Analysis of the Leadership Style of President Obama
President Barack Obama seems to be a transformational leader who wants to achieve a deep change and mobilises therefore a lot of followers. In his election campaign he had three principles: Respect! Empower! Include! He said “It’s not about me, it’s about you! ”. The people felt attracted to Obama and were sure that he will be the perfect President. He received so many donations for his campaign like no president before in the history of the United Stated. He benefited from the big advantage that the people were very dissatisfied with George W. Bush and that they wanted a political change.
On the one hand he used social networks and he got in with the young people. On the other hand he managed that everyone felt as a part of the system and hence an incredible enthusiasm was created. The people began to commit with Obama and started to work for him in his so-called Workforce during his election campaign. He did it in the right way while giving them the opportunity to do what they could do best. Slogans like “Yes, we can! ” and “Change, we can believe in! ” underpinned his intention of a radical change, the healing of the sorrows of the Americans and the promise for a better life.
But in his time in office turned out that he has still to improve some of his attributes to be a transformational leader. He made some mistakes e. g. in the health insurance reform because he was not so personal like everyone expected. President Obama is not yet a transformational leader like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King but in various situations he proved that he has a lot of characteristics of this kind of leader. 1. Introduction The election campaign of Barack Obama from November 2007 to November 2008 was not a normal campaign – it was different.
He stated in inaugural speech 2008 that a “new dawn of American leadership is at hand” (Abcnews 2008). The big question is what was different to other campaigns. Was he really a new kind of leader or only another politician? What kind of leadership style did he use and is he still using? This analysis will show which leadership style Barack Obama used in his election campaign from autumn 2007 to November 2008 and how he approached his goals, roles and key tasks. Furthermore it will show if the start of the “new American leadership” really happened and hether he set a focus on team leadership as well.
The analysis is underpinned with the theory of transformational leadership. In the first part of the analysis there will be a detailed definition of the transformational leadership theory. After that there will be an extensive explanation of all the different styles of a transformational leader and afterwards a short definition of the charismatic style of leadership. These theories were selected as they are mentioned numerously in the literature, in the news or in the internet if searching for the leadership style of President Barack Obama.
Consequently they will be the base for this survey and will help to expose what kind of leader Obama really is. In the second part of the analysis the theories will be applied to the practice. It will be examined how Obama met the theories and what type of transformational leader he is. Furthermore it will be analysed in detail how he lead his election campaign. At the end of this paper there will be a conclusion with a short summary of the results and some comments on how Barack Obama could improve his leadership style. 2. Analysis A transformational leader recognizes a required deep change and accomplishes a vision to control this change.
In normal cases he leads with inspiration and realise the changes with the support of other people who are convinced of the change (Marshall 2011). He has a vision of a better society and his beliefs are based on so-called end-values like freedom, equality and fairness. As a result the leader has to be very active to reach his aims and motives. He identifies the needs of potential followers and goes one step further on. He recognizes higher needs of his followers to engage them completely (Rosenberger 2005). Furthermore he is part of the process to reach the goals and the motives and integrates his followers in this process entirely.
He forms – based on values – the political process, mobilises supporters and reacts to the hopes of the followers. If he is doing this well they will relate to the transformational leader and support him on his way. One important fact in this case is that the leader and his followers have to be inseparably connected so that their motivation to reach their goals rises in both (Rosenberger 2005). On top of that Burns (1979) differentiates seven different transformational leader characters: heroic, ideological, intellectual, revolutionary, creative, moral and reform leader.
The heroic leadership implies a harmonic relationship between the leader and his followers. Normally it is characterized by a direct contact, e. g. shake hands when the leader is in public. They are especially in societies which are marked by a crisis or a big change. A major point is the non-attendance of a conflict (Lowney 2005). The ideological leader phrases political aims based on a certain ideology. He has a deep persuasion of this worldview and has a clear borderline to the principles of other political groups. The followers know exactly with who they are dealing with (Boal 2006).
The intellectual leader is bringing new ideas into the society. He is part of the existing system, criticises and wants to change it. He analysis the established circumstances and creates a vision about prospective and better conditions (Money-Zine 2011). The revolutionary leader wants a complete change of the established social system. He overturns the current system, creates an entire new system and reconstructs the economy, law, medicine and so on (Burns 1979). The creative leader is setting new standards, creates new principles and communicates this to his potential followers.
