How to Pick a President

Psychological attributes for a US President

Posted Oct 22, 2012

Presidential campaigns run on issues such as the economy.  We also judge candidates by their slogans, debate performances, records, and plans. Later we judge them by their wisdom, integrity, and practical judgment, 

Let’s look at some evaluation dimensions to see how President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney stack up against each other on psychologically-oriented attributes, such as trustworthiness. 

Following this exercise, you may have a better understanding of Presidential-level qualities that merit developing in yourself to self-improve and to improve your life.


Although this is not a standardized measure, an evaluative dimension approach is a foundation for the highly successful assessment center technology that many top organizations use for selecting key people.

If you are like most, you’ll have impressions about each candidate on the various dimensions. Some will carry greater weight than will others. Use the evaluation dimensions as a general guide to judge the candidates.

As an alternative, take a numerical approach. Use a five-point Likert-type scale:  1 = poor, 2 = below average, 3 = average, 4 = above average, and 5 = excellent.  Rate each candidate on each dimension.  (As much as possible, support your rating with hard data.)

Note: Psychology Today blogs do not have an interactive capability where you can input numbers and get automatic calculations.  If you prefer to use this rating approach, do it the old-fashioned way. Print the blog. Fill in the blank after each item. Total the scores for each category.  Calculate a grand total. Compare the candidates.

 Leadership Dimensions

Here are 20 sample leadership dimensions. The candidate:

1. exhibits a clear leadership presence ____.

2. inspires confidence ____.

3. shows backbone ____.

4. displays a good grasp of the “big picture” and how the pieces fit together ____.

5. sizes up emerging situations quickly and acts purposefully and decisively when necessary ____.

6. draws wisdom from knowledgeable people ____.

7. shows cognitive flexibility and adaptability ____.

8. demonstrates high emotional stability ____.

9. works effectively with and through others ____.

10. delegates wisely____.

11. articulates positions ____.

12. visibly comes down on the right side of an issue ____.

13. shows the will to make logical, necessary, and sometimes unpopular decisions ____.

14. takes responsibility for results ____.

15. knows when to be forceful ____.

16. demonstrates a broad range of knowledge ____.

17. shows strong reasoning capabilities ____.

18. demonstrates maturity ____.

19. has perspective ____.

20. exhibits wisdon ____.


Subtotal leadership dimension _______.

 Past Performance

Past performance is a predictor of future performance.  The candidate exhibits:

1. conceptual skills ____.

2. ability to select highly effective people ____.

3. clear-headed capability to render practical judgments____.

4. sticks to priorities ____.

5. foresight ____.

6. ability to make prudent decisions in ambiguous circumstances ____.

Subtotal past performance dimension _______.

Management Dimensions

Highly effective people typically exhibit these five management competency dimensions. The candidate:

1. has a defined vision that logically leads to a productive direction that works for you ____.

2. shows the ability to analyze by breaking an issue down to its parts and to separate the relevant from the irrelevant ____.

(This exercise is an example of an analysis where you break down the candidate’s qualities into dimensions, then put the results together to come to a conclusion.)

3. prepares for and designs plans that clearly lead from point A to a destination point B ____.

4. executes productive action plans at the high level of efficiency and effectiveness expected of a top executive ____.

5. reviews plans and make adjustments ____.

 Subtotal management dimension _______.

 Character Dimension

The candidate:  

1. demonstrates integrity ____.

2. acts reliably and responsibly ____.

3. shows charity toward others ____.

4. persists even when the going gets tough ____.

5. exhibits trustworthiness ____.

6. shows tolerance ____.

Subtotal character dimension _______.

 Personability Dimension

The candidate:

1. appears credible and authentic ____.

2. connects with others with empathy ____.

3. communicates as though in a conversation with you ____.

4. is likeable ____.

5. shows warmth and understanding ____.

6. is diplomatic ____.


Subtotal personability  dimension _______.


Grand total: _________.

This Presidential-level evaluative dimension approach is a work in process. In compiling your results, you can add or delete dimensions.

 © Dr. Bill Knaus co-author  Fearless Job Hunting