The Four Critical Leadership Practices That Business Leaders Can Learn From President Obama About Driving Change

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New leaders charged with spearheading change efforts in a today's tough business climate should look to President Obama's use of four key leadership practices, according to a senior leadership expert at Interaction Associates, the innovative 40-year leadership development and collaboration firm.

Every new leader has something in common with Obama: The groundwork they lay early on through logical and sustained leadership practices will buy them the time they need to sort through some tough choices and to build momentum internally, which is critical to the long term success of any change initiative

New leaders charged with spearheading change efforts in a today's tough business climate should look to President Obama's embrace of four key leadership practices, according to a senior leadership expert at Interaction Associates, the innovative 40-year leadership development and collaboration firm.

Obama's example offers new leaders powerful insights into the foundation necessary to become successful change agents in business, according to analysis by Patty McManus, senior consultant at Interaction Associates.

"Obama is faced with dozens of issues that can sideline his change agenda - yet he's set up for success because he's effective at the four most critical priorities of any new leader," she said. McManus specializes in innovative programs designed to develop leaders for global Fortune 500 companies -- especially companies undertaking significant change initiatives.

The four key levers that Obama has a firm hand on so far -- and the ones that any new leader needs to master -- include:

Communicate Vigorously: Strong messages are critical, especially in challenging times, and ones that balance hope with realism. Obama is striking that balance so far - and new leaders everywhere need to be conscious of it. No less a figure than FDR set an example with a brand of leadership that boosted morale and built trust, which are echoed in Obama's early actions. Key in business: What core key messages can you narrow to and pursue vigorously, authentically, and in ways that build trust?

Emphasize Shared Responsibility: Organizations work best when people truly own common goals and commit to their accomplishment. The critical role for a leader, especially in difficult times, must include showing people what unity looks like. Too often, leaders avoid the voices that are doubtful, afraid, angry, reluctant. George Bush is faulted for this, even by his own supporters. Obama already has sought connections across the aisle and among conservative columnists. Indeed, there does come a day when people have to get on board or get out of the way, but sometimes leaders can't seem to give them any room to have those legitimate feelings and doubts. Key in business: Are you opening two-way lines of communication in ways that will build strong trust? Don't just say it, do it.

Avoid Group-Think: Surround yourself with advisors capable of robust and energetic debate on the important issues central to your challenges. Obama's doing that through his cabinet appointments and diverse staff -- the so-called team of rivals approach as favored by President Lincoln. In fact, one of his biggest former rivals is now his Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton. The critical need for new leader is to hone practices with advisors who aren't shy - which results in opinions that are informed, pressure-tested, and sensitized to the risks as well as the rewards involved in taking certain actions. Key in business: Trust fades when opinions are silenced for the sake of expedient action. How are you balancing expediency with the need to balance input and hear from dissenting voices?

Seek Early Wins: Initial victories build important momentum and sustain long-term strategy. They inspire confidence while moving a leader's vision forward. Leaders are wise to seek early, quick successes in lighthouse projects that signal a way through treacherous waters. All eyes are on President Obama in the early days of his administration for the lighthouse projects that will turn naysayers around and give him the wins he'll need to garner strength and clarity for the bigger challenges. Key in business: How can you achieve early wins in lighthouse projects bringing together multi-disciplinary teams that yield quick results and provide a means for people finding new ways to work together?

Patty McManus says that, for all his magnetism as a political leader, President Obama has no magic wand and he -- like every leader in business and beyond -- will get no free pass from the people he's challenged to lead.

"Every new leader has something in common with Obama: The groundwork they lay early on through logical and sustained leadership practices will buy them the time they need to sort through some tough choices and to build momentum internally, which is critical to the long term success of any change initiative," said McManus.

NOTE: To speak with Patty McManus or to get more information, please contact Michael Tirrell:
michael(at)michaeltirrell.com or 312-787-2426

About Interaction Associates:
Interaction Associates (IA) has nearly 40 years' experience in helping companies find breakthrough solutions to business challenges. IA's integrated management consulting and learning and development services have been used by Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations throughout the world. Interaction Associates helps these enterprises set strategic direction, inspire commitment, and build leadership capabilities, leveraging the power of collaborative action for long-term, sustainable results. Learn more at Interaction Associates

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