Lessons For CEOs From Obama

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10 Management lessons from Barack Obama's election campaign for today's CEOs

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Lessons For CEOs From Obama

  1. 1. The Hindu Business Line : Lessons for today’s CEO from Barack Obama Page 1 of 3 Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications Wednesday, Feb 04, 2009 ePaper | Mobile/PDA Version | Audio | Blogs Home Opinion - Politics News Update Lessons for today’s CEO from Barack Obama News Front Page The current global economic turmoil is forcing many organisations to do some introspection, and Corporate draw up their own strategic change maps. If we look at the critical role of the CEO in implementing Markets such initiatives, there are several operating principles in Mr Obama’s election playbook that are worth Info-Tech emulating, says ACHAL RAGHAVAN. Marketing Money & Banking Agri-Biz & Commodities Almost all organisations go through turbulent periods, during which their core capabilities are severely Industry & tested. The turbulence may be caused by factors such as significant events in the market-place, Economy economic upheavals, dramatic inflection points in the technologies that drive the business, sharp Logistics changes in customers’ needs, game-changing strategies implemented by a competitor, leadership Government upheavals within the organisation itself, and so on. Opinion Variety Columns These periods can be called “defining moments” in a company’s history — when the strategies and States actions of the CEO, and the manner in which the organisation aligns itself to the change strategies, Web Extras determine whether it can weather the turbulence and continue on its growth path. Index Archives CEOs under pressure Features This is a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty and governments are trying to co-ordinate the timing of various financial strategies, to maximise their beneficial impact worldwide. “Bailout” has suddenly become the buzzword in business dailies. Investment World eWorld The US economy is officially in recession, with negative consequences for countries as diverse as Brand Line India (primarily in the case of its IT services industry) and China (for its manufactured exports). Mentor Europe and Japan have slowed down significantly. Falling oil prices in recent months have impacted Life Russia’s revenues, which are heavily dependent on oil and gas exports. Brand Quest The New Overall, popular wisdom has it that the global economy will get worse in 2009 before it gets better in Manager 2010 at the earliest. The current period could well qualify as a “defining moment” for many BL Club organisations, large and small, worldwide. On a much larger scale, it could also prove to be a defining Smartbuy moment for many countries and their governments. Books Markets are shrinking, customers are cutting back, shareholders are nervous, and CEOs are under Stocks pressure to “do something different” to keep companies afloat. “This is the way we have always done things here” is not acceptable anymore – look at the sharp reaction to the CEOs of the US Big Three automakers using corporate jets to fly to Washington to plead for bailout. “We need to change our Quotes business model” is an emerging theme — except that most organisations typically exhibit significant SE Diary resistance to change. Scoreboard Open-End Mutual Under these circumstances, the CEO has to step up and take charge quickly. Here is where Barack Fund Obama and his election campaign come in. Cross Currency Obama and change Rates The US President, Mr Barack Obama, won his election on a simple and powerful message of “change”. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/02/04/stories/2009020450040800.htm 8/1/2009
  2. 2. The Hindu Business Line : Lessons for today’s CEO from Barack Obama Page 2 of 3 Shipping The context for this change was two-fold — growing opposition to the Bush-era policies and actions both at home and abroad, and the deepening crisis in the US economy. The US was beginning to experience its own “defining moment”. Ports Given this background, Mr Obama’s strategic intent is clear. He wants to change the way the US is Archives governed, and the way the economy is managed; he wants to change the industries in which future jobs will be created; he wants to change the manner in which the US responds to environmental issues and global warming; and he wants to work with other governments and countries in a Yesterday collaborative fashion — and not force US’ views on others by sheer muscle power. Datewise Resources In Focus Taken together, this represents a fundamental and strategic change for the “American way” as a In Depth whole, both within the country and internationally. Events 2007 If we look at the US government as an organisation, and Barack Obama as its CEO, the shareholders are the US citizens. Mr Obama has worked relentlessly over the last one year on communicating his strategic change message to all his shareholders, and the election results show that a majority of them have aligned themselves to this change. He realised the need for a committed and energetic organisation at the grassroot level. He zeroed in Search on the young voters (who were known, till then, for showing little or no interest in politics) to be the “agents of change”. Group Sites Mr Obama signalled his commitment to his change strategy by acting quickly on the first step — the appointment of key members of his leadership team — months before even assuming office. Hitting The Hindu the ground running, as he has done, is a message in itself — that the situation is grave, and that The Hindu there is no time to lose. ePaper Business Line By appointing several knowledgeable but strong-willed people to key positions, he has made it clear Business Line that he is confident about his own leadership skills in managing a talented but disparate team. He ePaper has also demonstrated common sense and humility in seeking expert help in areas which are not his Sportstar forte. Frontline The Hindu eBooks And he stuck to his campaign and his theme in spite of distractions, in contrast to John McCain, who The Hindu suspended his election campaign to make an abortive dash to Washington, when the $700-billion Images bailout package came up for discussion. 10-point game-plan The current global economic turmoil is forcing many organisations worldwide to do some fundamental introspection, and draw up their own strategic change maps. If we now look at the critical role of the CEO in defining and implementing such strategic change initiatives, there are several operating principles in Mr Obama’s election playbook that are worth emulating: Analyse and understand the global and local context for change. Tune in to shareholders’ expectations, frustrations and values. Ignore them at your own peril. Take the time to formulate the strategic theme. This is the single most important step in the whole exercise. Stick to this theme right through, notwithstanding distractions that are sure to pop up. Create a strong leadership team, where each member brings “best-in-class” knowledge and wisdom to the team. Learn how to manage a team which doesn’t always say, “Yes, you are right”. Communicate — in a consistent and clear fashion. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/02/04/stories/2009020450040800.htm 8/1/2009
  3. 3. The Hindu Business Line : Lessons for today’s CEO from Barack Obama Page 3 of 3 Make smart use of technology to spread the message, but do not let technology become the message. Identify and enlist high-energy change agents across the organisation. You cannot accomplish the change all by yourself. Hit the ground running. There is no time to waste. Strong leaders use turbulent times and defining moments as opportunities to formulate and drive strategic changes —changes that make the organisation survive and grow in the long term. It is too early to predict how successful Mr Obama will be as the US President; but the 10-point game plan described above is something that company CEOs should study and replicate in their organisations. (The author is a strategy and business excellence consultant based at Bangalore. He has worked in various industries for 33 years, including 10 years at the Board level. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in) More Stories on : Politics | People | Management Article E-Mail :: Comment :: Syndication :: Printer Friendly Page The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription Group Sites: The Hindu | The Hindu ePaper | Business Line | Business Line ePaper | Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Copyright © 2009, The Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly proh Line http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/02/04/stories/2009020450040800.htm 8/1/2009

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