A Crucial Leadership Failure Learned from President Obama

President Obama

This is not a political blog post.

This is not an opinion about whether one side is right and the other is wrong.

This post is an observation on leadership from an independent British guy who has lived in the United States for the last fourteen years. (As a green card holder, I can’t even vote)! 

David Letterman has a point! Recently, following the elections David Letterman made the following observation:

“This is what happens when we have the midterm elections. The Republicans, of course, have turned against Obama, and the Democrats have also turned against Obama. That’s a lonely, lonely gig being president, ladies and gentlemen.
“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”
He’s got a point doesn’t he? Forget for a moment about what many of us know about other policies and decisions.
Most presidents would give their right arm arm to walk into an election with this scenario! Gas under $3 a gallon, unemployment is the lowest in a long time, and yes, the stocks have rebounded!

So, why is he so unpopular on both sides? 


Trust has been lost. I don’t know where you fall on the political spectrum, but I think most people can acknowledge that there have been many things that have been said that have not come to fruition. Perhaps the greatest example is with healthcare reform:

“If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan…” 

As millions of people have discovered, this simply is not true in the reality of what we have had to do. It does not matter whether you support him or not, instances like this have caused both sides to doubt. I believe the heart of his lost influence as a president stems more from a lack of trust than the policies he has created.

Trust was lost in a similar way. Remember when there was “clear evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? (Recently, with the uprising of ISIS, I have heard that there is concern they will come into control of such weapons). Regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction have been found since the Iraq war, this was not the case when troops occupied Iraq.

Suddenly George W. Bush found himself isolated and alone as a leader. Once again, support was lost. Why? TRUST.

The Bottom Line: It’s an enormous task of leading a country in comparison to how most of us live and lead. However, here’s what we can learn from President Obama and George W. Bush.

No matter how successful a leader is in accomplishing goals, their influence and ability to lead people will be lost when they lose the trust of the people. People only follow the leader when they trust his or her words. Once trust is lost, a leader will lose the support of the most avid followers. 

Practically Speaking. So here are a few things to consider in your context of leadership:

1) Surround yourself with people who give you accurate information.

2) Surround yourself with a wide bandwidth of leaders who represent the people you are leading. Avoid listening only to the “yes” people.

3) Don’t make promises you cannot fulfill and avoid spinning the facts to make a case for your plan. Use your words very carefully! 

4) Be prepared to eat humble pie and admit when you have made a wrong turn!

Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s essential you and I learn from world leaders.

Sometimes this means learning from their mistakes in order to avoid them in our context. It’s also imperative that you and I humbly understand that the role of the president is probably the most challenging role any human being can undertake. While we can learn valuable lessons from President Obama and George W. Bush (and leaders like them), its essential that we learn with a spirit of humility and avoid becoming just another critic. After all, there are already enough cynical critics in the world today…

Phil <>< 

photo credit: The City Project via photopin cc

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