Reflection #21: A Model for Leadership– Alan Grayson a Profile in Courage

“Words are like heavy burdens for some. Like rocks or weights on your back. If birds talked they might not fly.” 

President Obama is carrying a heavy burden in trying to live up to his lofty words–Change You can believe in, Yes, we can etc and now the  Nobel Peace Prize adds to the expectations. An example of “high expectations” is Health Care Reform.  His promise during the campaign season on Universal Health has morphed many times during the last nine months.  At first, the talk was about the need and right of all Americans to Health Care through an ambitious and long over due single payer system like “Medicare for All”.  The “Single-payer” idea was thrown under the bus before it was even given a chance, then a public option to provide competition for insurance companies is being attacked by opponents as a government takeover and a Co-Op Health System was too hard to figure out. So, the latest compromise being discussed is to just let the States choose whether to adopt a public option or not. What a mess is created when there is little leadership shown on driving a simple, clear, and consistent message.  As we all know words are cheap, but action and follow-through are hard because it requires courage, risk, and an understandable message delivered over and over again.

Obama and his team seem to be ready to settle for any bill so they can  justify the time and political capital spent on this intractable problem. Maybe they need to reflect on this powerful message from Eric Hoffer, long time change philosopher and longshoremen. Hoffer said: “In human affairs every solution only sharpens the problem, to show us more clearly what we are up against, there are no FINAL SOLUTIONS.”  

President Obama the time for leadership is now. Leaders Serve Period, so no more waiting for others to carry the burden of action. You and your team must step-up, people are dying everyday. The following speech by Alan Grayson, House Rep from Florida, demonstrates the assertive and “profiles in courage” we need. Please Mr. President show this to your team and stop fiddling around. 

Assertive Leadership–Message to President Obama on Health Care Reform

“All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights.” Constitution of Massachusetts, 1778.

The question for all of us is whether Health Care is a right guaranteed by being a citizen of the United States or a privilege bestowed on the fortune few? Continue reading “Assertive Leadership–Message to President Obama on Health Care Reform”

Obama’s “yes we can” Leadership: Risk and Caring Confrontation Essence of Diplomacy

” I think risk is important…You only get out of something what you put into it and the fact that you are willing to risk something (money, friendship health etc.) means that you are going to get a lot more out of it.” 

 Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia, the clothing company   

I have not written about the Obama Leadership Effect for awhile and yet I am tracking the elements and characteristics of his pragmatic and empathic leadership style. By now we all know and respect Obama’s ability to connect through articulate, approriate and inspiring messages. His calmness, executive presence and ability not to take things personnally demonstrate an extraordinary tolerance and respect for other points of view. People in general do not demonstrate this openness to truly listen and examine their own points of view while taking responsibility for challenging others actions vs. their professed beliefs. Continue reading “Obama’s “yes we can” Leadership: Risk and Caring Confrontation Essence of Diplomacy”

Authentic Communications: Obama Leadership Effect

When we reflect on and look at the way we communicate and speak we are talking about leadership.  Leaders lead with their ideas, insights, words, presence and action. The way people speak and deliver words of praise or criticism reveals their values, beliefs and philosophy of life. It can make or break leaders because without trust there will be no followers“Obama or leadership effect” hypothesizes that leaders will be measured and judged by their empathy, confidence, clarity, authenticity, and the impact of their communications and behavior, not intentions. Leadership is all about connecting, inspiring, and influencing others to come together and take united action.

Like it or not, our self awareness, mental presence, and confidence (mental state); elocution or mechanics (voice, gestures, movement, body language, and eye contact); and messages (verbal impact of content) determine how we are perceived by others and effect our ability to influence them.  Effective leadership and extraordinary communication integrates ideas, insights, and information to inspire and influence others to act on their message. Authentic communication must challenge individuals in profound ways to choose action over words. (Obama Effect)

Lessons Learned from the Obama Communication Style 

  1. Know and go with what you got –Be authentic
  2. Show understanding through empathy asking: “How do you think that would make you feel?” (Obama’s mother always asked him to answer this question when dealing with others)
  3. Do not fear or over react to comments by others–Be true to your values and take the high road when building relationships.
  4. Reflecting on life experiences keeps us grounded and our mental maps updated.
  5. Keep your on eyes on the prize – Have a vision
  6. Replace Yes, but… thinking  with Yes, we can… and positive action will follow.
  7. Keep things in perspective and balance-Take vacations and pay attention to your family needs.
  8. No one is optimistic all the time. But anyone can learn how to adopt a more positive, healthier attitude. When you practice being an optimist, you’ll be on your way to being more confident, relaxed, humorous, and effective as a connector and communicator.
  9. Create “unique connections” by treating others with respect and dignity.  When people feel accepted and respected they have the desire and motivation to collaborate, share information, and work together to accomplish goals.
  10. Provide a common language and powerful theme based on building coalitions and cooperation.  Yes, we can. The focus is providing a vision, strategy, and tactics to support grassroots coalitions in understanding the need for change by building a strong vision for the future and creating trust through open and ongoing communications. 

Finally, one of the most powerful lessons is to be an effective listener by seeking to understand others before being understood. You can do this by using the skills of clarification, restatement, and reflection. This type of authentic and active listening shows your desire to forge a partnership not just impose your ideas. You signal to others your desire to establish yourself as someone who is  open, responsive, and flexible. Your goal in active listening is to create a positive and comfortable environment where participants feel free to confront different points of view because you are confident that listening doesn’t always mean agreement. By being an effective listener you show acceptance –without sacrificing your own style or point of view. To be an extraordinary communicator it is critical that the “message, mechanics, and mental frame” be in-sync through a common language of ideas and information that say, ‘I care and respect you and understand your needs and issues‘.  This approach is vastly different from many leadership approaches that promote “polish and presence” as keys to effective communication. By utilizing The Obama-Leadership Effect ™, leader-communicators can authentically lead in diverse situations and strategically build trust and inspire others to believe in their message and vision. Leaders must find their own voice, so they can connect with followers and present themselves as authentic, inspiring and memorable leaders. Given your experience and perceptions–What do you think makes a leader able to connect and be perceived as authentic?