult tasks and can change based on an individual’s perceptions. Here are a few leadership questions to consider as the upcoming election quickly approaches: Where do ethics and integrity fit into our definitions of leadership and how do they apply to these candidates? Are these candidates’ actions consistent with their definitions of leadership? What previous perceptions shape our view of their leadership styles? What role does gender play in our view of these candidates as leaders?

The very different ways Clinton and Trump defined leadership in the commander-in-chief town hall.

McGregor, J. (2016, September 08). The very different ways Clinton and Trump defined leadership in the commander-in-chief town hall. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from



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