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3 Leadership Principles from State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama


---by V. Jesse Smith

On Monday, January 20, 2015, President Barack Obama, the leader of the free world, gave the State of the Union address to the nation. He spoke with such eloquence, conviction and professionalism. Whether you are a supporter of President Obama or not, one has to acknowledge that he represented our nation with scholarly excellence and erudite brilliance. He also gave us several universal leadership principles of which I will only highlight three (3) in this article. I believe we can apply these leadership principles in our lives. They are as follow:

1) Highlight Your Accomplishments as a Leader: As a leader, we often fail to highlight the accomplishments we achieve in our personal or professional life for fear of being arrogant, pompous and/or egotistical. However, as a leader, against traditional wisdom, it is necessary for you as a leader to highlight the accomplishments completed under your leadership. Such acknowledgment validates you as a leader, and inspires and motivates those who follow you in your business or organization. If you are a leader of an organization, highlighting the successes of the organization helps serve as a measuring your-stick of progress. It doesn’t say what you did, but it does say what “we” did under your leadership.

President Obama started his State of the Union address by reminding America that the State of our Union is strong and going well. He immediately highlighted the accomplishments that America has made under his leadership. Moreover, he highlighted specific detailed accomplishments which he believed Americans would immediately resonate with as citizens of this great country. President Obama highlighted the following:

• “Over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.”

• “Our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.”

• “Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.”

As a leader, how well have you highlighted the accomplishments you have achieved personally and professionally? How well have you highlighted the accomplishments of your business or organization? Do your employees or staff know what they have accomplished as a company either by way of profits, services or products? When you highlight your accomplishments as a leader, people feel proud to be part of that accomplishment. President Obama by highlighting his accomplishments, citizens felt proud to be Americans and part of a leadership that was and is making America great.

2) Don’t Get Stuck on Policy: There are two kinds of leaders: transformational and transactional. A Transformational leader is a visionary leader who is unafraid to test the waters, disturb the status quo and become unconventional. On the other hand, a Transactional leader is one who maintains the status quo; who goes along to get along, and who is resistance to change and evolution.

President Obama told the nation that under his leadership, he thought it was time to change the policy that the United States had with Cuba regarding its universal embargo against Cuba. “If a policy has not worked for over fifty-years, it’s time to try something differently.” Clearly, President Obama is a transformational leader and not a transactional leader. As a transformational leader, President Obama was not afraid to test the waters with Cuba and re-establish Cuba relations with President Raul Castro. He was not afraid to disrupt the status quo. He realized that we as a nation could no longer go with the myopic view “go along to get along.”

As a leader, you have to realize that if something is not working in your life, business or organization, don’t be afraid to change and do something else. People may not understand why you are doing a change when it is against policy, but your leadership insight must give you the energy to change that policy if the policy is not accomplishing that which it was designed to do. Thus, don’t be a transactional leader, instead, be a transformational leader. A transactional leader will keep you stuck to that policy and therefore unproductive for the rest of your life.

3) Realize the Best Revenge is Massive Success: Successful leaders realize that their success attracts haters. It is unfortunate, but when you are a successful leader, you will attract people who are jealous and envious of your success. They will bad-mouth you; slander you; lie on you and portray you as unfit for leadership. How should we respond to such haters? Don’t seek revenge; just continue to be successful at what you do best. Frank Sinatra, old blue eyes, once said that “the best revenge against someone who has done you wrong is massive success.”

President Obama beautifully and skillfully proved the aforementioned leadership principle at the State of the Union address. During his magnificent speech to both Houses of Congress, President Obama stated that he “had no more elections to run.” After making this statement, the Republican side of the Congress broke out with zealous applaud as to say “we are happy you are not running again.”

However, President Obama swiftly and quite astutely responded to their applauds by stating “…that’s because I won both races.” What a Kodak moment!

The best revenge against your haters is massive success. President Obama ran for the White House two times and beat the Republicans at their own game. He did not need to get revenge against them; all he needed to do was to do what he did best—represent the American people and win the presidency for two terms.

As a leader, are you good at what you do? If you are, then don’t worry about what your enemies and haters are saying about you. Do what you do best. Don’t seek revenge on how to get back at them. Just be massively successful at what you are doing. While they may hate you on the outside, inside they desire to emulate you. Beat them down by staying motivated; beat them down by remaining disciplined; beat them down by being massively successful at what you do best.

In conclusion, President Obama illustrated three (3) principles of leadership we can all incorporate in our leadership skills. First, always be mindful to highlight your accomplishments as a leader of your life and/or the organization you represent. Secondly, be flexible in your leadership. Don’t get stuck on policy. If something in your life or organization is not working, be willing to try something different. Lastly, as long as people hate on you that means you are doing something right. As a leader, don’t seek revenge against them; just be massively successful at what you do.

Remember, “your experience shapes your leadership, until your leadership kicks in to shape your experience.”


About the Author: V. Jesse Smith is a national motivational speaker who conducts Leadership and Self-Empowerment seminars throughout the nation encouraging people to live their dreams by improving their skills. Mr. Smith is the author of two (2) well-received books and is president and founder of Heights of Greatness Leadership Institute. Mr. Smith can be reached at (661) 992-9052.

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