Why He Won: A Lesson in What People Really Want in a Leader

The leadership lessons learned from Obama’s re-election yesterday are more subtle than those from 2008.  For his first Presidential election victory, the ingredients were dazzling—charisma, hope, aspiration, and vision.  His campaign rallying cry said it all: “Fired up, ready to go!”

It would be hard to argue that President Obama fired up anyone this time around.

What we saw this time wasn’t leadership with a big, spectacular “L.” It was leadership with a small “l.”  This style of leadership isn’t dramatic.  Its fundamental characteristic is pragmatism and accommodation to reality. In Obama’s case, it wasn’t always pretty. But one of the unappreciated truths about real leaders is, they often inch their way to success.

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Samuel B. Bacharach

I'm a professor at Cornell University's Institute for Workplace Studies in NYC. I write about the importance of proactive leadership in the office..(read more)

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