Innovation in Leadership
One of the most remarkable figures in the history of American politics is none other than Barack Hussein Obama. Elected as the 44th president of America in the year 2000, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States of America. Among the many reasons that Barack Obama is an example is remarkable is his history, whereby he came from a middle-class background. Through education and hard work, he occupied the country’s highest office for two consecutive terms (Garrow & Constant, 2017). He was the definition of the American dream. However, his accomplishments were not only because of the factors mentioned above; one crucial factor that played a huge role in his success was being an effective leader.
In my opinion, I believe that the Great Man theory is the most suitable leadership theory that best describes Barack Obama. Accordingly, Thomas Carlyle, who stated that there are people who are born to be leaders, proposed the Great Man theory (Nawaz & Khan, 2016). Subsequently, the theory argues that leaders are born and not made. “It was believed that people were born with these traits, and that only the “great” people possessed them” (Northouse, 2018). The theory was proposed to answer questions like “why are some people drawn to bearing the burden of leadership more than others?”, “Why do some individuals rise above others and take up the leadership mantle?” and lastly, “what is it that sets great leaders apart from their contemporaries?” The theory answers these questions by suggesting that leaders are born and not made. As such, some people come into the world possessing unique traits that not everyone has. Due to these abilities, such individuals are able to easily navigate leadership positions partly because even other people are able to recognize these abilities in them, thereby acknowledging them as leaders (Nawaz & Khan, 2016). Obama is known to be one of the most charismatic leaders, “Charismatic leadership catapulted to the forefront of public attention with the 2008 election of the United States’ first African American president, Barack Obama, who is perceived by many to be charismatic among other attributes” (Northouse, 2018). He had followers who were completely devoted to him. His followers were unlike anything seen before with previous presidents, and this is attributed to authentic charisma. One perfect example is how millions of people volunteered to carry out his campaigns for years without getting paid a dime (McKenna & Han, 2014). This is in addition to receiving donations like no other president in America’s history. The nature of Obama’s campaign is one for the history books because of how much money and time was spent on it, and not motivated by power or money, but because these individuals believed in him.
Further, the Great Man theory argues that great leaders arise in a time of need. Obama was elected shortly after the 2008 great recession, which had devastated both America’s and global economies. Unemployment was at 10%, and a 4.3% decline in GDP (Pissarides, 2013). People were suffering and needed some hero to save them. With his “Yes we can” slogan, Obama was able to give hope to the suffering citizens of America, and they believed that he was the leader they needed at the time.
Two examples of Obama’s leadership behaviors include decency and being a good listener. One of the best qualities of being a good leader is being decent. Throughout his eight-year administration, Obama was never shot of decency. He demonstrated grace and likeability that only irradiated the forte of his character. In terms of being a good listener, Obama is now to have read about ten letters every day that Americans wrote to him. By so doing, he was able to keep in touch with those he served and made sure not to sway from his goal, which was serving Americans. When it comes to leadership skills, President Obama was quite an effective communicator. Known for being both a good speaker and a powerful orator, he talked with logic and delivered facts in a very influential way to the audience. The second leadership skill of Obama was being a team player. Lastly, two examples of Obama’s leadership traits were charisma and inspiration. The dictionary of charisma is a compelling attractiveness that inspires devotion from other people. Obama was one of the leaders known to attract admiration and attention from people and therefore was considered a natural leader. In addition, Obama was an inspiration, his deep sense of purpose and responsibility to change America and make it a great country inspired others.
Former President Obama’s leadership style or approach was transformational leadership. Obama’s goal was to bring about great change, with his main principles being inclusion, respect, and empowerment. Further, he fits the several characteristics of a transformational leader, which include innovative, ethical, heroic, intelligent, philosophical, creative, and reforming. Transformational leadership style can be compared to the trait theory of leadership, which is almost similar to the Great Man theory. Accordingly, the trait theory of leadership proposes that there are characteristics that can be used to showcase the differences between leaders and followers. These differences include key traits like personality, demographics, intelligence, and psychological attributes.
Transformational leadership is all about bringing forth positive and valuable change in organizations. There are four main elements behind transformational leadership: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation (Hosna, Islam, & Hamid, 2021). One of the reasons that transformational leadership was successful for Obama is because he had great intellectual stimulation. Accordingly, he was able to challenge the assumption that only white men could become presidents in America. Through this, Obama inspired people to dream of the changes his administration could bring that challenged other assumptions that tended to be oppressive to specific groups. The second element of transformational leadership that was useful to Obama was inspirational motivation, which is the degree to which he was able to inspire Americans. Inspirational leaders do not only inspire but also challenge their followers to raise their standards, be positive, and believe in themselves as well (Hosna, Islam & Hamid, 2021).
