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30 JANUARY 2009
Obama on Leadership

by Paul Bridle: Leadership Methodologist, International Researcher, Author, Inspirational Professional Speaker, Consultant and Facilitator.

After eight years of the Bush Administration and the last year of electioneering, the whole world watched as the first African-American took the oath of office and became the 44th President of United States of America.

His inaugural speech lacked the RA-RA of his previous speeches, rather it focused on setting out his approach to doing business. Time will tell how much of what he says he can live up to, or should I say that the establishment will let him.

The speech struck me on a number of valuable points. After making the point that the previous administration's actions were questionable and certainly not how he intends to do business, he made a great point that we would all do good to remember at the moment:

"We are no less productive, our minds no less inventive, our services no less needed, our capacity remains undiminished".

The details I think worth noting are the points that he makes relating to ‘Leadership'. Referring to United States of America, he said, "…we are ready to lead once more".

I took a few quotes that are worth considering about leading. These are all worthwhile aspects of leadership that we would all do well to remind ourselves from time to time.

First he made the comment: "Our power alone can't protect us nor does it entitle us to do with as we please. Our power grows through prudent use".

Leaders sometimes allow the power to go to their head. Some abuse their power. It is a wise person that recognises that with power comes responsibility and that how it is used defines how it will either grow or diminish.

To the adversaries he said, "We will work with you with mutual interest and mutual respect".

To his enemies he said, "…your people will judge you on what you can build, and not what you can destroy". Then he added a challenge: "We will extend a hand if you are prepared to unclench your fist".

Leaders do well to consider how their people will judge them and what they will judge them on. If we understand what our people want from us, we can then manage those expectations and deal with it accordingly.

It is also good to see how the ownership for the outcome was shared by offering the hand if the other is prepared to "unclench your fist". Setting out the basis for the future of the relationships in a fair but firm manner, is the sign of a good leader.

The President also spoke about "a new era of responsibility". Responsibility is certainly the name of the game at the moment. In defining the values, he said: "Honesty & hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism".

He certainly was clear that it was a time to give and not to just take. This was a central theme, and the first two values are probably the most important - and said the most about him.

It would be a good time to consider what you would say to your team if it were your inaugural speech? You may not be in a position where you are just taking on the role as leader, but the times are changing and people are looking to their leader for what this all means and how this will affect them.

So how are you going to address them? What do you give them in terms of clarity for what you stand for, what you expect and what is important to the business in the next couple of years?

Bridle Research and Development Limited
Paul Bridle is an Information Contextualizer and Leadership Methodologist. For over two decades he has researched effective organisations and the people that lead them. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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