Obama on Leadership and Winning the Presidency

Yesterday I caught part of a random IG live with Steph Curry and Barack Obama, just in time to hear his take on leadership and how it helped him win the presidency.

Obama said he didn’t win because he was the best candidate. He believes he won because he empowered his team to campaign for him, listen to the voters and understand them. 

He jumped right into this being about straight up leadership and how it’s something not everyone gets. He said if you’re looking at yourself like “how do I dominate this – how do I stay on top,” you’re not going to be an effective leader. If you empower those around you to do their best and feel good about what they’re doing, it naturally lifts you up. 

I’ve often thought that people who are thoughtful about being a leader tend to gravitate toward this conclusion because they’re purposeful about uncovering what drives the best in people.

The IG session also reminded me of James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty. Although he says he didn’t vote for Obama, he spends considerable time focusing on Obama’s thoughtful leadership. 

One anecdote stuck out to me almost more than anything else in the book. Obama was taking pictures with a family, and the daughters (college age) had their boyfriends with them. Obama subtly suggested taking a picture without the boyfriends so that the family would have a nice picture with the president in case the relationships didn’t work out. 

Obama is a busy man. To consider such a small detail that would be meaningful to a family not his own – wow. 

Comey also talks a lot about how from a young age, he’d always tried to pay attention to leadership qualities that got the best out of him to emulate when he had the opportunity to be a leader. I have probably written and talked about this before, but I think this is some of the best advice I’ve ever read.