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US president Barack Obama has plenty to teach today’s and tomorrow’s business leaders about how to win credibility in a difficult environment. By business coach, Steven Pearce.
Some of the techniques that got Barack Obama to the White House could help business leaders win credibility with markets and workforces.
Here are six secrets direct from the Obama war room that could transform the effectiveness of senior professionals.
'Yes we can' was astoundingly simple and refreshingly positive. Your strategy for your business should be brief - can you summarise it in a sentence? - but also consistent with what people know about your business and values.
If there’s bad news to be told, tell it. Candour will be respected, if not applauded. Avoid any sense of evasion. Obama’s inauguration speechwriters recognised this trend: few flights of rhetorical fancy plus plenty of plain speaking equals authentic communication. A good example comes from his recent speech to Congress where he said: ‘I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now. I promise you - I get it.'
The credit crunch means that people take much more interest in the credentials of those who wield power. Where did you come from? What do you believe in? People (literally) bought the Obama life story, because he wrote two best-selling volumes about it before the Presidential race. So get used to being judged on who you are.
From the beginning, Obama deliberately surrounded himself with demanding colleagues. He believed that a diversity of viewpoints made for better decision making. Obama campaign director Jon Carson built a team with unusual backgrounds. ‘I throw out the political science majors when I do the hiring,’ he said. Singing from the same hymn sheet can be overrated. It’s useful to have someone tell you if you’re singing the wrong tune.
Obama’s victory was enabled by thousands of (online) foot soldiers. Most had never been involved in a political campaign in their lives. Campaign chief David Plouffe kept people regularly updated with webcasts - and the result was better people power than his opponent.
How often do you make an effort to engage with your frontline, administrative and temporary staff? Make them feel centre stage.
These were voters in Obama's case, but they could be staff, customers or any other business stakeholders. Obama’s aides talked of ‘building a permission structure’ with undecideds - they were the people who needed to air their concerns and have them allayed.
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