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Tag: Barack Obama

Meeting of hopes & dreams: will that happen in this General Election?

Affect images and political campaigns

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

I badly want to hear candidates in the general election describe “we the voters”.  I so badly want to hear.

I want to feel the “throbbing resonance” of shared beliefs, shared purpose and shared hopes.  I want to feel the protection of an arm around me as we whisper our fears.

As a relative newcomer to UK, I want to hear the shared mythology that long time residents share and reassure them we are in this together. I want to see their shoulders relax and their eyes light up.

We are a different place from the US and we are on a different journey.  And maybe in my noobe status, I am not hearing what is being said.

Maybe though we are going to have big surprises when the results are announced.  Maybe too social movements like Hang_em will take off.

What do you think about the connection between the politicians and the voters?  I’d love to know.

QUOTATION FROM: Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

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3 reasons why I will use Barack Obama’s speech as a masterpiece of leadership

It has happened . . .

PULLED UP FROM MY DRAFTS:  Hard to believe that only 18 months ago we waited till morning for a speech to appear on YouTube.  We take for granted now the quality of Obama’s speeches.  And now we are in thick of the adventure, we deal with multiple voices of doubt, fear and plain colly-wobbles.  Come on America.  The world needs you to do what only America can do.  Lead.  Show us the American Dream.

The historic has happened.  On Thursday night, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomimation for the Presidency of the United States of America.

Some people are not sure why .  . .

I have many friends and acquaintances throughout the world who are apalld.  I have never got to the bottom of it.  A few months ago, I polled LinkedIn.  I received many emotional responses from people who were willingly to answer my follow up queries.  But I couldn’t get to the bottom of their objections.  This could be my blindness.  But I perceived panic and a general rejection – “I don’t agree with his policies but I cannot say exactly what they are”.

The hope in my classroom is palpable .  .  .

I teach in London, the capital of the Commonwealth,  and have around 100 students from all over the world.  The response to Barack Obama in that room is quite different.  The mix of hope and fear is palpable.  The students are literally holding their breaths hoping for his success.

We are on the cusp of change in media too  . . .

On Thursday night, I woke intermittently hoping that BBC would stream the acceptance speech.  Sadly, we are still in ‘old media’ here and they kept interrupting ‘to tell us what to think’.  In the morning I was able to patch together some of the speech from user submissions to YouTube.  And I was able to download the transcript. This morning the Obama campaign circulated the link to their submission to YouTube.

Permanent links . . . mavens will keep them

The dance of leadership

I’ve added the links because we are going to be studying this speech for a long time to come.  I had high expectations.  And it exceeded my expectations.  Barack did not improvise in the fashion of the “I have a dream” speech of 45 years ago.  Nor did he ‘riff’ which he often does.  He does ‘dance’ with the crowd, though.  We love his speeches because he co-creates the experience with us.

Getting down to the deed

The key idea in management theory is that leaders must command an unbroken chain from our strategic goals to the details of our action.  We can often recognize the micro-manager.  They harp on the details.  It can be harder to show how strategy must be reflected consistently in day-to-day actions.

In this speech, Barack Obama was also much more concrete than he usually is, e.g. we are the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy.  Don’t tell me that Democrats wont’t defend this country.  Change doesn’t come from Washington, it comes to Washington.

It was this feature that particularly caught my ear as I listened to snippets through the night.  I will be looking at the speech more for that quality.

Resolutely positive

It can be difficult to phrase change positively.  By definition, today is not enough.  Barack Obama comes back to what is ‘true and good, better and possible’.   The USA has still not fulfilled the vision of its founding fathers.

Moreover, he defines clearly the ground rules of free speech.  First, we must accept that both we and our opponents belong.  We must accept they have a right to be here and will be here in perpetuity.  We must accept this principle before we can truly accept that our opponent has a right to speak and to hold an opinion.  It is difficult to understand the notion that I can compete with you and at the same protect your right to hold your opinion unless I begin with a  deep and uncertain belief that you are entitled to membership of our group and that is unquestioned.  Belonging is a very important foundation of democracy and the good life.

