Leader Profile: Barack Obama
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The Early Life of Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Obama Sr. and S. Ann Dunham. In Barack’s early life, he was educated in both public schools and religious private schools that instructed with catholic or Islamic principles. He began his college career at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He transferred and earned his Bachelor of Political Science at Columbia University in New York. The experience of pursuing his political science degree influenced Barack to take his education and skill preparation more seriously. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018)
After graduating from Columbia University, Obama served as an editor and writer for Business International Corporation. His first position in 1985 was the community organizer in the severely impoverished southside of Chicago. After spending a few years in this position, he enrolled into law school at Harvard and became the first African American to become the president of the Harvard Law Review. (Encyclopedia Britannica.)
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After law school, he married Michelle Robinson and moved back to Chicago. Obama later started Project Vote, an organization that helped thousands of African Americans register to vote and become politically active. Obama held lectures at the University of Chicago and served as a civil rights lawyer in Chicago. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Barack Obama began his political career with the Democratic Party when he was elected into the Illinois State Senate in 1996. His biggest accomplishments of his term were passing legislation that promoted campaign financial regulation and insurance for poor families. In 2004, he was elected into the United States Senate. He spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and impressed the audience with his keynote address connecting his life and stating that everyone is connected in ways other than just political or geographical ties. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
The Beginning of a Presidency
Barack Obama announced that he was seeking presidential nomination in 2007 in Springfield, Illinois. This news spread quickly and emotions became high. While closely battling Hilary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination, Barack defeated Hilary on June 3, 2008.
Barack Obama used his charisma to connect with his supporters and delegates. Obama became the first ever African American to be nominated for President of the United States. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Despite political opinions and preferences, Barack Obama successfully connected with voters and delegates. His charisma astonished those who attended his rallies and town hall meetings. Obama used his speaking abilities and knowledge to tap into the emotions of voters. He could make them smile, cry, and laugh in one event. His emotional intelligence led voters to search for every penny they could spare to make donations to his campaign in hopes that he would be their leader. Supporters felt that he was completely genuine and that he would truly work for them while in office. (Harvard Business Review, 2009.)
Building connections with an audience is key to securing their trust. Politicians in all political parties are not typically known to be trustworthy since many do not do as promised to the voters. One of the most difficult obstacles for a politician is to earn the voters trust. Barack used his emotional intelligence to earn the trust of his supporters.
Barack Obama historically spoke longer than most politicians at events across the world. His speeches lasted an average of thirty minutes longer than previous speeches. Most members of his audiences left feeling connected to his values and mesmerized by his ability to connect with people he has never met. Obama not only used verbal cues but also non-verbal cues to engage the audience. (NLP Coaching)
Barack was known for using language techniques in such a manner known as the “Yes Set.” Obama would typically begin his speeches with bad news about a particular situation followed with words such as “change” and “plan.” After using these anchor words, he would state his plan for solving these issues. He would finalize the speech with stating that he would be their President before election and continue after election day by stating that he would follow through with his plans while he was their President. He would leave the audience with the feeling of security and confidence in him. The goal of this language technique was to get the audience to answer “yes” to every step. (NLP Coaching)
The ability to persuade an audience to believe your message is key to winning an election. A large number of voters are undecided in the beginning of presidential campaigns. A strength that Barack Obama possessed was the ability to persuade. Obama used various rhetorical techniques to connect with his audience and motivate them to support his vision. These techniques were effective in influencing some undecided voters to cast their ballot for him in the 2008 election.
Another strength in communication was his ability to completely drive his points back home with his audience. He used great details to highlight his vision for America’s future and put emphasis on his plans to make that vision a reality. Obama always presented his topics with enthusiasm and used rhetorical techniques to powerfully communicate that message to the audience. The audience left feeling the power of his message. (Fast Company)
In addition to persuasion and leaving a lasting impression, the ability to overcome obstacles using professional communications is essential for all leaders. Barack Obama faced many obstacles during his life and time in office. These obstacles occurred on a daily basis and he used various communication techniques to handle each obstacle. His charisma and professionalism assisted him with remaining calm when faced with unprofessional confrontation. He did not use insults or avoid answering questions when faced with unpleasant situations. He did everything he could to come out of the situation with his professional reputation intact. (Fast Company)
While many people did not have favorable opinions on Barack Obama as a President, a large percentage agree that he was skilled in communication and public speaking. He arrived to meetings and public hearings well prepared and ready for questions. He did not avoid those who challenged him and his abilities. He also handled most confrontation professionally and diffused many tense situations throughout his career.
Connecting with Communication
As seen in most speeches and transcripts, Barack Obama’s communication style involved charisma, trust, and persuasion. The vast majority of his speeches were conducted in front of large crowds and viewed by millions worldwide. He approached the microphone with confidence and proficiently used eye contact with the audience and camera. Despite always having a large audience, his proper use of eye contact made audience members feel connected to him because he acknowledged them individually while giving his addresses.
Voters felt connected to Obama because of his down to earth communication techniques. He did not address his audience members as though they were below him. Unfortunately, some leaders rise to power and forget where they began. They tend to address their followers as second class and make them feel as though they are not worthy of respect. Many people saw Barack Obama as a person just like them who started from a poor family and rose to power with skill and determination.
Confident body language is an important nonverbal communication style for leaders. Obama stood up straight and approached people with confidence in his step. He would make eye contact when shaking hands and gave a genuine smile. This made his audience comfortable because he did not approach them with confrontational body language such as crossed arms or a fake smile.
Results of the Leader Profile
The Leader Profile on Barack Obama has taught me so many new leadership techniques. I now notice the Yes Set being used in different speeches over his career. Successful leaders in all different fields could benefit from using this technique and it is one that I plan to use in my career when speaking at meetings. Using this communication style will allow me to first discuss the situation with my audience and then present my plan to solve the issue. Letting my audience know that I have a solution will ease tensions and move the company forward.
One of my goals as a leader is to better connect with my audience. Studying his charismatic abilities and rhetorical techniques has given me new ideas for upcoming meetings. As a relatively young manager, it is more difficult to gain trust from my followers than it is for older managers. Many see me as unskilled and immature so these strategies could help me connect with them better in the future. I will practice the “Yes Set” and show my audience that I do have a plan to overcome some obstacles that we are currently facing within the workplace.
Barack Obama is a good example of leadership communication because so many of us can relate to the struggles that he has faced as a leader. Most of us have dealt with confrontation on a regular basis. Though confrontation may be motivated by different factors, we all know how challenging it is to remain professional when faced with someone who is unprofessional and unpleasant. As I have learned in this class, the way that you communicate when facing conflict can either help or hinder your efforts to diffuse the situation.
There are so many skills that we can learn related to professional communication from Barack Obama. We can all learn so much about persuasion and ways to persuade our audience without coming across as illegitimate. Persuasion will likely not be successful in the long run if it is not genuine. A large number of us also communicate our vision for our organization but do not provide enough points to create enthusiasm about our vision. A key part of the success of a plan is the motivation of the followers.
For this profile report, I obtained my information from a few websites that discussed his styles of communication. I also watched several speeches over the summer and searched for repeated communication techniques throughout his career. In the past, I have read both of his best-selling books and learned a great deal of information about him and his past through his own eyes.
The rise of Barack Obama shows us that having good communication skills can move you forward in many careers. Building trust and using good persuasion techniques will help us all connect with our followers. Analyzing Barack Obama for this project greatly assisted me in furthering my communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal.