Where Barack leads, others can follow

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20th Jan 2009
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Barack Obama Suzanne Bates, the author of 'Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!', reports from Boston, America on the Obama effect, and explains how business leaders can follow the president's inspirational style.

President-elect Barack Obama has demonstrated during the transition period that he intends to become both Chief Motivating Officer and Communicator-in-Chief for the USA after taking office. In the process, he is setting excellent examples for beleaguered business executives to follow during this economic crisis.

Leadership and communication go hand in hand, and in challenging times, leaders must deliver a message of hope. Leaders need to motivate and inspire people by communicating with purpose and passion at every opportunity, as Obama has done during the campaign and transition period.

Immediately after being elected, Obama showed that he recognized he would have to become both Chief Motivating Officer and Communicator-in-Chief as President. He intends to harness the power of communication to spark creativity, ingenuity, and purpose among Americans. At every opportunity, he has clearly communicated his mission, purpose, and plan, so he could inspire people to allow them to connect with their own sense of purpose, and become part of the solution. Business leaders should follow his example, and utilize the power of communication to spark creativity, ingenuity and purpose among their employees.

Connecting people with a message of hope is one of the surest signs of leadership. Leaders can change the course of events by making people believe in themselves. People who are motivated and inspired will overcome the obstacles, defy the odds, and accomplish more. And this will have a direct, undeniable impact on the bottom line of your business, and the future of your company.

Business leaders should be closely noting and following these examples that the President-elect has been setting, and strive to:

Find a communication style that fits you best: Every leader has to develop his or her own style, from interpersonal to platform skills. Find a way of communicating with people that is honest, effective, and authentic to you. The real take-away from watching Obama is that in challenging times, leaders know communication is everything.

Become your own Communicator-in-Chief: Shepherding your organization through the turmoil of our economic meltdown requires you to put yourself at the center of the communication universe. You cannot view the communication ‘function’ as such – something that ‘other people’ can manage and execute. You have to stand right there and make sure it happens – position yourself in the middle of the loop.

Recognize your responsibility as Chief Motivating Officer: Look around most companies, and you’ll find people fatigued by stress, and depleted by paralysis. To end this, we need leaders who can motivate their workforces – to get them energized, focused, and working with creativity, as Obama has done.

Walk around and be among your employees. Many business leaders have retreated to the bunkers of their offices, instead of communicating their mission and purpose, and inspiring others. You must clearly communicate the mission, purpose, and plan so that it inspires people. This allows them to connect with their own sense of purpose, to become part of the solution.

Stay out front, even when you’d rather not: It’s hard to communicate when you don’t have the answers. In times of stress, we are inclined to retreat and wait. If you don’tfeel like you have something good to say, perhaps you think you should say nothing at all. Yet, what is really required is a full-court press. You have to communicate more often, with greater purpose and passion than ever before. While you don’t have all the answers, you get an honest, open, creative dialogue going with your employees and customers, and keep it going. You look for real signs of progress and give them hope.

Suzanne Bates is the author of 'Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!' (McGraw-Hill 2009).

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