Case study

I intend to to distribute his speech to my students as a career exercise and ask them to rewrite their vision of what they will contribute to the world in the next 8 years.

This weekend I will put together some exercises for them.  Will you be using the speech in your work?

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Not a sudden revolution in human nature but a gradual evolution in human institutions

Tony de Mello

My internet rambles threw up a contemporary philosopher that I hadn’t encountered before: Tony de Mello.  Catholic priest from Indian, Tony de Mello challenges our yo-yo swings between the idea that we can and should control the world and our irritation when we find out that we cannot.

With western thinking, frustration often drives us to despair

Tony de Mello uses a good example.  Someone jumps the queue and it irritates us.   Would we, he asks, take a sledge hammer to ourselves?   Why do we punish ourselves with a bout of ill temper?

Does putting aside our ill-temper mean we should accept unfairness passively?

Should we do nothing about the queue-jumper?  Quite possibly. Particularly if we are feeling ill-tempered.  We are unlikely to be effective.

But we shouldn’t be passive.   Our first task is to attend to our ill temper.  Then when we are in a clear and positive state of mind, we can see what if anything can be done.

Choices in tough conditions

In a separate post I found a longer description of psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl’s explanation of the choices that we face under the direst of circumstances.

These are the three rules of thumb which I’ve tried to make concrete because I am still more comfortable with explanations of what “I do” rather than explanations of what “I be.”

#1 The world is not ours to control

I do feel better when I let go.  I can understand the world as scientist.  I can represent imaginative changes to the world as an artist.  But as a celebration of what is miraculous rather than as a need to control it.

#2 Other people are not here to do my bidding

It matters not whether I use force or charm.  People are not here for my purposes.

Rather I am able to build good relationships between myself and others.

#3 Accept that other people express fear, anger, pain, misery and spite

Of course, people will not be nice just because I am willing to be nice.  How nice are people when they crowd onto a commuter train or worry about their job security?  They will do what they will do.

What I am able to do is to be realistic about what they are feeling and doing and concern myself with how I react.  How does my interior world echo back events in the world to me?   What am I making of these events and am I absorbing their unpleasantness into my life?  It can be hard to remember that they are not here to do my bidding.  Nor I theirs.

To become discomposed by their actions is like remonstrating with boiling water for being hot.  I need to get a grip on irrelevant emotion, step back and consider the circumstances and my goals.

A gradual evolution in human institutions

When Barack Obama accepted his Peace Prize in Oslo this week, he quoted J F Kennedy.

“Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace–based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions–on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace–no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process–a way of solving problems.”

People won’t change.  But I can contribute by the slow improvement in the ways that we settle our differences.  And I can be realistic and expect to renegotiate our differences continually.  Daily. Calmly.

JFK went on.

“With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interest, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor–it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that


We all inhabit this small planet.

We all breathe the same air.

We all cherish our children’s

future. And we are all mortal.


“Enemies between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever.  However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors.

So let us persevere. Peace need not be the impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.”

So I can persevere.  I need not be at odds with the world.  I will get further by not expecting perfection.  I will get further “By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.”

For that, I need to be in good shape.  To be in a good temper with the world.  It seems selfish to be happy.  It also seems tautological.  But it seems true that to be happy we must be happy.   Yes, here is the “be”.  As I am not that good at “to be”, I will just do happy!  I will not ignore the world. But first I will do happy.  Then I can attend to our relationships and institutions.  And then maybe the world won’t feel as it it needs to be controlled!

Maybe that is the goal?  To live in a way that we don’t feel as it the world is dangerously out of control.  First, attend to ourselves.  Then to our relationships.  And then we can celebrate the world as scientists and artists.

So an Indian Catholic priest, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the holocaust, a Roman Catholic President and Kenyan Ecumenical President ~ why do we find it so difficult to grasp what they are saying.  Well, begin by being happy.

Three video clips of Tony de Mello talking are here.

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. . . sway in wicked grace . . . I dare you to

I’ve just found this snippet courtesy of a search for the first line that arrived at this blog.

“The time cracks into furious flower
Lifts its face all unashamed
And sways in wicked grace…”
“This is the urgency: Live!
and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”
Gwendolyn Brooks, The Second Sermon on the Warpland

I previously had the expression

“Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind”

This was written for all of us in the 21st century, don’t you think?

