ATD 2018: Four Leadership Lessons From Obama

Hello from San Diego!

This week I am attending the ATD 2018 conference, which is the annual gathering for anyone working in leadership, learning & development, HR, etc.  Effectively anyone who’s role it is to develop people.  On Monday morning 10,000 of us spent 45min with Barack Obama and here the are four leadership lessons I thought I’d share with you:

Purpose – his advice to young people today – “think about what you can do, not what you want to be.”  He suggested that focusing on what you want to accomplish is a far better way to guide your career versus wanting to achieve a certain title.  Focus on doing good work and the rest will follow.

Change – his message here was twofold:  1)  Change has to come from within, and   2)  It looks different for everyone, so be patient.  Obama relayed the story of his trying to quit smoking.   No matter how often Michelle urged him to quit over the years, it didn’t have an impact because he was still fit, had no signs of illness, etc.   As his daughters got older and caught on that dad was a smoker, he realized it was either lie to them, or keep smoking and set a bad example.  He quit.

Values – know who you are and what you stand for.  It is critical in turbulent times , both personally and within your organization, to know your values and use them to guide you.  He also spoke of the importance of values in the home, and how raising well-adjusted children collectively helps the world.

Insight – seek out opinions of others.  Obama told us that during important meetings all the key members of his staff would be seated around a table, with their own support staff (researchers, etc) forming an outer ring around them.  As Obama put it, the outer ring were the ones “doing the real work.”  When debate ensued, he would not only tap his immediate table for their input, but also those in the outer circle.  This allowed him to get viewpoints from many angles and helped to make more informed decisions.

I encourage you to think about one of these lessons and how you can apply it in your own life.

Have a great week!