My mom used to say, “learning is like a box of Cracker Jack; you never know what the prize will be.” Okay, full disclosure. My mom never said that. But learning from moment-to-moment and from everyone you encounter is how great leaders become great leaders. Leadership can be the prize inside of learning.
Case in point: Barack Obama. No, this is not some partisan missive. No matter who you voted for a few weeks ago, whether you have any background in marketing and promotion or not, you have to be blown away by the campaign leadership and focus that catapulted him into the presidency. He learned and led moment-to-moment which allowed for strategic adjustments. The adjustments allowed him to overcome all of the odds and the list was long.
How’d he do it? What does it have to do with leadership? How can you learn from it? Let’s take a look:
1.) Obama didn’t let any perceived lack of qualifications stop him. Despite the potential gaps in his resume, he truly believed he was right for the job. He closed the gap between his beliefs and behaviors. He put on the “presidential” cloak and never took it off. People called him determined and persistent. On January 20, 2009, they will call him Mr. President.
Do you find yourself simmering in your own stew as others are promoted before you? Perhaps you need to put on the cloak. In other words, you must act and behave as if the position you desire is yours. When you do that, those in power see you in the position already and their decision is an easier one.
2.) Obama was always on message with his vision. By any standards, he is a master at the podium. He is a great storyteller and millions of people were drawn to him because of that.
Do you need to master the oratory like Obama? No way. But you can become a first-rate storyteller. First, you must be passionate about what you want. Then like Gwen in my book, The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable, you may use the step-by-step process of my Never Ending Story formula to create a story of the future that others will be drawn towards. Once written, share often.
3.) Obama certainly challenged the process. From the outset, his team ran their campaign differently than most past campaigns. Through innovation and technology, they used their network to expand the campaign network to millions of enthusiastic volunteers in every state in the country. I don’t believe any contemporary candidate has ever run a truly 50 state campaign.
Obama constructed and worked his network. Are you building yours? Great leaders are always building their relationships by helping others accomplish their goals. How are you doing with the servant leadership framework we share in The Offsite? Remember, giving always creates receiving.
4.) Obama enabled others. The vote tally is only one indicator. I’m sure we won’t need to look too far or too wide to find people who now see the world with new eyes. I look forward to hearing many stories of those whose lives were changed by volunteering in a campaign that was so well organized.
What do people say about working with you? Have you had your feedback today? Great leaders always ask my Four Commitment Questions™: What can I do more of? What can I do less of? What can I start doing? What can I stop doing?
5.) At times during the primary season when all seemed lost, what did Obama do? He encouraged his volunteers by repeating the story of what the world would look like if “they” won. Once they refocused on the vision, they were off and running again.
There’s no question that times are a bit tough these days. Despite the current reality, are you upbeat about the future or is your language dragging the team down?
When you speak with Obama volunteers, you hear stories about community, passion, celebration and recognition for their efforts. If I paid a visit to your workplace, what would I learn about you and your organization?