Leader Analysis Assignment

Leader Analysis Assignment
Leader Analysis Assignment
Today, leadership is a widely studied concept due to changes experienced in the ways
things are done compared to a few decades ago. Despite so much study by various scholars, a
decisive description of this term remains elusive. It is thought that the abstract nature of
leadership results from the various ways in which individuals considered to be leaders exhibit
this construct. Throughout history, people regarded as leaders display varied forms of this
behavior based on their context, position, and personality. As such, the best way to
understand leadership and make sense of what leading means can only be apprehended
through the study of each individual or one’s leadership traits. This essay analyzes former US
President, Barack Obama to determine the behavioral patterns that characterized his
leadership approach and propelled him to the height of outstanding leadership. President
Obama’s leadership approach will also be analyzed using three of five practices of exemplary
leadership discussed in The Leadership Challenge.
Brief Description of Barack Obama
Born in 1961, in Honolulu, to an American mother and Kenyan father, Barack Obama
was inaugurated in 2009 as the 44
president of the United States of America. As the USA’s
first and only African American president to date, Obama served in this capacity for two
consecutive terms, to retire in 2017 following the election of the current president, Donald
Trump. Obama spent most of his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and later returned to the
U.S. where he attended several elite schools such as Columbia University and Harvard Law
School. His illustrious political career started in 1996 following his election into the Illinois
State Senate. Obama was elected into the US Senate in 2004 by a record majority, which
acted as the stepping stone for his presidential candidature in 2007 that was followed by his
endorsement by the Republican Party in 2008.
President Obama took office during a tumultuous period in American history.
America was suffering from a financial meltdown and the controversial “bail-out” plan
devised his predecessor (George Bush) had yet to take root. Also, America‘s foreign policy
marked by the massive deployment of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan was highly criticized
from Americans. However, within two years of his first term, Obama managed to work with
the Democrat-controlled Congress to recover the economy, institute healthcare reforms,
spearheaded several legislation and recalled majority of American soldiers from Iraq. His two
terms were marked by exemplary leadership and incredible accomplishments both at home
and internationally. However, two achievements distinguished Obama from his predecessors.
First, Obama managed to recover the US economy from the recession and simultaneously
reduce the rate of unemployment by nearly 6% in a record of six years. The second
accomplishment was the creation and implementation of universal healthcare under the
Affordable Care Act, a fete that no other president before him had ever accomplished.
These and other accomplishments established President Obama as an outstanding
leader, making him a worthy leadership case study. As an outstanding leader, President
Obama has exerted a marked influence on both American and international politics, as well
as the larger global society (Ligon, Harris, & Hunter, 2012). Barack Obama has superior
oratory skills that made him outstanding among other leaders. Obama has had a
disproportionate effect in our lives both as American citizens and as global citizens. He is
among very few individuals who have been able to rise through the ranks to realize their
vision for being leaders. As an avid follower of the former president, understanding his
leadership behaviors will enable me identify the traits I can emulate as I prepare myself for
future leadership roles.
President Obama’s Leadership Style Through Theoretical Lens
Ordinarily, presidential leadership is conceptualized as the pursuit of objectives and
goals that predominantly promote the interests of the country and general social wellbeing.
For leaders to assume this role, they have a huge responsibility which is often challenging
and the decisions they take may undoubtedly determine their favorability as leaders. It is
during times of adversities and crises that the leadership styles of these individuals are tested
as their reputations and character undergo public scrutiny (Wright, Moynihan & Pandey,
2012). As a leader, President Obama faced a range array of challenges during his tenure, but
managed to emerge successful and his public attention intact owing to his eloquence and
command when communicating. Obama’s success as a leader is attributed to his natural
ability to consistently express and deliver encouragement and hope to all American citizens
and people across the globe.
All things considered, President Obama’s leadership style is hard to place within the
identified theoretical leadership models. However, his principle-centeredness, solid character,
persuasive style and charismatic nature depict his leadership approach to be transformational,
interpolated with the full-range leadership approach interspersed with transactional traits at
some point (Hanson, 2014). The full-range leadership approach allows a leader to combine
elements from the various leadership models in order to enable the accomplishment of their
goals and agendas.
Throughout his political career, President Obama has leveraged specific transactional
leadership traits that he used to convey his ideologies and vision to the American populace.
According to Northouse (2013), transactional leaders often interchange items of importance
with their followers as a way of promoting both their (leader) agenda and that of their
subordinates. One perfect example is during his effort to drum up public support for the
Affordable Care Act, Obama often made promises of improved budget outlooks and cost
control which would eventually reduce taxation rates for the citizenship. This exemplifies his
talent for relying on transactional exchanges to promote his agenda. During his presidency,
Obama was able to marshal resources and people to implement processes, manage
controversy, and make decisions while maintaining the flexibility to effectively negotiate and
implement rewards and punishments. Even though he constantly relied on transactional traits,
Obama’s leadership approach all through his aggressive policy making periods was
consistently illustrative of an individual operating under the full-range leadership method. He
also embraced traits from both the transactional and transformational leadership theories.