The main difference to the revolutionary leader is that the leader creates something complete new. He has to underpin the ideas with specific politic projects (Rosenberger 2005). The moral leader has to have a relationship to his followers which is based on shared needs, expectations and values. He has to transform these needs, expectations and values so that they are able to see changes (Burns 1979). The reform leader aspires after realising a reform process. He wants to transform the social circumstances and changes something in the established system (Rosenberger 2005).
Aside from that the transformational leadership is also known as charismatic leadership. A charismatic leader is dominant, visionary, charismatic, self-confident, is recognized as an agent of change, has the talent to influence other people with inspiring speeches and an intense sense of the moral values of them. A charismatic leader has – as the name implies – charisma. This quality enables a leader to get the support of the voters and the public assistance. Some famous charismatic leaders were John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan or Martin Luther King (Articlesbase 2009).
There are a lot of behaviours what describe how the charismatic leader mobilises his followers, e. g. that he articulates a vision in a strong and meaningful message, has high expectations, gives confidence to his supporters, builds identification with his organization or rather his person (Coggins 2009). Barack Obama and his election campaign is a perfect example of the implementation of the transformational leadership. The success that Obama was elected as president was because of his excellent team surrounding him and the systematic implementation of their three principles: Respect!
Empower! Include! (Stronger Unions 2009). The so-called “campaign of change” mobilised nearly 6 million followers within only one year. Obama and his team received donations in the amount of over 650 million US dollar. Not only the amount of the money was very respectable but also that more than half of the donations were from single persons who spend under 250 US dollar each. Never before in the history were people spending more money for a political campaign (Associated Content 2009). What did he do different? How did President Obama mobilise so many followers?
He requested the people to be committed with the political topics which they were interested in. “It’s not about me. It’s about you! ” (The Washington Times 2009). He invited everyone to get involved however they want. Some people supported the campaign over the phone, some went from door to door, some provided their living rooms, their kitchens, their garages or their phones, some baked cakes and sold them in the cities and some were involved as security forces at public assemblies. Moreover they organised private call centre and wrote innumerable letters or appeals for donations and donated a lot of money themselves.
Everyone could do what he was able to do best and for what he had time for. Hence President Obama believed in the performance capability of the people and gave them the framework to develop themselves. This was underpinned with the word “Respect! ” and “Empower! ”. The word “Include! ” described the identification with the main aim and the feeling to be welcome in the team. Nobody was forced to be part of the “Obama campaign” (Wirtschaftspsychologischer Dienst 2011). Obama knew that the he could reach the best results when the people would have fun at work.
The intrinsic motivation of the most followers was the change of the political climate and the government. “We are fed up with bush! ” (Undiplomatic 2008). He managed that everyone felt to be a part of the system. Indeed is the influence of each voter not really high but in normal cases is everyone searching for followers and tries to influence his family, his neighbourhood, his friends or his colleagues. In times of social networks is the word-of-mouth recommendation still higher and all these steps were the beginning of the so-called “Workforce” of Barack Obama with him as the top (Dr.
Blaschka Consulting GmbH 2011). But he also made some mistakes in his transformational leadership style, for example dealing with the big issue of the health care insurance for everyone in the United States. He saw this problem and invested a lot of power and time in it but he made some mistakes. A lot of reporters stated that Obama allocated the work of convincing the people to the congressional leaders. He should have campaigned more personal. This topic was one of the largest issues in his time in office and he was not the engaged leader as everyone expected him to be.
Furthermore the news published that he did not used the power of his office to receive the required votes. In normal cases transformational leaders are using every possibility to reach the change. Barack Obama is a mixture of a heroic, an intellectual, a moral and a reform leader. He has of each of the four types a few characteristics. First of all he has a lot attributes of a heroic leader. He has a very good relationship to his followers and mobilised a lot of them like stated above.
Obama went to the late night show of Jay Leno, showed attendance at a lot basketball games and establishes a good reputation in the Latino community because he appeared a few times on Spanish language television. To sum up he has a very close contact to his followers and you can see him nearly every day in the public view. His appearance acts supportive to his heroic leadership style. He is clever and comes across well on camera. His approval rating in America is over 50% and the people think that he is well-suited for a 21st century president (Hubpages 2010).
