When we think of a leader, we think about leading. We all believe that showing the way and making the decisions is what a leader’s job is all about. But as it turns out, the first African American President of the United States could not disagree more!
A thought leader is a person who will lead the masses by motivation, and there are few more excellent examples than Obama. He has gone from the Presidency to leadership in a seamless transition. Obama is presently the Founder of the Obama Foundation, an exceptional initiative focused on tackling youth disconnection and race-related issues through connection, drive, and growth.
Obama dived into the practical perspective of a thought leader with Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff in November 2019 to discuss the true mark of a thought leader. The points made in the discussion are eye-opening in their depth and are undoubtedly fresh perspectives from a seasoned politician.
As it is great to hear the leadership tips from great leaders, here we have listed the key takeaways from the interview that will help you understand Mr. President’s take on thought leadership. When it comes to a fresh perspective, Obama’s have indeed written the book ever since they were picked up for the Presidential nomination in 2008.
So here goes nothing!
1. Objective Connectivity is the Key to Success!
“A lot of times, the best answers we got were not from all the people with the most important titles or in the inner circle chairs — it was the people on the wall,” Obama said. “I figured out fairly early; those are the folks who are doing the work.”
It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but the fact is that leaders lead by connecting with the right crowd. A leader is not merely leading the inner circle but every person who is their constituent. The connection is the key to ensuring that the people you lead are feeling heard and understood.
2. Diversity in the Masses is the Key to Diversity in Thought:
If you want to know what everyone else is missing, you need to have perspectives that are not mainstream. A good thought leader will ensure that the cultural, social, economic, and psychological diversity is thoroughly represented in the inner circle.
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Diverse thought is the key to the difference in decision making and idea generation. A fresh perspective that is more connected with the outside world leads to a strong sense of variety in execution.
“Because we all have blind spots, which is why diversity is not charity. It is not something you do — if you’re in business right now, and you’ve got no African-American or Latino, Asian-American — if you don’t have diversity around that table you are missing a market, you’re misunderstanding,” Obama said.
3. Gender Equality Leads to Revenue Generation:
We are not asking for women on boards for altruistic reasons. Studies have shown that companies that have women in their board of directors are more profitable than companies where gender segregation is subliminally encouraged by the authoritative body. Women bring a fresh and unique perspective to the table that is not common to a male-only environment. And Obama puts that point eloquently indeed.
“If you don’t have women around your table … we see the data that they’ve shown, they’ve documented dollars and cents, S&P organizations that have a bunch of women on their boards, do better… Some of that is because women are smarter than men, but part of it is also the blind spots that are missed when you have one kind of person at the table.”
4. Say No to Yes, Sir Culture:
Obama seemed unwelcoming to the culture of Yes sir in the workplace; “Yes sir, that’s great, sir, you’re brilliant, sir.” Also, make sure that you live by the values you preach. The right crowd will deeply gravitate towards an ecosystem that resonates with their thought process.
“If you send a signal, these are our values, this is what we stand for, this is what we believe, and then people who share those values are going to gravitate towards you,” he explained.
5. Send a Good Signal:
The crowd you want to attract must get positive and encouraging vibes from you. You will find that the world will become far more conducive to your ideas on a cellular level if they can believe in your principles.
“If you ask me what I’m most proud of during my presidential campaign, it is that I think I sent a good signal, saying, ‘here’s what I believe in.’ That talent that showed up. If I was doing a global executive search, I wouldn’t have found all these young people who ended up working on my campaign.
6. Youth is The Key:
As much as we love the Millennial complaint center that every office seems to have opened up as of late, youth is the key to the future. It is exceedingly vital that your youth feels connected and provides their input when necessary. That is the only way to make sure that fresh blood, perspective, and ideas are always a part of the decision making process.
“I want, for example, young people to go into government. You can make amazing things happen in government, and you could do so much good, but if the signal we’re sending the young people is everybody in government is corrupt, and everybody is fighting all the time, and nothing ever gets done and it’s inefficient, etc, etc, young people won’t gravitate,”
7. Long Game is the Only Game:
It is crucial that the leader understands long term planning and believes in initiatives that will help the company in the next five years. Short cut solutions that are not conducive to societal growth, environmental sustainability, and other similar facets are highly toxic, and its high time that they were not hailed as markers of success. Profitability that works for everyone goes a long way to the sustainable growth of the company as well as the person.
“But if big businesses are sending a signal [that they’re] all about the short term, quarterly earnings, cutthroat, we don’t care about the environment … we’re just trying to squeeze out a profit, there are going to be some people who are attracted to that, but what I find in this next generation is the best people are going to say, ‘you know what, I am entrepreneurial, and I believe in the market, and I believe in technology, but those values that are represented there I don’t want to be a part of.'”
These are the few pointers that Obama shared on the process of thought leadership. They are unconventional to the point of feeling counterintuitive. But the changing times demand a change in perspective itself. It would be highly beneficial for the corporate world as well as the world in general if we understood the significance of organic and helpful growth patterns.
These simple steps will allow you to garner that mindset and will let you grow as a thought leader as well as a human being. So check them out and tell us how you found the experiences of thought leadership in your realm as well!
Emma Thomas is a content writer and a copywriter for bird of paradise linen clothing brand . A writer by day and a reader by night, she can be often found picking cherries in summer Afternoons