The Leadership Styles Clinton and Trump Use to Connect With Supporters
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Political opinions aside, it’s hard to ignore the big personalities of the presidential candidates in this year’s election. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are well-known, polarizing figures. While they have their fair share of critics, they also have their own supportive followings.
What makes these two figures attractive to certain people? Much of the answer lies in their respective leadership styles. Both candidates rely on basic competencies. And Trump's and Clinton's particular styles dictate who perceives them as effective -- or who wants to vote for them.
Research conducted by our company, Skyline Group International, found leadership behaviors occur along a spectrum of what's traditionally been considered masculine and feminine. There's a corresponding approach to every leadership skill. Taking this concept beyond a gender classification, Skyline terms masculine behaviors as “directive” and feminine as “inclusive.”
Women and men exhibit these traits at different times, and one isn't necessarily better than the other. In fact, survey participants rated more than 70 percent of leadership competencies -- expressed in both inclusive and directive behaviors -- as equally effective.
The perception of leadership effectiveness depends on context and the audience. While some may love Clinton’s approach, others are more attracted to Trump’s style. Here’s a look at these different leadership skills in action, and why these qualities draw different people across the country.
Clinton’s Style: Collaboration.
In February 2015, before Clinton started down the campaign trail, she spoke at a women's conference in Silicon Valley. She painted a picture of how her presidency might look. Instead of focusing on red or blue, she claimed she'd mix both parties to create a "nice warm purple space where we're trying to solve problems." Since then, she's maintained she wants to build close relationships and work with Republicans to make real policy change happen.
It’s this attitude to include others and find compromise that’s so attractive to Clinton's followers. After all, our research found the inclusive leadership style is perceived as more effective in conflict resolution, creativity and innovation than the directive manifestations of these same traits.
In terms of conflict resolution, the inclusive approach explores, talks and integrates with others to find solutions. It's exactly how Clinton has promised to lead in her presidency. Someone who applies the inclusive manifestation to creativity and innovation leverages group wisdom to create meaningful new ideas. This, too, seems pretty similar to Clinton’s leadership style. She wants to build relationships with so-called opponents from the Republican party and generate policies that secure widespread consensus.
Trump’s Style: Inspiration.
If Clinton is pro-compromise and collaboration, Trump is perhaps the exact opposite. And yet he’s cultivated his own following. Why? Because he embodies the directive aspect of different (but equally effective) leadership skills.
Inspirational vision is among the most visible competencies. In our survey, the directive approach uses energy and excitement to drive personal attachment to the future state. Trump does this exceptionally well. Even his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again,” urges people to look toward an improved future.
While Politifact deems only 15 percent of Trump's claims to be mostly true, his campaign has been largely successful. His strategy targets raw, emotional appeal. He uses triggers to motivate the audience to rally around causes, and his stage presence is all energy.
The need for balance.
Both candidates are great examples of leaders who use their individual skill sets to attract followers. They also both excel at polarizing the public's opinion. People love them, and people hate them.
While leaders can’t always make everyone happy, the current campaign season demonstrates an important lesson. The most effective approach balances directive and inclusive traits. That's why the best leaders develop a range of leadership skills and are aware of the optimal techniques to deploy each. They pay attention to an audience's needs, and they use the tactics best-suited for the situation.
Related Book: Real Leaders Don't Follow by Steve Tobak
Leaders at all levels -- from office managers to presidential candidates -- must develop their skills to strike and maintain the proper equilibrium.