Choose an example of a successful leader from the public/political or private sphere; and explain why s/he is a good example of leadership personified. Support your claim and bolster your argument with the theories and concepts in the text and lectures. Be sure to use facts, statistics, figures, and academic or scholarly articles to support your claims
Leadership is the art of motivating or inspiring a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations.
There are numerous leaders out there who have been successful in leading a group of people, an organization or the general public. Functions of a leader includes: Engaging followers, integrating them, catering to their needs, aspirations, and goals in a common organization while making them better citizens, followers and leaders. (Simmons, 2008). A good example that fits this category of leadership is “Barack Obama”.
Barack Obama was catapulted into national prominence, in part, because of his skill at building bonds of empathy with supporters from a seemingly impossibly broad political base (Noble , 2009). Conservatives marveled at his use of language and metaphors that resonated with their core beliefs, while Liberals and progressives believed that the rise to prominence of a self-identified African American with impeccable civil rights credentials represented a triumph for their own core agenda (Noble , 2009). This paper will focus on the leadership of Barack Obama; how he made history and was able to lead the country during the time of crisis. Furthermore, the theoretical standpoints of postmodernism and transformational leadership will be implemented to discuss some of the reasons he was successful as a leader.
Barack Obama was born in 1961 to a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas. He was raised with the help of his grandfather, who served in Patton’s army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank (Luce 2008). After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, he moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants. After that, he went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of theÂ “Harvard Law Review” (Luce, 2008). After graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community. Barack Obama’s years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents (Luce, 2008). As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass ground-breaking lobbying reform, lock up the world’s most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online (Luce, 2008).
- HISTORIC ELECTION
November 4, 2008 was an historic day for Americans, as they celebrated the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President.Â The election was the longest presidential campaign and the most expensive in history (Green & Roberts, 2012). Moreover, the historic event marked the first time that two US senators ran against each other. New York Senator Hilary Clinton was the first serious female presidential candidate, while Senator Barak ObamaÂ was the first African American nominated by a major party for president. For the Republican Party, Arizona Senator John McCain had hoped to become the oldest person elected president to a first term in America. His running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was the first woman vice president candidate for the Republican Party (Green & Roberts, 2012). The whole presidential race was full of historic moments and it was an election like no other. During the historical presidential race, the media and other experts would often discuss whether a multiracial candidate could win. Some observers argued that Obama may not win because of his racial background. Conversely, other observers viewed him as a post-racial candidate (Green & Roberts, 2012). Other opponents mentioned that Obama was too inexperienced, untested, and unready to become the president. Nevertheless, his political savvy, innovative election strategy, and charismatic personality was enough to make him victorious. The former Senator has managed to inspire astonishing numbers of people from different races (Black, White, Latino, Asian etc.) with his wisdom, optimism, wit, and exuberance. In one of his speech that took place on 27 July 2004 at the Democratic National Convention in Boston he spoke of his belief that, “…There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America. There’s not a Black America and White America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America”. (Noble , 2009).
- TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP
After the end of George Bush’s presidential reign, the American people had grown tired of the same political atmosphere. Voters wanted something new that could bring change to the country. Transformational leadership places intrinsic motivation on their followers, thereby creating a massive appeal to supporters (Green & Roberts, 2012). Bass and Riggio (2005) suggested that transformational leadership assist followers to grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs, by empowering them, and aligning the goals of the individual followers. Transformational leaders possess the personal characteristics of other effective leaders, especially charismatic leaders (Dubrin, 2013). Transformational leaders who possess a clear and compelling vision can impose their views of reality on followers violating the foundational principle of individual and collective knowledge creation autonomy characteristic of the postmodern value system (Green & Roberts, 2012). During the 2008 presidential election, there was a strong desire by many citizens for change in leadership. There were a number of things that needed to be fixed such as, the imploded housing market and the collapse of the economy. The bush administration achieved one of the lowest approval ratings in history (Green & Roberts, 2012). During the presidential election, there was a cry for change. Young voters wanted a leader who inspires and possesses a clear vision. This was exactly what Barack Obama did as a leader. He captured the young voters’ attention and gave the American people the change they’ve been longing for. He is a good example of a transformational leader.
- LEADING DURING CRISIS
Barack Obama got sworn into office during the time of an economic crisis. The country was undergoing a recession but nonetheless, he came into office ready to take action. One of his first priorities after getting into office was to tackle the financial crisis. His stimulus package and some of the carryover from the Bush administration pushed money into the economy when it was needed the most. His auto bailout gave manufacturing a lifeline (GM, Chrysler, Ford), and his support for credit starved banks, slowed down the spread of subprime contagion (Barmak, Beer, Brearto, Castaldo, & Cowan, 2012). Even though some believe he did not make the economic life better in his first four years in office, he certainly prevented it from getting much worse. And on re-election day, voters rewarded him for that. According to exit polls, more than half of voters still blamed George W. Bush for the sluggish economy. Only 38% blamed the president (Barack Obama). Surprisingly, four in ten people told pollsters they believed the economy was getting better. Among that cohort, 88% sided with Obama (Barmak, Beer, Brearto, Castaldo, & Cowan, 2012). In the last full quarter before the second election, real GDP in the U.S. grew at a slow rate of 1.3% and Joblessness remained very high. No sitting president had ever won re-election with unemployment above 7.4% in the months leading up to a vote (Barmak, Beer, Brearto, Castaldo, & Cowan, 2012), but Barack Obama was able to pull it off. During his second and most recent presidential campaign, ObamaÂ argued that the only solution to America’s deficit problem was a mixture of increased revenues and lowered spending. In contrast, Mitt Romney consistently maintained that he could eliminate the deficit without raising taxes. He even promised to cut them below their current rates. Mitt Romney’s plan was not realistic and his political agendas were rather inconsistent. Obama’s plan was a far more realistic approach. By promising to increase marginal rates on the very wealthy-essentially by allowing some Bush tax cuts to expire-Obama offered a path that, while not perfect, at least heads in the direction of future deficit reduction (Barmak, Beer, Brearto, Castaldo, & Cowan, 2012).
According to research, younger generation in the United States and throughout the developed world now possess a more postmodern and post-materialist value system. For the first time in American history, there are four generations co-existing in the workplace. Which are, the Greatest Generation (1922-1945), the Baby Boomer (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), and Millennial (1981-2000) groups (Green & Roberts, 2012). It became clear that Obama’s campaign communication methods and message appealed to the Millennia’s sense of community involvement. Barack Obama used the opportunity to connect with his generation and the younger voters’ population. The Bush administration was not able to meet the new set of values and expectations that the millennial generation is driven by. Some core postmodern traits include challenging authority, attacking conventional wisdom, tolerating ambiguity, accepting diversity, and building constructive reality (Green & Roberts, 2012). Consequently, postmodernists find themselves distrustful of institutions and hard facts. Baby Boomers’ leadership style is characterized by an autocratic mentality while Millennial are governed by a democratic approach (Green & Roberts, 2012). These divergent generational leadership traits inspire some followers while inhibiting others. It is important for a leader (Presidential Candidate) to understand the cultural differences of this postmodern generation in order to win them over as followers/supporters. For example, Barack Obama’s inclusiveness regarding the issue of religion was consistent with postmodern assumptions that reject mutually exclusive truth claims (Green & Roberts, 2012). He was also able to connect with the younger generation through the internet (e.g. twitter) and was successful in getting more than the usual amount of youths to go out and vote for him. Therefore, one may conclude that Obamas’ understanding of post-modernism and all the cultural differences of the new generation made a big difference for his campaign and contributed to his success as a historic leader.
To summarize in short, Barack Obama’s knowledge of postmodernism and his appeal to the different cultural groups across America (Blacks, Latino, Whites and other races) are some of what contributed to his success as a leader. He is a good example of a transformational leader. Barack Obama was catapulted into national prominence, in part, because of his skill at building bonds of empathy with supporters from a seemingly impossibly broad political base. His charisma, honesty and wit made him a unique leader. He believed in the slogan of “Change” which was what the American people wanted after the Bush administration left office. He was also able to connect with the younger generation through his savvy communication methods and through the internet which got more than the usual amount of the younger generation to go out and vote. This paper analysed the leadership of Barack Obama; how he made history and led the country during the time of crisis. It also incorporated the theoretical standpoints of postmodernism and transformational leadership to discuss some of the reasons why he was successful as a leader. His leadership during the time of crisis was also touched upon with some credible statistical data to back it up.