Yesterday I watched my first US Presidential inauguration and sobbed with joy, as I witnessed the beginnings of a transition which I had always hoped would happen but had begun to fear would not. To see America reaching out in peace to the rest of the world with humility and pride was a magnificent moment for me.
I realized that Barack Obama is able to inspire people to change through being a great orator AND through his ability to educate others. This is the first time I have heard anyone in public office embrace fully the positives and the negatives, talk about leaving childish behavior behind and the need to regain old fashioned principles. The new President of the United States is a superb role model and embodies the type of responsible leadership that I have been coaching others on for years. Before new behaviors must come new attitudes and it seems that Obama has seen into the hearts of the American people and has set his sights on explaining that inner change must precede outer action, before change can be significant or sustainable. A call to the people to take joint responsibility and an adult attitude was music to my ears and seems to have hit a chord with many people in the USA and around the world.
In the past in my workshops, when I have asked clients to choose a leader they admire and to talk about the reasons for their choice, a variety of leaders are put forward, yet the reasons are few and usually the same. Reasons like trustworthy, honest, has integrity, admits mistakes, is empathetic, takes responsibility, is accountable, has a clear vision and communicates clear expectations and …. a quiet confidence. The same characteristics have also been reported in recent leadership studies. Hardly ever does the list contain characteristics like charisma, overtly confident or persuasive, which sometimes surprises people.
In the future when I ask this question amongst American audiences, I imagine the reasons given for choosing a leader will be the same, yet I have a feeling there will be a significant difference. I imagine that, instead of people offering many different leaders as their role model , there will be one name above all others – that of Barack Obama. At least, I hope so, for that will show that his words in yesterday’s speech are already a mobilizing force and are being remembered not only today, but tomorrow and all the other tomorrows.