What would Barack Obama do?

By James Sweetmanv

Like me, I'm sure you watched Barack Obama's inauguration as US President on January 20th.

For me he is a source of inspiration. I feel better about myself when I listen to him, a sign of a true leader. Recently, when faced with challenging decisions, or at times when I'm feeling nervous, I find myself asking 'what would Barack Obama do if he was in my shoes?' Such a question is a great way of accessing our inner wisdom.

Having followed Obama's journey to the presidency there are many business and personal lessons we can learn from him.

Be your own Brand

When many people think of Barack Obama, the first two words that come to mind are 'hope' and 'change.' Brands don't just apply to businesses or politicians. Like reputations we all have one. What is your brand? What do you stand for? What is the experience you want people to have when they interact with you? Either you define your brand or your brand defines you!

Positive Thinking: Yes We Can

'Yes we can' was Obama's rallying call. It is such an empowering statement. 'Yes' -positive, 'we' - inclusive, 'can'- ability. What would your business or indeed life be like if the 'yes we can' attitude took precedent over the 'No I can't.' An enriched life and an empowered Business is based on saying 'yes' more times than you say 'no.' Simple but true.

Inspiring others by being yourself

IBarack Obama relates to people on a human level. He does not talk down to or preach at his audience. You get the impression that he speaks to the porter in the same way as he speaks to Prime Ministers. When he speaks, you feel like he is talking to you. You can relate to him. He is a natural at creating rapport with people and one of the reasons he is so effective at this, is that he is in rapport with himself. He is not trying to be someone he is not. Charisma is another way of describing this and my definition of charisma is public self acceptance.

Have a vision and communicate it clearly and repeatedly

Obama has a vision for the future and is able to communicate that vision effectively. He cannot achieve everything by himself, but by inspiring others to get involved, to volunteer their energy and enthusiasm, momentum is generated. What is your vision for your life or for your business? A simple way to start is to answer the question 'what do you want?'

Being and Doing your Best

"Barack Obama has been accused of being an elitist. He is intelligent, well-educated and travelled and he is also able to connect with the man on the street. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but so often we spend far too much time focusing on our weaknesses, ignoring our strengths. Similarly, we can be less than we think we are capable of, for fear of making other people uncomfortable.

During the presidential campaign the media hounded Obama for a comment on the news that Sarah Palin's teenage daughter was pregnant. Obama could have scored political points, but his response was simple and dignified -'my mother had me when she was 18.' This highlighted the nobility of taking the magnanimous path over the petty one. You may not always win in choosing to be the 'bigger' person, but you will certainly never lose. Dignity can be a rare quality, but its scarcity only raises its value and helps to solidify your eputation.

Here are two more business lessons we can learn from Obama

Embrace Technology

Obama wasn't the first president to capitalise on technology. JFK was the first to harness the power of television. Utilising the internet and the concept of social networking, Obama connected with millions. Technology develops ever more rapidly and there is no end point. As a business owner or manager you can no longer leave technological matters to the IT guy. At minimum you need to have sufficient knowledge to ask the question 'what can technology do for me and my business?'

Recruit people who are better than you

The presidency is too big a role for one man; like all managers, Obama's success is tied to the people he recruits. Successful managers keep their inner circle populated by people whose skills and intelligence can serve and benefit them, people who professionally complement their own skill set. We are only ever as good as our weakest link on their worst day!

Barack Obama represents a new type of leader, one who embraces change, attacks old problems with bold new solutions, and recognises that leadership is as much about listening and collaborating with people as it is about making tough decisions. The overwhelmingly positive response to Obama's leadership style is also a reflection of our desire to have leaders who are inclusive, socially aware, transparent and honest.

In a time of economic crisis we can continue doing what we've always done and hope for the best. Or we can draw from the leadership lessons of Barack Obama and increase our chances of winning against the odds.

James Sweetman is a Business and Personal Coach, specialising in assisting individuals and firms to be more effective at what they do. He works both on a one-2-one basis with individual clients as well as delivering tailored training workshops on a range of topics including Customer Service and Sales Skills. For more information visit www.jamessweetman.com or contact James directly at 087 2492774

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