The third element of transformational leadership that Obama applied was individualized consideration. Accordingly, Obama was very culturally sensitive; as such, he could attend to the diversity of America’s needs. The fact that he won 43% of white, 67% of Latino, 62% of Asian, and 95% of black votes (Edge, 2010), shows that people from these backgrounds felt represented by him and that he would serve them well. The fourth and last element is idealized influence. As mentioned before, decency is one of Obama’s best leadership behaviors. People are not only more trusting in leaders who are ethical, but they feel proud of them being their leader. According to Northouse (2018), “Leaders with integrity inspire confidence in others because they can be trusted to do what they say they are going to do. They are loyal, dependable, and not deceptive. Basically, integrity makes a leader believable and worthy of our trust.” Holding a leader in such high regard goes a long way in their success because whatever changes they implement will most likely be accepted.
Former President Obama was an optimist when it came to innovation. He believed that innovation had the potential to boost society as well as expand the economy. One example of his contribution to innovation is when his administration promoted the commercialization of space exploration and initiatives that monitor comets and asteroids, which eventually could save civilization. Another innovative initiative by Obama was the elevation and institutionalization of research foundations into routine government activities. This ensured that there would be an acceleration in the field of research. Further, Obama was a strong advocate of STEM education, ensuring that programs got much media attention. Other more popular innovative endeavors that Obama pioneered include the Paris climate agreement and the Precision Medicine Initiative.
Despite constant opposition from congressional republicans on innovation, Obama’s perspective on the importance of innovation and his numerous contributions towards it significantly contributed to his success. This success was both on national and international levels and also applied in the short term and the long term as well. For example, the negative effects of climate change are evident today from high temperatures, flooding, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and sinking islands. However, one of Obama’s impressive accomplishments, the Paris climate agreement, is one good solution to the problem, which involved almost all countries in the world agreeing to initiate measures of reducing greenhouse emissions (Salawitch, Canty, Hope, Tribett, & Bennett, 2017). This agreement has led to growth in the clean energy industry, especially in the US. Without this agreement, the adverse effects of climate change we are experiencing today could be worse than they are. With such a contribution to climate change challenges, Obama successfully slowed down the disasters that will unfold if people all over the world do not switch to clean energy.
Edge, T. (2010). Southern Strategy 2.0: Conservatives, White voters, and the election of Barack Obama. Journal of Black Studies, 40(3), 426-444.
Garrow, D. J., & Constant, C. (2017). Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (p. 1472). New York: HarperCollins.
Hosna, A. U., Islam, S., & Hamid, M. (2021). A Review of the Relationship of Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, and Individual Consideration with Sustainable Employees Performance. International Journal of Progressive Sciences and Technologies, 25(1), 322-326.
McKenna, E., & Han, H. (2014). Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America. Oxford University Press.
Nawaz, Z. A. K. D. A., & Khan, I. (2016). Leadership theories and styles: A literature review. Leadership, 16(1), 1-7.
Northouse, P. G. (2018). CUSTOM: Grand Canyon University ADM 620 Leading Public Organizations Custom Electronic Edition. SAGE Publications, Incorporated.
Pissarides, C. A. (2013). Unemployment in the great recession. Economica, 80(319), 385-403.
Salawitch, R. J., Canty, T. P., Hope, A. P., Tribett, W. R., & Bennett, B. F. (2017). Paris climate agreement: Beacon of hope. Springer Nature.
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For this assignment you will examine a famous leader. In 1,250-1,500 words, apply the concepts and theories explored in this course by doing the following:
1. Describe a famous leader of your choosing. Summarize the leadership theory you think best describes the leader.
2. Summarize the leadership theory most aligned with this leader. Describe two specific leadership skills, two specific leadership behaviors and two specific leadership traits of this leader.
3. Compare this leader’s approach or style to one of the leadership theories discussed in this course.
4. Explain why this leadership style or approach has been successful for this leader and make logical arguments supporting your case. Support your analysis with direct quotes from class texts.
5. Identify this leader’s view on and contribution toward innovation. Analyze whether those views and contributions added to their success or failure.
Use four to six scholarly resources to support your explanations.