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Obama USA CEO, Our First Good To Great President

Barack Obama Bill Taylor, co-author of Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win with Polly LaBarre also keeps an interesting Harvard Business Publishing Discussion Leader blog called Practically Radical.

On November 5, 2008, he wrote a post titled How Obama Became CEO of the USA — and What It Means for CEOs Everywhere.

Taylor lays out 2 lessons learned from Obama’s successful election:

The first lesson is that being different makes all the difference. It’s remarkable, really, how similar so many of our first 43 presidents have been to one another. It’s not just that they’ve all been white males, but that so many of them have been cut from the same personal and political cloth. Lawyers. Military service. Many years (if not decades) entrenched in the political scene.

There’s a second lesson we can learn. Just because you’re different doesn’t mean you can’t be disciplined. What struck me so strongly about the Obama campaign was, from the very first day, how ruthlessly “on message” it stayed, no matter the twists, turns, and psychodramas from the other candidates or the media gasbags. Bill and Hillary Clinton took some tough shots at Obama during the Democratic primary, and he never took the bait. John McCain and Sarah Palin unleashed some truly unkind and unhealthy assaults on Obama’s character and patriotism, and he never got down in the gutter with them — even when Clinton’s advisors, whom Obama’s campaign had vanquished in the primaries, urged him to fight back.

Both are good points although I believe that the latter is a bit stronger. Taylor’s quote of Jim Collins got me thinking about Obama being the first post Good to Great President and how that framework might be used to look at his campaign and leadership. (NB – Good to Great was first published in 2001)

Obama assembled a strong team that was relatively free of controversy and dissension during both the primary and general elections. Here is Collins’ theory of getting the right people on the bus in action. (Chapter 3: First Who…Then What.)

Change was Obama’s Hedgehog Concept (Chapter 5). He repeated his simple message of change, over and over again.

Of course, if you wanted to learn more details you could go to which matches up with Collins’ Technology Accelerators (Chapter 7). In fact, Obama excelled at using technology in communicating his vision and fundraising and when it came to young voters, this is where he held a clear advantage.

As mentioned above, Obama assembled a first rate team. They were confident about their strategy and never deviated from it over the course of the campaign; a clear demonstration of a Culture of Discipline (Chapter 6).

Consistent execution of and confidence in the strategy and messaging allowed Obama to run a steady campaign which continued to build momentum over its life which follows Collins’ Flywheel Theory (Chapter 8 ).

Only time will tell if Obama is truly that rare Level 5 Leader (Chapter 2).  Let’s hope so, because at this point we need him to be.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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Posted in General Leadership, Opinion, Politics + Government, Profiles.

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