Jena McGregor is a columnist for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
If the leadership profiles of Barack Obama tend to be organized around the characteristics for which the president is most known—his pragmatism, his penchant for compromise, his coolness—the ones about Mitt Romney tend to follow the chapters of his life.
There is the one about how Romney’s years at Harvard defined him, a young married Mormon go-getter carrying around his father’s briefcase while putting together growth-share matrixes about balancing work and family demands. There is the one about his time turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics, where he “learned the ways of Washington and the hurly-burly of politics, mastered the news media, built a staff of loyalists and made fund-raising connections” that would be critical to his presidential run. And there is the one about his years in France, where he faced rejection after rejection as a Mormon missionary, something that surely helped to harden and mold him into the man he is today.
But a few profiles rise above the rest, either for how well they illustrate a certain period in the GOP candidate’s life or for how lucidly they reveal details about Romney’s management or leadership style without falling into the “What Mitt learned from X” format. Here, a few of the best:
“The Lessons of the Father,”by Neil Swidey in The Boston Globe
To understand what makes a leader tick, it’s critical to understand the experiences that shaped them. And in Romney’s case, particularly the Mitt Romney who is running for president, one of the most critical was watching his father make a comment that would ultimately keep him from his shot at the White House. In this 2006 profile, Swidey chronicles the infamous “brainwashing” comment about the Vietnam War made by George Romney and how it has shaped the cautious, scripted candidate—and leader—we see today in his son.
“Romney in Crisis: Two Dark Spots in Fortunate Life,” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times
Stolberg takes two moments from Romney’s life—when he is in a car crash in France while working as a Mormon missionary and when his wife, Ann, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—to illustrate how Romney has learned to manage crises. “Both offer clues into Mr. Romney’s character, and the way he reacts to challenges,” Stolberg writes in this 2012 profile. “He is both forward-looking and inward-looking, practical and deeply private, with a consultant’s instinct for identifying solutions even in the most personally trying times.” His wife’s diagnosis plunged him into a time of emotional difficulty; the car crash plunged a 21-year-old into new leadership responsibilities.“There’s a certain expediency about how he deals with crisis,” a Romney biographer and distant relation told Stolberg. “He deals with it, he ties up the loose ends and he moves forward.”
“Mitt Romney, as a leader in Mormon church, became a master of many keys,” by Jason Horowitz in The Washington Post