Rhetorical Skills = Priceless
The one time it crystallized to everyone that Mitt Romney could plausibly upend the Democratic dominance in polls and wrest the presidency from Barack Obama was right after the first presidential debate. That’s because Romney delivered a polished, confident, and near-flawless debate, bettering a languid performance from arguably the best political speaker of our generation. He shed the popular image of him as a stiff, cold, data-splicing executive, and in short, he looked presidential. That’s a point to note for anyone heading into business and leadership: sometimes, in order to convince an investor, motivate employees, calm down a market, or rally any constituency around a particular goal — a set of words, well-crafted and well-delivered, is what it takes.
Data is King
One does not need a graduate degree in number theory from MIT to know that numbers, in general, work, and they deserve respect. It’s not magic; it’s science. When [Nate Silver](http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/) made projections of the elections based on complex statistical models, certain people allowed partisan and subjective concerns, and not data, to shape their view of reality. There are two options here: you can look at the evidence with a cold, unfeeling eye, and act on it; or you can ignore the data and inhabit an illusory world where only the things you like happen. But all delusions and all bubbles come to an end.
To college students who will later run organizations, ignoring data and empirical evidence can mean anything from denying losses and financial mistakes, to snubbing odds of whether a given project will be successful, and everything in-between. Many financial scandals rose out of managers’ unwillingness to own up to bad performance and negative data, and their subsequent stuffing of “trash under the carpet” to create an alternate reality where "everything is going just fine." But it is nobler to face reality (read data, numbers, empirical evidence) whether or not it’s upsetting, and deal with it accordingly. It’s the only, right thing to do. All the time.
Be Calm in Distress, in Danger Bold
President Obama received a lot of bi-partisan praise over the way he handled the Hurricane Sandy crisis. This is technically not an election event, but it got embedded into politics because it came a week before the election and arguable shaped how Americans perceive their leaders. Anything less than projecting a calm image and a capable and firm response to the crisis could have been politically disastrous for President Obama. Many candidates in history have faltered at the eleventh hour because when a testing moment arrived, they were not composed enough to deal with it.
The fact that scathing critics like New Jersey Governor Christie effusively praised the President’s handling of the storm proves the powerful effect of calm leadership to build collaboration across divides; voters, too, by re-electing President Obama soon after Sandy, partly acknowledged his effort. President Obama was not alone in calmly steering the ship: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and Mr. Christie himself [all projected different leadership styles] but were relaxed, engaged, and in the end, highly effective managers in the face of a terrifying storm.
And to college students entering the rocky world of leadership, where adversity abounds, calm and composed responses to shocks, even while maintaining a killer work ethic, is a phenomenally great way to go.