Furthermore he is not only connected to the people in the US. In 2008 he has been to Germany and delivered a speech to over 200. 000 people. The people think that he is a real heroic leader and he has nothing but the interests of the people and the nation on his mind (Garbijman 2009). In the second place he is in one sense also an intellectual leader. Already before he decided to be a politician he was eloquent, wrote books and some people said that he wrote like a philosopher or poet. He brought a lot of new ideas into the government and created a vision which the people loved.
A leader who is doing this has to be intelligent or rather sophisticated (Dr. Blaschka Consulting GmbH 2011). In the third place President Obama has a lot of characteristics of a moral leader. He even formulated a moral leadership for the US. He bets on the so-called “soft power”, i. e. the power of the classic diplomacy, the power of a good example and the power of mutual respect. This also includes the international relationships, e. g. with the United Nations. He delivered speeches in Cairo and Prague, made an offer for reconciliation to the Moslems and has still the vision of a multipolar and nuclear-free world.
Since he made these things Russia for example renegotiated with the USA because they stated that they are willing again to hear what Barack Obama has to say (Stern 2009). Finally the fourth transformational leadership style of President Obama is that of the reform leader. In 2009 he started to promote his health insurance reform. On the one hand he spoke to the people in America. He delivered speeches, was present at town meetings and gave a lot of interviews in different TV shows. He argued to the people with a lot of different reasons.
He said for example that there will be a reduction of expenses in the long term or an insurance coverage for so many people as possible. In addition to this he said to those people who are not able to pay they will get help and those who are satisfied with the current coverage will only get a premium reduction. On the other hand he spoke to the lawmakers, in most times in one-on-one discussions. His brilliant public power of persuasion encouraged the people to agree to the reform of President Obama. He performed as an excellent reform leader to establish the health insurance reform in the United States (Associated Content 2009).
The charismatic leadership style is one of the most discussed topics on Barack Obama. In his election campaign he created an incredible enthusiasm at the young people in America. He played the role of something like a “regenerative healer” (Articlesbase 2009). He said in different speeches that schools in America are crumbling, that millions of people in the United States are having a lot of problems in their life like high invoices for gas or no health insurance. He continued and said that they are in need of a political reformation and if he is allowed to do this, they will leave behind a stronger America to their children.
Based on these statements he formed the slogans “Yes, we can! ” and “Change, we can believe in! ”. In other words his charismatic leadership was underpinned with the belief of a radical change, the healing of their sorrows in America and the promise for a better life. But he did not only prove his charismatic leadership style in his election campaign. Since he has been elected as President he stays accessible to the citizens in the US. He often shows himself in the internet media like Youtube, Facebook or MySpace and is thereby connected to the younger generation.
Further on he travels abroad a lot – more than any President before and he visited more than 85 public events just in his first 100 days in office (Coggins 2009). President Obama has this attribute that he does not use an authoritarian or a conservative leadership style; he has intuition and is sympathetic so that he convinces people with his incredible persuasive speeches and his characteristics. The big question for the future is if he is able to accomplish all of his promises and in which way he will do the promised change in America (Articlesbase 2009). 3. Conclusion
Barack Obama inspired a lot of people with his election to be the President of the United States of America. Everybody knows that he is a transformational character in the world scene but this paper analysed more precisely if he is also a transformational leader. Especially in his election campaign he showed a lot of transformational leadership abilities. A lot of people compared him with leading figures like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King. He mobilised a lot of followers with his convincing speeches and his charisma who donated so much money like never before in a political campaign.
The people began to commit with Obama and started to work for him in his so-called Workforce. He did it in the right way while giving them the opportunity to do what they could do best. Furthermore he convinced the American people by talking about change and a new America. He used the unpopularity of the Bush government and knew that everyone wanted to a have this change. But going forward to his time in office he made some mistakes for a transformational leader, e. g. in the health insurance reform. He has to solve some problems more personally and has to be closer to the public.
If he is able to re-integrate the people in his leadership and engage them like he did it in times of his election campaign, he will be more a transformational leader. Therefore it can be said in summary that President Barack Obama is not yet a complete transformational leader. The overall impression shows that he is on the right way and has a lot of good characteristics as he has shown in his election campaign from autumn 2007 to November 2008. But in his time in office turned out that he has still to improve some of his attributes to be this transformational leader.