Is President Obama a Leader?

Isn’t that an interesting title? With a title like that if I write this post just right I should be able to make pretty much everyone who reads it mad. Even if that’s not my intention.

On the surface the title is a ridiculous question. Though it’s much debated in the media there can be no doubt about it; President Obama is a leader. For my conservative friends let me repeat; President Obama is a leader. 

I don’t think I’ve ever done a leadership presentation where I haven’t early on stated that the essence of leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less. The Presidency of The United States is a position of influence. If by nothing but position alone President Obama is a leader. He has perhaps more influence than any other living individual in the world. Therefore, he is a leader. 

Now, before my conservative friends go completely off the deep end let me ask a more relevant question. Does President Obama Lead? 

Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. At critical times during his presidency he has been present but his leadership has not. It’s just kind of disappeared. 

Now that I have my liberal friends upset too let me get to the point of this post. It is not about President Obama. It is about you!

Many people reading this post consider themselves to be a leader. They have titles and hold positions in companies and organizations which provide them with a great deal of influence. That, just like President Obama makes them a leader. But it doesn’t mean they truly lead. It doesn’t mean they are an Authentic Leader.

Sometimes, when a leader is most needed their leadership disappears. That happens to a lot of leaders, not just Presidents. 

Does it happen to you? Do you make the all too common mistake of thinking your title or position will lead for you? Do you believe your influence will persuade and motivate people all by itself?

Leadership is not complicated but it also isn’t passive. Leadership is an activity, it must be done to be effective. Leadership is bold, it makes waves, it confronts, it takes risks. Leadership must be visible at all times. It doesn’t always have to be out front but whether it’s elbowing it’s way around the middle of the pack, pushing from the rear, or pulling from the front, it’s presence must be seen, felt, and heard. Always.

Leadership doesn’t just happen, a leader, at least an authentic leader, makes it happen. 

Before you criticize President Obama or any other leader ask yourself what you did last week to DEMONSTRATE your leadership. What ACTIONS will you take this week to DEMONSTRATE that you’re not a leader is name only? 

Allowing your title or position to speak on behalf of your leadership is a lazy way to lead. SHOW you’re a leader through you actions and people will follow. 

After all, everybody knows that actions speak louder than words.

13 thoughts on “Is President Obama a Leader?

  1. Initially, I was rather excited about reaching a new mark and milestone in our history that the Obama presidency ushered in…I love all of our historical ‘firsts’…these are monumental occasions.

    That said….what is up with ObamaCARE!? What happened that we started out with a democratic presidency that….unless I’m totally mistaken, has been making some rather ‘communistic’ decisions during it’s tenure.

    But I digress and I know that’s not really the focus of your post here.

    No one is perfect. None of us. Not one. Yet it’s really important to either wake up and/or stay awake, especially now at this point in our history. When people who DO occupy ‘legitimate’ and visible leadership positions, now more then ever leaders are needed to awaken from the comatose state of relying on titles alone. To stay sleeping and relying on the title will lead the nation right off the cliff, so to speak. And all that follow will jump off that cliff right along with them.

    Now more then ever ALL of us, regardless of title, position, rank, status in life…needs to do what they can when the ‘call’ arises.

    And no….it won’t always be easy or the popular thing to do.

    • It always amazes me that some people work hard to earn a position of leadership and then “rest” when they get it. When we earn a leadership position we don’t earn the right to coast, we earn they right to work harder, to influence and impact more people and make a long-term positive difference.

      We have not “arrived” when we earn that leadership position. That is when our true leadership journey begins. And you’re right, we all can and must lead whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself!

  2. Brilliantly written, Steve. They style of leadership you describe requires huge energy and determination to maintain. At the highest levels of government, where the opposition is playing at the same level (whether that is the enemies within, or the enemies outside the country) It is excruciatingly hard to maintain. On a good day, with a strong staff.
    I’m thinking of FDR as I write this, and all he accomplished on so many fronts with fierce physical challenges. I don’t know that anyone in the running for such a position can anticipate what it will actually take to do the job.
    Knowing that as an outsider, getting my news filtered so many times by the government and the media, I know very little of the truth of any given situation, I try not to judge- Who really knows what battles are raging behind closed doors, or the full terms of a compromise which we might detest.
    Your point on a personal level is well taken. We must remain involved, and maintain the relationships which facilitate the involvement, as the work of our family, business, or organization moves forward. It is easy to turn away when we are weary- or bored- but that isn’t what effective leadership allows. Leadership is as much about perseverance and attention as it is about title or power.
    Great insight here. I hope it will help some young folks on the way up 😉 May all be well with you, WG

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Authentic leadership is a passion and not for the weak of heart. When you have a passion to help others succeed it becomes a little easier to fight the battles you speak of.

      • I agree with you completely. Passion for one’s cause is THE deciding factor in success, in my opinion. Passion is the energy which fuels you when things get tough. And things ALWAYS get tough when you are making change and moving forward. May all be well with you, WG

  3. What I don’t see in your post is the discrimination between the power of influence and the power of position. The power of position (authority) does not make one a leader. It’s an appointment whether you are a leader or not. Within the US, the Office of the President of the United States has authority based on position. People respond no matter whether the person who holds the office is a leader or not. It’s a legal issue, and depending on who the President is and an individual’s response to authority, one can feel the heavy hand of government upon their life for better or worse. There’s a lot of potential pain associated with noncompliance. On the world stage, the same office has the power of influence, because there is no legal bearing of authority or position. Influence is only effective to the degree the international community responds. Some in the community of nations respond positively to the US and the influence of the POTUS, while others choose not to and go their own course. This is especially true during this Presidency, where the rhetoric has been constant, yet hollow and without any weight. We see pushback against American influence and the presumptive leadership that your post asserts, so much so that the US’s standing in the world has been diminished under its current “leadership”. The US has demonstrated an gross unwillingness to act unilaterally when it is in our best interests and even when human rights seem to be threatened. The US’s ability to act righteously has been sorely compromised. The test of leadership is how well one can influence absent the power of position (Authority). Without influence leadership is ineffective. And a sure sign that the subject of the title of your post is not an actual leader is how this nation has become so divisive and polarized during his tenure. Do you want to see positive leadership in action? Watch Corey Booker.

    • Good comment. You are absolutely correct that real leaders can influence without authority. The difference between an authentic leader and a leader by position only is that a positional leader can get the compliance of their people by their authority. An authentic leader on the other hand doesn’t need compliance because they earn the commitment of their people.

      Committed people will out perform compliant people everyday of the week. Compliant people tend to push back and eventually work against the leader, committed people battle along side the leader not against them.

      When the positional leader is more concerned with their own well being than they are with the well being of their people the organization, business, or country, will decline.

      It’s why I believe authentic leadership is so vital for the success of any endeavor.

  4. willisturner says:

    I think all leaders should be judged by at least one simple metric. Did they leave the organization they led in better shape than when became the leader. If only it were that simple.

    • That’s not a bad metric to use 🙂 But you’re right, it’s not that simple. There are a lot of factors that play into success but the truly great leaders, level 5 leaders for example, find a way to control most if not all of those factors.

      Sometimes a little time also helps determine whether the organization is indeed better off. At the say with the Affordable Care Act…. Time will tell! 🙂

      Thanks for your comment Willis, and thanks for reading the whole post!

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