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Positive psychology in Barack Obama’s words

US Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Ham...
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“As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that, no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice.

And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights—for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

The mission and values of psychologists

In these words, Barack Obama has summed up the mission and purpose of psychologists all over the world most eloquently.

These goals are not just our goals.  They are the mission and purpose of other people too. After all, Obama is a lawyer, a college professor and a politician.

But if in what we do, we do not pursue these goals, then we do nothing at all.

The heart of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship

Barack Obama has said what positive psychologists and positive organizational scholars struggle to say simply.

It is the student who seeks to learn (not the teacher who intends to teach).

It is the voter who demands to be heard (not the politician who intends to tell).

It is the innocent who longs to be free (not the hypocritical who intends to justify).

It is the oppressed who yearns to be equal (not the the powerful who intends to explain).

It matters so much whose perspective we take.

It matters so much who is the subject of the sentence.

It matters so much whose intent we seek to buttress.

It matters so much that we choose the side of justice.

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Awakening: A new era begins

Today, Barack Obama spent his first day in the office

This is the week of the new Presidency in the US of A and I’d resolved to write in response to events.  My business, as it does, demanded my full attention today, and as evening came around, I was tired, with still lots to do, and very little idea what Barack Obama had done in his first day in office.

My favourite business in the village, Much do, had set me up with dinner – cold roast turkey and cherry foccacia (made by Gareth – I recommend it), and I was able to catch up with the events in Washington while I ate.

What a work ethic

I was amazed by what Barack Obama achieved in one day.

He spoke or requested to speak to each of the leaders closely involved with the dispute in Gaza.  He spoke to his own military leaders including a linkup to the General on the ground in Iraq.  He suspended activities at Guatanemo, pending review.  He pronounced an ethical code including strictures on salaries in the White House.

A role model for role models

I felt a little sheepish at my fatigue, and also inspired.  It is quite extraordinary how a role model, enacting a full and organized day, motivates us to do the same, and not by lessening what we have done, or chiding us, or exhorting us, but through showing the road ahead clear of obstacles, and suggesting that our contributions, too, are valued and invited.

We are not trouble guests on this earth

David Whyte, the poet, has a line that says

“You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited from another and greater night than the one from which you have just emerged.”

From ‘What to Remember When Waking’ in River Flow.

What have you been inspsired to do by Barack Obama’s election?

Have you too, been tentatively, resurrecting projects, which you had pushed to the back burner in those hard decades, thankfully ended, when too much was rejected as too idealistic, too charitable, too sincere, too including, too worthwhile?

I’d be interested to know what today you believe possible and previously would only whisper when no one could hear.

I am watching with interest what tomorrow brings.

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HRM: Can we meet the pace set by the Obama team?

The bar has raised

Here is how times have changed.  In the early hours of Wednesday morning (British time), Barack Obama got the ‘verbal offer’ for the job as CEO of USA plc.

Friday lunchtime, and I picked up the link to Obama’s presidential-elect website, complete with easy to understand jobs page.

The challenge

How many of us could support a CEO in this way?  Have a CEO website page up and running withing 48 hours giving the vision, the opportunties, the press links, the opportunities and the discussion page for people to reply?

How many employees would dare to reply (a sign of their confidence in us)?

Anyone want to get together to have this skillbase ready for our CEO’s?

I would like to say that by Jan 1, any company who wants a similar service

  • to articulate the vision
  • to embed it on a readwrite website
  • to be able to launch within 48 hours of an appointment
  • to manage the website
  • to be trusted by their employees who are happy to add their visions

could get it from say, three, suppliers.

Who would those suppliers be?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

PS Update October 31 2009 (11 months later).  I’ve had no takers.  I still believe that being able to launch a website in 48 hours to show employees what they can trust is a measure of an HR department.

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“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day”

A defining moment

The early hours of this morning, Wednesday 5 November 2008, were one those times when we will ask “where were you when  . . .”.


