By now we all know President Barack Obama has stormed the
American political scene like a hurricane, a tornado, a typhoon and a
tsunami all rolled into one. In a few short years, he has gone from “Obama who?” to the President of the USA and a hugely popular man
both in the US and abroad.
For many, this begs the question “How does he do it?”
I won’t try to answer every aspect of this question. But I will
offer one explanation. My answer comes with a little help from Nicole
Bacharan, a political scientist in Paris who focuses on French-American
relations. I heard her interviewed this morning on National Public Radio and she offered this observation of why many Europeans are taking a different view of President-elect Obama than of President Bush:
She said Obama “sees them”.
The other side of that statement is that President Bush did not see
them. Or, put another way, he ignored them. Of course he knows the
Europeans are there. But his actions and words (at least to them) seem
to suggest they don’t count. He does things without considering them.
Ms. Bacharan went on to say Europeans (in her view) believe
President-elect Obama will consider how America’s action affect them.
He’s not seen as the “cowboy” who acts only in his self-interest.
This makes him much more likable. It also makes him a more effective
world leader. And, I believe it is largely the source of his charisma
Of course, he’s intelligent, educated and a world-class orator. He
has a view of how things should be and he’s passionate about it. Those
traits help in his success. But, without the ability to connect with
people, to “see them” as Bacharan says, he’d be much less effective. I
doubt he would be where he is today.
Not long ago I wrote about “invisible customers”. These are people who want to do business with a
company but they get ignored. Employees ignore them because they are
focused on other things, Or, they are not physically ignored but their
opinions, values, preferences and needs are ignored. And this is even
When companies ignore their customers, they lose them. When they do the opposite, the keep them and they attract more.
Not surprisingly, this works for politicians and world leaders too.
Those who focus only on their needs and appear to give little
consideration for how their actions affect others, are less likely to
In this time of transition, all organizations and their leaders need
to be on top of their game. Whether you run a country or a country-club
or a country store, you need to be at your best to survive and thrive
over the next few years. One way to do this is to take a page from
President elect Obama’s playbook and make sure you “see” everyone.
Don’t let anyone be invisible to your organization. You’ll find your
customers will be much more loyal.