Ron Paul’s best leadership trait

January 12, 2012

The following is part of a series of On Leadership profiles exploring the best leadership traits of each of the candidates in the GOP field. Our intention is to provide a debater's argument for each of the Republican hopeful's leadership strengths rather than examine the pros and cons of his overall leadership style. Click here for a full introduction to the series and links to the other candidates’ pieces.

There are many ways to define a leader, from someone who simply holds a position of power to someone who is a pioneer in his or her field. But by its very definition, a leader is someone who has followers. And of all the candidates in the GOP field, no one has inspired more fervent ones than Ron Paul.

The 76-year-old gynecologist-turned-Texas congressman might seem an odd choice to have legions of dedicated fans under the age of 30. But with his natural speaking style and his remarkably consistent point of view (Paul has reportedly changed his mind on only one major policy issue in nearly 40 years), he’s become the only GOP hopeful voters seem to be choosing because of who he is rather than because of who he isn’t. He may have come in third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, but he is first in passion. One CNN pundit compared Paul’s supporters to the Postal Service: “they’re going to come out—hail, sleet, snow, wind, straw polls, Internet chat rooms—they’re there for him.”

But what creates Paul’s pied-piper appeal is not just consistency and authenticity. What really makes people follow Paul—whether they know it or not—is that he has a pretty empowering message: common sense prevails. If a guy who started out delivering babies can figure out what needs to be done to resolve the financial crisis, he seems to be saying, voters can too. He leads with explanations instead of orders, with straightforward logic instead of high-minded policy solutions.

This faith in common sense is what anchors Paul’s leadership, and is what makes him patient and trusting that both the system—and the voters—will ultimately come around to his truth telling. It’s often said Paul’s popularity comes from the fact that his followers trust him. But perhaps more important, he makes them feel like he trusts them.

Paul’s ability to inspire enthusiastic loyalty could help him were he to be elected president—an unlikely outcome given his quite radical views, which include everything from ending the Federal Reserve and stopping all foreign aid. But if he were, such passion could help him pull together a galvanized team of staffers and motivated network of supporters lined up behind a common cause.

Jena McGregor writes the Post Leadership blog for the Washington Post.

Read more in this series:

Ron Paul’s best leadership trait

Rick Santorum’s best leadership trait

Newt Gingrich’s best leadership trait

Mitt Romney’s best leadership trait

Rick Perry’s best leadership trait

Jon Huntsman’s best leadership trait

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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