President Obama & Leadership

January 27, 2010

President Obama & Leadership

  As I wait to watch the President’s State of the Union address, I keep thinking about how presidents and CEOs face similar problems. They are both seen as miracle makers which we all know is impossible to live up to. People and employees expect them to succeed on all counts from day one when in fact, leadership is about steps forward and steps backward. It is a long journey of success and failure. The difference between presidents and CEOs and most of us is that they know that their jobs are mostly about handling the constant barrage of bad news. President Obama, like CEOs, gets all the blame when things go wrong (no jobs) and all the credit when things go right. Unlike CEOs, President Obama is facing some of the greatest challenges he has faced. The Obama festival is now looking like the blame game. CEOs are in better shape reputation-wise than the President because they are slowly climbing out of the  economic hole. Growth is coming back and so are their reputations (a little at a time).
We are myopic when it comes to the President. I don’t think there has ever been a harder time to govern and lead a nation. The problems are overwhelming, the media splintered, citizens angry and the politics polarized.  I am dying to survey Americans and ask how many are not watching their TVs or listening to the radio for news because it is so unpleasant and uncomfortable.

The President has done wonders for America’s reputation. Let’s see that as a positive. There’s fascinating research by Simon Anholt who estimates that the Obama brand has had a tremendous effect on how brand America is seen around the world. He estimates that premium from Obama on brand America to be $2.1 trillion. According to Anholt, “America is once again the most admired country in the world (having slipped to seventh place in 2008).”  That’s a step in the right direction.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • Paul Seaman
    Posted at 18:18h, 10 February Reply

    I question Obama’s influence. Admired abroad? Perhaps. But by whom, for what and why? Dig deeper and you might find that the admiration is a kind of anti-Americanism feeling being gratified. In other words, reality and perception are way out of line. There was a certain integrity in the old position of authentic transparent tension between America and some parts of world opinion. Meanwhile, today, at home, Obama is increasingly perceived as a Dukakis-type leader (unfairly when his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel dismisses liberals as retards).Personally, I think America had more respect – grudging but tangible – before.

    • Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross
      Posted at 13:23h, 11 February Reply

      I think it is too early to judge. One year in the worst economic times makes it difficult to evaluate. I think we will all be surprised. Thanks for reading Paul. lgr

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