What is President Obama’s style?

What we are seeing from President Obama an Analytical/Driver  and Laissez Faire (delegating/hands off) style or something else?

Delegating leaders offer little or no guidance to group members, like Congress and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise or aligned with the leaders vision and goals, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation. President Obama does this when he said on the Immigration issue that if Congress sends him a bill that includes a path to citizen he will sign it. Yet he is not pushing or driving the change, so he is condemned  and criticized for not providing leadership is seen as a hands off leader.

One of the leadership concepts that might be helpful in this discussion is Social Styles of Leaders. Understanding President Obama’s  leadership style might provide some insight into how he sees others and himself. Social Styles in a leadership context is made up of four types of styles, Amiable, Analytical, Expressive, and Driver. While no style is better than others, almost everyone uses one of the four basic social styles more frequently than the other styles. This ia called your dominant style.

The original research by Dr. David Merrill and Roger Reid in their book titled Personal Styles and Effective Performance is very insightful.  Subsequent studies show that people with high versatility or the ability to flex their styles in different situations are more effective leaders and managers, than those with more rigid styles. The problem is that most people do not know how they are viewed by others and cling to a preference or preferred style that’s been developed by their own unique experiences and environment. When we meet others unlike ourselves we naturally discount, ignore, or fail to adapt to their preferred way of interacting and impose our style onto them. This often results in poor connections, misunderstandings and conflict. With Obama this is displayed with his lack of effort to drive issues or connect with people who get things done in Congress. In is seen as aloof and distant by Repubicans and some Democrats thus diminishing his ability to persuade people to his point of view. Example, inability to close Guantamano Prison ion

Developmental prescription for improving as a leader Analytical and pragmatic Drivers need to develop more effective relationship skills like listening and empathy by. They might try this proven and  effective coaching intervention. This intervention is easy to remember if you use this acronym  RASA, which is the Sanskrit word for essence.

Let’s dig deeper into what RASA stands for:

1. Receive, which means pay attention and actively listen to the person.

2. Appreciate, making little noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “okay” “go on”  “tell me more”

3. Summarize, by using the word “so” For example, so– is this what you are saying or trying to tell me”. Then continue to dialogue until there is shared understanding because understanding is very important in a two-way communication.

4. Ask. By asking questions rather using Tell statements you will be received as a more open and flexible conversationalist because by questioning the dialogue is usually open-up  for sharing different points of view and the other person feels respected because they are being listened to and hopeful understood. By the way understanding in this context of dialogue does not mean agreement.   

The typical Analytical/Driver is not relationship orientated and likes to act independent and in dominating fashion. In addition this type leader as can be seen as the chart above shows they can be at times painfully indecisive, detailed but not very effective in connecting because .

caring, considerate, concerned and always available for a friend or colleague but very seldom at the front of the line driving and leading the change that people want. These people are great listeners and nurturers. As a general rule, Analytical/Drivers are experienced by others as to dominating, independent and not very open to other people’s point of view. In a conflict or argument they do not listen but tell others what they want.

They may lack understanding how they come across to others because of the “blindspot” that they are right and the other person is wrong.


avoid trying to introduce an idea into the hectic give and take of a group meeting. Instead, they may wait until the meeting is over and then track down a colleague and say, “I didn’t want to bother you or interrupt the meeting, but I’d like to make a suggestion, if I could.” Amiable leaders are perceived as mostly deferring to others. They will be ready to listen to you talk about how you feel but don’t initiate these conversations.

Tips on interactions with the Amiable Decision-Maker:

  • Avoid rushing through the agenda in a way that alienates others. Have difficulty in making decisions unless they see a clear conscience on an issue.
  • If you want something from an Amiable, emphasize what contribution the Amiable can make; always ask in a way that supports and respects your relationship with the Amiable.
  • Don’t ever ask an Amiable to “take sides” or “stand up and be counted.” or drive an issue” because amiable’s don’t like high-pressure situations. The tricky thing is, they won’t necessarily tell you that.

Where you’re likely to find them? Listening come with the territory for amiable, and their careers tend to reflect that. Common positions for amiable are in customer service and support, administrative areas and human resources departments. They also make great counselors and school teachers.
The view of Obama is that he is more talk than action. He does not like conflict and likes to be seen as thoughtful and pragmatic. This opens him up to being non-assertive. For example, he says he has been working very hard on the Health Care Reform bill. This maybe true behind the public view. Yet  he once said this process would be transparent for all to see on C-Span.

David Obey, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee,  recently said the White House has been useless in the Health Care Reform battle. They never let “single payer ” or even push for the critical Public option which would balance the power and influence of the insurance and drug care lobbies. This approach undermines the ability to lower  Health Care and Drug costs  in a significant and positive way. The White House pulled the plug on the Public Option and stood by when expansion of Medicare was buried and Drug re-importation was undermined by the White House deal with big Pharma. The bottom line is that the White has not been fighting for the middle class and many more people are dying and  are going bankrupt because of Health Care bills and drug cost. Obama’s leadership style is looking more like a Laissez-Faire or hands off leader which does little to drive constructive change. I hope my analysis is wrong but I am tired of waiting to see that Transformative style I voted for. What style of leadership do you think Obama is demonstrating? How is he doing? Let me know your thoughts.

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