Why Vote for Obama?

For any independents wavering on the eve of the election, I thought I would explain why I will vote for Barack Obama. I did not start there. I supported Hillary Clinton because I knew and admired her, and because I was concerned about Obama's lack of experience at the national level.

But two things happened that made me change my mind even before the end of the primaries. One was that I finished a book on leadership, The Powers to Lead. In it, I describe three key soft power skills -- emotional intelligence, vision, and communications -- as well as the hard power skills of organizational and Machiavellian political capacity. Equally important is the contextual intelligence to know how to vary the mix of these skills to produce smart power strategies. Completing this theoretical framework intersected with the progress of the Obama campaign in which he demonstrated that he had all of them.

John McCain, an admirable man, has some key skills, but Obama greatly outscores him. McCain's temper, the disorganization of his campaign, and his erratic choices regarding the vice presidency and the financial crisis, compare unfavorably with Obama's calm response to crises, his forward-looking vision, and his superb organizational skills. In addition, Obama's contextual intelligence about world politics has been shaped from the bottom up with experience in Indonesia and Kenya.

As the center-right London Economist recently pointed out in its endorsement of Obama, his election will do much to restore America's reputation around the world. Every election in a democracy is in part a gamble. (After all, in 1964 Lyndon Johnson was the peace candidate, and in 2000, George W. Bush promised compassionate conservatism and a "humble foreign policy." ) But as the Economist concluded, Obama has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent....He deserves the presidency." I agree.