Thursday, 10 January 2008

More learning from Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s abilities as a storyteller and their relevance to business leaders are noted by John Gapper in today’s Financial Times.

Mr Gapper notes that business leaders must convince shareholders, managers and employees that their companies can and should change. He says that Mr Obama, of all the presidential candidates, is the one from whom chief executives can draw the clearest lessons about leadership.

Mr Gapper discusses a number of Senator Obama’s attributes and then says:

“. . . he is a wonderful storyteller. This sounds like a second-degree talent, something it might be nice to have but is not essential. But it has helped him to overcome the obvious weakness of his candidacy – lack of experience – by reframing it as a narrative about the US.

“While more wooden candidates – step forward, Mr Romney – have exploited their status as Washington ingenues by rattling off the usual schtick about being strangers to backroom deals, Mr Obama talks about himself embodying a rare, but quintessentially American, moment when the social fabric shifts and a newcomer emerges.

“Unlike oratorical perfect pitch, narrative is a craft that can be learned. It is also a very important one for business leaders. Many CEOs stand or fall by their ability to frame a story, not only for investors or analysts about how they are turning a company around but for employees to engage them in making it happen.”

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