Barack Obama and Creating Positive Personal Impact

Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America today.  I’ve watched presidential inaugurations for almost 50 years.  The first presidential inauguration I remember was John Kennedy’s in 1961.  But just like Charles Gibson of ABC News, I haven’t seen anything like this inauguration though.  Did you see that crowd on the Mall?

I watched the speeches in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore, the train ride and the special edition of Hardball on Saturday.  I watched the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.  I watched President Obama take the oath of office and listened to his speech at the airport this morning.  I watched the day unfold on the TV monitors that Frontier Airlines provides.  I was amazed.  I have never seen so much anticipation and hope prior to and during a presidential inauguration.

Over two million came to Washington DC today – to be part of this event.  That’s five times as many as the 2005 inauguration.  Most never got any where neat President Obama, but at least they can say they were there.  I hope that our new President can live up to his promise.

One thing is for sure though.  Barack Obama knows how to create positive personal impact.  Positive personal impact is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to create positive personal impact in your life and career, you need to do three things: 1) develop and nurture you unique personal brand; 2) be impeccable in your presentation of self; and 3) know and follow the basic rules of etiquette.

President Obama is a master of creating positive personal impact.  We can all take a lesson from him.

Let’s look at personal branding first.  Last March, “Fast Company” did a cover story entitled “The Brand Called Obama.”  The article quoted Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide, one of the world’s largest ad agencies.  “Barack Obama is three things you want in a brand: new, different and attractive.   That’s as good as it gets.”

To me, the Obama brand is much more than new, different and attractive.  It is hopeful, accepting, compassionate, humble, intelligent, fearless, well spoken and big thinking.  Brand Obama plays just as well outside of the US; remember the speech in Germany.  And the man has a way with words.  When he announced his candidacy in Springfield IL on February 10, 2007 he said…

“We all made this journey for a reason.  It’s humbling, but in my heart, I know you didn’t come here just for me.  You came here because you believe in what this country can be.  In the face of war, you believe there can be peace.  In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope.  In the face of a politics that’s shut you out, that’s told you to settle, that’s divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what’s possible, building that more perfect union…Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done.  Today we are called once more – and it is time for our generation to answer the call.”

Barack Obama’s message and brand appealed to the US electorate, and it is continuing to appeal to them.  Nearly 80% of the people in US feel that he did a good job in his transition period.  60% of people who voted for John McCain say that Obama did a good job in his transition period.  Those are some big numbers.

Now let’s focus on impeccable presentation of self.  To begin, Barack Obama looks good in a suit – or just about anything else he wears.  He is tall, well groomed and has a great smile.  However as I pointed out in a blog last week, people who create positive personal impact not only present well in person, they present well on line.

The Obama campaign did a masterful job of using the internet.  They kept in close touch with supporters, providing campaign updates, raising money and soliciting volunteers.  In the primary season, when candidates were asked what they never leave home without, Mitt Romney said “homemade granola in his Dora the Explorer bowl.”  People laughed.  Hillary Clinton cited her BlackBerry, which the Fast Company article called, “Efficient, businesslike, and an homage to the Web 1.0 world.” Barack Obama said he always travels with a webcam so he can talk to his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha when he is away from home – much more web 2.0 according to Fast Company.

The article went on to say…

“Obama has deftly embraced — and been embraced by — the Internet. His campaign has deputized soccer grandmoms and hipsters alike to generate new heights of viral support. And he has been exceptionally successful at converting online clicks into real-world currency: rallies in the heartland, videos on YouTube, and most important, donations and votes.”

Early on Brack Obama and his advisors figured out how they could connect personally with millions of people via the internet.  His on line presence was, and continues to be, impeccable.

Finally, let’s take a look at etiquette.  This was a tough campaign.  A lot of dirt was thrown at Barack Obama.  He never responded in kind.  I have often suggested that etiquette is less about the rules and more about being gracious.  During the campaign, Barack Obama stayed above the fray.  This impressed me.  He kept his cool under very trying circumstances.  He was a gentleman.

His speech in Chicago on election night showcased his humility.  His choice of the controversial Rick Warren to offer a prayer at the inauguration showcased his acceptance of views that differ from his own.  His dinner with the conservative press at George Will’s house showcased his willingness to listen.  During the campaign and since his election, Barack Obama has conducted himself in a dignified and gracious manner.

I know that today is the beginning of Barack Obama’s first term as President.  He faces remarkable challenges.  He has said that he will make mistakes over the next four years.  We will all have to wait and see how well he does in this very big job.  However, I like a lot of Americans and people around the world, am hopeful today.

The common sense point here is clear.  Successful people create positive personal impact.  In order to create positive personal impact, you need to: 1) Build and nurture your unique personal brand; 2) Be impeccable in your presentation of self; and 3) Be gracious.  Barack Obama is a master at all of these.  His ability to create positive personal impact got him elected.  Regardless of your politics you can learn a lot about creating positive personal impact by watching and emulating Barack Obama.

That’s my take on Barack Obama and positive personal impact.  What’s yours?  I know that this post is quite long, but it covers a big subject.  I appreciate you hanging in there and reading to the very end.


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  1. Obama has indeed mastered the art of powerful personal impact! His whole campaign and the incredible inauguration were near faultless. The enormous power of Positive personal impact cannot be underestimated and thank you for bringing this out so eloquently in your posts.
    Nandoo Bhende

  2. Nandoo:
    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that we agree. I hope that President Obama can continue creating positive personal impact in the face of the pressures of the office.
    All the best,

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