Joe Biden

‘We couldn’t have been more different’

When you’re choosing a key employee, a partner in an important project, or even a potential boss, what traits should you seek out?

Former U.S. President Barack Obama has some great insights on this question. In his memoir, “A Promised Land,” he details the qualities that led him to choose current President Joe Biden as his running mate in his 2008 campaign.

They were both Democratic senators, but other than that, Obama writes, “we couldn’t have been more different.” Obama was born in Hawaii and had lived in Indonesia. Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and spent most of his life in Delaware.

Obama was cerebral and reserved, later nicknamed “No-Drama Obama.” Biden was “all warmth” and talkative. Obama was running as a newcomer to politics; Biden had been in the Senate for 35 years. Obama is supremely disciplined in all his public communications, whereas Biden, Obama observes, is a “man without inhibitions, happy to share whatever popped into his head.”

Perhaps most significant of all, there was another potential candidate in the mix, Virginia senator Tim Kaine, who later became Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Obama and Kaine were good friends, had similar resumes, and, Obama writes, similar temperaments. Kaine had also been an early key supporter of Obama’s campaign and worked hard for him, while Biden had run against him. There were so many good reasons to choose Kaine.

Why pick Biden instead?

The decision was, in part, a political calculation. Obama and his advisors thought people who were uncomfortable voting for a relative newcomer would be reassured by the presence of such a senior senator on the ticket.

But there was a lot more to it than that. As he got to know Biden, Obama discovered qualities he knew made Biden the right choice — and they are qualities that everyone should consider when choosing someone to be on your team:

1. He was diligent.

“On domestic issues, he was smart, practical, and did his homework,” according to Obama. “His experience in foreign policy was broad and deep.”

During Biden’s brief presidential run, Obama writes, “he had impressed me with his skill and discipline as a debater and his comfort on a national stage.”

Obama knew how much work it took to be as knowledgeable and effective as Biden was and that he could count on Biden in a pinch. “I liked the fact that Joe would be more than ready to serve as president if something happened to me,” he writes.

2. He had grit.

3. He was resilient.

4. He passed the gut check.

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