President Obama‘s traits as a transformational leader can easily be observed in a
charismatic way as well as his talent for inspiring and motivating his supporters using his
rousing public addresses. These traits are aligned with the theoretical conceptualization of
individuals who are transformational. According to Northouse (2013), the success of this type
of leader is dependent on their ability to integrate the elements of individual consideration,
intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealized influence. Another core
characteristic of transformational leaders is their unique interpretation of a crisis and belief in
their personal capacity to resolve a crisis. This approach in turn alleviates the distress
experienced by their followers. Transformational leaders are also preoccupied by long-term
goals, standards, ethics, values, and emotions as well as evaluating their followers’ motives,
meeting their demands and considering them a fully capable individuals (Hanson, 2014).
Obama was able to constantly apply these components to advance the lives of American
citizens. His approach enabled other leaders to partake in his vision regardless of its
outlandishness. In addition to being truly transformational, Obama constantly displayed
superior emotional intelligence. For example, he was able to remain calm and collected
during his participation in the relatively emotive and disruptive town hall meetings during the
healthcare debate which exemplifies the self and social awareness typical for emotionally
intelligent leaders.
Finally, President Obama’s transformational approach heavily permeated through his
rhetorics and good language use. He was able to move masses through his one word slogans
such as ‘Yes we can”, “change”, and “hope”. Notably, the change rhetoric enthused
emotions, inspired and motivated Americans as well as other people across the world. So
powerful was his call that thousands of people turned up to listen to him in Berlin shortly
after his inauguration. Moreover, his propensity to articulate extraordinary prospects for the
American public and display his conviction in the public’s capacity to accomplish those goals
was crucial to his election as president as well as the successful adoption of universal
healthcare system.
Practices of Exemplary Leadership
President Obama in his leadership approach has predominantly displayed all the five
exemplary leadership paradigms. However, three of these practices are easily perceptible,
including modelling a way, inspiring a vision, and enabling others to act. From early years of
his career, President Obama set himself apart as a visionary and ethical leader. He was
actively participating in opportunities for social change during his tenure as the Editor of the
Harvard Law Review and a civil rights attorney championing the needs of low income
earners in his district who were experiencing housing and employment discrimination.
Obama was very self-aware of how they spend their time, and exceptional at framing
his language to create the most impact on his audience. He inspired vision in his followers by
using his rhetorical skills to create a vision which the American public could identify with
and one which was not dependent on position or power (Arnett, 2011). Through motivational
messages such as ‘Yes we can” and “follow up” Obama invoked notions of moral values like
humanity, peace, equality, justice and freedom (Popa et al., 2011). Finally, President Obama
packaged his vision for the United States in such a manner that his supporters clearly
understood it and were inspired to join in him in his movement. For example, during his 2008
speech at the Republican Convention, Obama challenged the American citizenship to actively
participate in making his vision a reality.
Lesson Learned
Lastly, the analysis of President Obama’s leadership has revealed numerous practices
that I could emulate my future leadership roles. Among these, I am most impressed by his
productive narcissism. In theory, productive narcissists are described as gifted and creative
strategists who envision the bigger picture and create meaning in risky ideas intended at
transforming the world and establishing legacies. Followers will always depend on
productive narcissists in times of crisis or transition because they (productive narcissists) dare
to push and transcend over social change. President Obama has inspired me to work towards
maturing my narcissism, acknowledging it and trying to transform it into a productive form
by focusing my self-belief into positive results for others.
Arnett, R. C. (2011). Civic rhetoric-meeting the communal interplay of the provincial and the
cosmopolitan: Barack Obama’s Notre Dame Speech, May 17, 2009. Rhetoric &
Public Affairs, 14, 631-672.
Hanson, S. L. (2014). Transformational leadership and communication: Barack Obama case
study (Order No. 1552336). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership theory and practice (6
ed.). Thousand Oak, London:
Popa, A. B., Hazel, M., Whatley, L., Andenoro, A., & Crandall, H. (2011). What is the role
of perceived leadership capacity in presidential politics? Journal of Leadership
Studies, 5(3), 25-39. doi:10.1002/jls.20230.
Wright, B. E., Moynihan, D. P., & Pandey, S. K. (2012). Pulling the Levers:
Transformational leadership, public service motivation, and mission valence. Public
Administration Review, 72(2), 206-215.

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