The long wait for the election results during the night was stomach-wrenching.  I flipped from one service to another, trying to catch the results from whomever broke them first.  Ultimately, I plumped for BBC, who seemed to be ahead of everyone most of the time, filling with intelligent analysis, and giving us good timings.

The countdown

The countdown to the announcement of California’s results, adding 55 electoral votes for Obama, began.  9 minutes, 6 minutes, 30 seconds, and boom, it was done.

The concession

We waited a decent interval for McCain to telephone Obama, and then McCain came out to give his concession speech.  He was brilliant.  If he had spoken like that throughout the campaign, he might have had my vote.  He was sincere, he was warm, and he showed great leadership setting the stage for working constructively with the Democrats to rebuild America.  I believe his speech will be dissected by students of leadership for many years, along with the magnificant speeches made by Obama.

Winning for the young and the old

Back in Chicago, the groups at Grant Park waited for Obama.  The cameras picked up more than human moments.  Jesse Jackson stood very still, talking to none of cheering party faithful around him, tears rolling down his face.  It was perhaps this image that helped me as a foreigner, understand how this election will heal the wounds of America, that are after all, a legacy of British rule.

The American dream

And then Obama spoke, and spoke to the great American dream – the belief that the US is strong precisely because they recognise their diverse interests.  How important that is to us all!


This morning, when I awoke around 11am British time, it took me a moment to remember the events of the night, and I found myself not exhilarated but struck by awe.  I checked out the chatter on line, and on Twitter particularly, and was struck by the sense of confusion.  I was not alone.  The only people in the world who treat the results uncomplicatedly are the Kenyans. They have declared Thursday a national holiday.  What dazzling simplicity!

A quiet celebration of a new dawn

I spent a good two hours pondering the gamut of emotions we are feeling and then Twitter threw up this link to a song “Its a new dawn”.  It’s mellow.  Its soulful.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its’s a new life for me, and I am feeling good.”  Thanks @sondernagel.

Today we are mellow.  Tomorrow:

“It’s a new world, it’s a bold world”


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Agenda for the 21st century: management & leadership

Is it leadership and management ~ or ~ leadership or management?

So many people believe that management and leadership are separate, even antagonistic, activities. But I still believe that the two go hand-in-hand.  Leadership requires good management.  It is important to understand how work is organized and to shape institutions so we can make work easier, more fun and more productive.

The strategic plan for positive psychology

I’ve just tracked back to Martin Seligman’s original plans to develop critical mass for positive psychology.  It is an excellent case study of organizational leadership.  This paper was published at the outset.  It describes the inputs, outputs and processes needed to create a successful institution.  We can see the results for ourselves.

Competent positive leadership is being called for on many fronts

I couldn’t help thinking of the parallels in the Executive Summary and Barack Obama’s speeches.

“Entering a new millennium, we face a historical choice. Left alone on the pinnacle of economic and political leadership, the United States can continue to increase its material wealth while ignoring the human needs of its people and that of the rest of the planet. Such a course is likely to lead to increasing selfishness, alienation between the more and the less fortunate, and eventually to chaos and despair.

At this juncture the social and behavioral sciences can play an enormously important role. They can articulate a vision of the good life that is empirically sound while being understandable and attractive. They can show what actions lead to well being, to positive individuals, and to flourishing community. Psychology should be able to help document what kind of families result in the healthiest children, what work environments support the greatest satisfaction among workers, what policies result in the strongest civic commitment.

Yet we have scant knowledge of what makes life worth living. Psychology has come to understand quite a bit about how people survive and endure under conditions of adversity. But we know very little about how normal people flourish under more benign conditions.  .  .”

We won’t get a positive world without positive competent management too

Positive psychology is our zeitgeist.  We want a more positive world.  That doesn’t mean a “happy clappy” world. It means a competent world where we address our differences vigorously, yet with thought and compassion.

Positive psychology is an example of positive competent management

The positive psychology movement is been a masterful piece of strategic management.  Study it to see the merging of leadership and management!

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Speeches for unity

Barack Obama

I’m hesitant to analyze it lest I detract from its impact.  What is interesting is that the “deficit” is conceived as an enemy, not part of his own side.  There is a lesson here for managers, I think.


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