Leadership Lessons From Obama Addressing His Staff in 2008

“We’re going to have to be tougher, our game has to be tighter, I’m going to have to be a better candidate.”

I linked to this video a few years ago but it’s worth looking at again: Barack Speaks To HQ Staff & Volunteers

In this video, then-Senator Barack Obama is addressing his election staff & volunteer crew. He just won the Democratic Presidential Nomination and no longer battling other Democrats, he’s going to face down against John McCain and the GOP.

Regardless of your political affiliation or of your thoughts on the President’s performance in the past few years, its an objective fact that the Obama campaign was extremely well-executed. There were no major flaws, a lot of well run events, a lot of enthusiasm generated and a lot of grassroots efforts to actually get people to show up at the polls and vote.

Great campaigns typically have strong leaders and I think this video exemplifies how Obama lead. Look at how he focuses his attention on the staff’s efforts. How he appreciates the staff’s dedication, their commitment and paints the story of where they came from a few months ago, when they were down 30 points at the polls and he was fumbling at public events, to where they are now.

He shows his empathy for the volunteers – If you’re feeling burnt out, take some time off. I feel you. – but then brings them back to the task at hand – busting their asses and working essentially nonstop to win the overall election. He brings the focus to the wider world – a country with people who need help, help that (in their eyes) only the Obama team can bring. He reminds them of the legacy they have a chance to establish, that they can say they were a part of history.

He makes sure to touch on the various issues that he knows his staffers care about – the environment, Darfur (which I don’t think he did much about), education & the economy – which both shows his understanding of them and is a promise of what he will do if/when he gets elected.

I love when he says [my paraphrasing] – “You know, if we had lost in Iowa, it would have been ok. We would have a different Democratic nominee and would be putting our support behind them. But now that we are the nominated team, we have to win. We can’t lose.” It’s empathetic but tough.

A lot of great leadership lessons from this 13 min clip.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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