3 learnings from Obama’s State Of The Union address

President Obama has been an influential leader of our times and naturally his final SOTU address was watched with a lot of interest. I see a few take-aways for someone who is a manager or a leader.

Firstly, it is about engaging with employees who are leaving. Leaders adopt various practices while letting their employees go. The situation of each exit is different and the impact it leaves behind in the workplace is unique. Can we make the most out of each of these situations? I think, we can! Obama spoke about the future for the USA as he saw it. One might disagree with his views. However, he has contributed in shaping the seven years and beyond for the US and the world. SOTU, especially the last one is an opportunity to tune into the President’s ideas and vision. Similarly, creating an opportunity to delve into the future of the workplace, the possibilities and the potential could open up many new vistas for the leader. You would notice that an exit interview focuses heavily on the past, gets held by an email or an online form and many a times, not by a leader who has the ability to listen and steer the strategies. So, here is an opportunity to engage with the leaver by creating an opportunity for the person to address the future possibilities and make the person feel special. This could also be the opportunity to convert the leaver to a promoter of the employer brand and reap many benefits. Also, paths do cross and may be, the leaver now, will be an important stakeholder for the company in the future and a positive impression in his mind is not going to hurt!

Secondly, we notice the power and the passion with which Obama invoked a sense of American pride in its citizens and made them feel special. He gave a holistic picture of the leadership position enjoyed by the USA in various aspects of life in comparisoon with the other nations in the world. He interwove the bright sides of his own report card into his description of American pride. Undoubtedly, he is one of the best orators of our times and it was lovely listening to his rhetoric. The take-away for me here is to invoke the hearts of one’s team members and make it a part of the life there. The emotional infrastructure that exists between the leader and the team makes the engagement unique and long-lasting. This sense of pride and belongingness enables a unit to produce superior results. This is easy to say and hard to practice. This drive has to be clearly led from the top, not only by their words but actions on an ongoing basis. The members in the team must understand which behaviour is valued and what is not. They must experience it each day of their life.

Last but not the least, I noticed that Obama invoked some of the foundational values of the State such as equality, democracy, empowerment and so on. What such reiteration does is, a recollection, an emphasis and revalidation of the founding principles. As orgnizations evolve, some aspects of the organization change and transform while some remain the same. It is important to review those aspects of growing up from time to time and get in touch with the evolution process. This revitalises and strengthens the institution. While most organizations find it very convenient and routine to deal with the cognitive parts, the core remains unaddressed. Hence, the embellishments become the focus of the leaders while the core sobs silently and weakens. At times of crisis or when the winds of change blow hard, the weak core caves in and situations like Lehman Brothers happen. Hence, the top leadership must address the well-being of the core, unravel the changes taking place around them and steer the way for a strong core and a long life.

It calls upon us to demonstrate rigour and discipline to get things done!

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