In our examinations of various leadership styles and leadership qualities, none could possibly be more apt than Barack Obama as a case study. His refreshing ideology and brilliant execution certainly bestows us with many leadership lessons to draw from.
Who is He?
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th President of the United States. As an African American born in Hawaii, Obama took interest in being a community organiser in a low income neighbourhood, and served as a church based community organiser before studying Law at Harvard Law School. He was eventually sworn in as senator of Illinois in 2004 and inaugurated as the President of the United States in 2009. He was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.
Among the most apparent style of leadership that can be seen from President Obama is its transformational nature. Being highly charismatic and exceedingly eloquent, President Obama is easily able to influence the people he lead to work towards a common goal and achieve something larger than themselves. His persuasive and diplomatic style contrasts starkly with the more aggressive and confrontational measure of his predecessor President Bush, and it would definitely play an important role in forging international cooperation and inspiring action at home.
As much as it is ideological, President Obama’s leadership is also highly pragmatic, focusing on concrete issues such as non-insurance of healthcare and relationship with the Muslim world. This leadership trait is integral in his success in translating his noble ideas into reality.
President Obama’s leadership is also characterised by strong communication with the citizens of America and the people of the world. In this new world of information and knowledge, President Obama is able to capitalise on the media to communicate his views and messages to the American citizens. This fact is evident from his presence in talk shows. Being at the top of the any large organisation, it is crucial that messages and ideas get translated clearly right down to the last man so as to ensure congruency in intent. In this aspect, Obama has excelled in his keeping the people he governs in the know.
Being one of a kind, President Obama epitomises several leadership qualities and these can be valuable leadership lessons to take away.
Foremost, he listens. One would think that for such an outstanding orator, speaking well would be his key tool to influence and gain consensus. However, we must realise that communication starts with listening, and President Obama proves to be as good at listening as he is at speaking. As he proves to the world that he, along with the United States is finally willing to listen, the flame is reignited for further relationships to be forged and diplomacy to take place. When asked by a German reporter about his designs for the NATO in 2009, he humbly replied, “I don’t come bearing grand designs, I’m here to listen, to share ideas and to jointly, as one of many NATO allies, help shape our vision for the future.”
This leads to the second quality of empathy. The ability to put himself in the shoes of others so naturally allows President Obama to be able to feel for his people, and this helped shape many of his policies, such as his healthcare reform. The president once said, “The world doesn’t just revolve around you.” This highlights his strong belief that one need to learn to see things through the eyes of others. As leaders, it is pertinent to be able to see issues via the eyes of those we work with in order to understand their concerns. The ability to do so would certainly allow us to become a more understanding and empathetic leader.
President Obama also scores well in terms of being able to delegate tasks to more capable hands, and concerns himself more wit the direction setting and visioning of the nation. In higher management, delegation is a crucial skill to master in order to be effective. It allows us to focus on what we are paid to do, that is to LEAD and MANAGE our team, rather than to micromanage and be take on the jobs of our whole team.
President Obama’s frankness is also another key that sets him apart from countless other politicians. By communicating his goal honestly and clearly, listeners are able to sense his sincerity and will tend to trust him more. This is opposed to many others who choose not to come clean regarding certain ulterior motives, apparent as they may be, and this only mean that listeners are less willing to trust them wholeheartedly.
The last and certainly not the least of his qualities is his willingness to make tough decisions. Despite preaching cooperation and mutual agreement, President Obama is aware that gaining a majority of consensus is not possible and economic, and tough calls may have to be made at times. Right or wrong, it is more important to make a decision and take action, rather than to delay and shriek the responsibility to successors.
President Obama’s leadership style is certainly a fresh beginning for further realignment of the United States in terms of political, economic and social aspects. For aspiring leaders, his leadership qualities can be likened to valuable gems that we can model from, adapt, and use as our own, allowing us to take ourselves to greater heights.
Lucas Lin is a renowned expert in the field of leadership and management. Having held leadership positions ranging from management executive to operations manager, Lucas is in the prime position to offer advice on leadership and consulting services to leaders across the hierarchy. His years of experience in leadership render his advice highly sought after. Having served in leadership positions in various organisations, including a country club, a school and the military among others, Lucas developed an intimate knowledge of value-based leadership, which can be applied to all vocations.
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