Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama's Leadership Moment

Barack Obama has just secured the Democratic nomination. A victory of style over substance, to my way of thinking, but we'll see how he does now in the main event - vs the Republicans.

In his speech tonight on St. Paul, Minn., he did an outstanding job positioning himself as a leader by praising his former rivals. You can learn a lot about leadership and graciousness from his remarks:

"At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better..."

"Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight..."

"You can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory... Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honour to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Good leaders also know how to manage criticism and transform it into strengths. Here's how Obama redefined success:

"There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about the party in charge of Washington, it's about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation."

See what he did there?

I was disappointed, though, in Obama's take on the economy. As the candidate for "change," he should be in the forefront of supporting the new economy and promoting innovation. Instead he gives us standard NDP rhetoric: "Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it."

That may play on Main Street, but it's not the message America needs to hear. It's innovation and productivity that creates wealth, not "workers" (sorry, Karl Marx). Until North Americans truly understand that clock-punching "workers" are now just a globally outsourceable commodity, value creation will continue to shift overseas.

Obama did give a shout-out to "improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation." Let's hope he builds on that over the next five months.

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