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Agenda: Charm and charisma in the race for the White House


voteLeadership races don't come much bigger than the US president elections. With both Republicans and Democrats heading into the ring with a mixture of hard-won experience and fresh-faced enthusiasm, leadership expert John Fay assesses the contenders and decides who gets his vote.

John McCain's main criticism of Barak Obama throughout this election campaign has been that the Democrat is inexperienced. This seems somewhat ironic now when you consider McCain has named the relatively unknown and inexperienced Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Palin was the youngest person to be elected Alaska's state governor and has two years in office behind her but, on a national and international level, she is a newcomer.

Photo of John Fay"Obama's strength is his passion and ability to engage an audience."

She seems an attractive proposition because of her energetic, young and fresh approach to the campaign, especially when McCain's age has been raised as an issue on many occasions. He has now ticked several boxes with the electorate by appointing a young female on the sideline.

But it remains to be seen if Palin's hockey-mum credentials will convince voters she could, if necessary, leading the country in issues or crises relating to foreign affairs.

Among some of the electorate, Hillary Clinton's decision to step down was a bitter blow but this was not purely because she was female. I think it is unlikely Palin will pull support from all of Clinton's backers based solely on her gender especially after the Clintons have publicly backed Obama.

Obama's strength is his passion and ability to engage an audience. I see in him a leadership ability to win the hearts and minds of the people that sets him apart from his rival.

His nomination acceptance speech was dramatic, emotional and rousing. Its timing - 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King made his legendary “I Have A Dream” speech- meant he had a lot to live up to and he did not disappoint.

Obama is the first African-American to be nominated by a major US party, and this is no small achievement. The eyes of the nation were on him in Denver and I believe he excelled.

His running mate Joe Biden's age is on his side in terms of the mass of experience he has gained. Like Obama, he is heavy on charm and has working class roots. He is knowledgeable on foreign policy, as chair of the Senate's foreign relations committee, and knows as many world leaders as McCain.

Obama had been criticised for not giving concrete detail about where he would lead the country but his determined attitude to making things better for America and its residents shone through in Denver.

Leadership expert John Fay was awarded an MBE for his work teaching leadership, confidence and citizenship skills to young people during a 10-year period. He is the founder of SFL, a change management, leadership and development company. For more information visit

To see his Apprentice blog click here

To read his feature Obama is a leader, Clinton is a manager click here

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not of


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