Lee Iacocca, in his speech about the nine C's of leadership, says that the most important aspect of a leader is his ability to shine through a crisis. The first question Lee wants to ask any leader is: "Where has he or she been tested and did they pass the test?"
During some future post I'll show you Lee's great speech. Today I want to focus on President Obama and how he dealt with his most recent test. The politics of today's America have become extremely polarized with both Democrats and Republicans pulling further towards the left and right. Whether this was partially to blame for a mentally ill man shooting a congresswoman and many bystanders in Tucson last week is debatable. But the shooting was one more polarizing event in this trend. Fingers were being pointed on both sides.
Then President Obama gave a speech at the Memorial Service. He used the platform to bring forth two major themes:
- We Americans should use this moment to heal and move closer together rather than allow it to drive us further apart.
- Christine Green had high hopes for the democracy of this country. We should live up to her expectations.
If you get time, look at the speech in its entirety. You can find it anywhere on YouTube.
I provide below a short excerpt of the speech that illustrates the two themes and shows the skill with which the President captures and expresses our emotions. Bill Clinton may have said that 'I feel your pain' but Obama shows that pain to us. When he pauses for 51 seconds I don't believe it was just to acknowledge the applause. I felt that he was thinking of his 9 year-old daughter, just as I was thinking of my 10 year-old sons. And I believe the crowd felt it too and sustained the applause to support him.
Leaders have shown throughout history, the power that a great speech can have to inspire their followers. President Obama is the latest in a long line of great orators. There is much to learn from his speaking skills.
Obama's speech excerpt
So, did President Obama pass the test this crisis put him through?