What Boards can Learn from Obama’s Presidency

US President Barack Obama In his poignant farewell address, President Barack Obama did what he has done from day 1 – give the people of the now “D”SA (Divided States of America) hope, realistic optimism and more. He may have lit the fire of positive action in the people of the US.

Whether you sit on a tiny not for profit board of directors, or as a large hospital trustee, there is much to emulate in the actions of the departing POTUS (President Of The United States).



Some food for thought in our governance roles:

  1. Always take the high road: in his farewell address, President Obama sought not to fuel his own celebrity… rather he addressed Americans’ uncertainties as they face this troubling imminent change of leadership. People's needs first
  2. Give credit where due: calling his staff “remarkable”, he gave credit to all involved, especially ordinary Americans, for many major accomplishments of this terms - normalizing links with Cuba, expanding health care coverage for Americans, the death of Osama bin Laden, marriage equality, and more.
  3. Fuel realistic optimism: he called on Americans to be proactive in mapping the country’s way forward, expressing solid optimism: “America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started,” he said.
  4. Acknowledge our common humanity: he also teared up as he thanked First Lady Michelle Obama and his daughters for their support during his eight years in office.

Governance Inspiration - Whether addressing risk management issues, succession planning or quality and safety requirements, governance conversations can include some of the elements above.  When board representatives or executive leaders speak out on difficult issues with a “canned speech”, or worse… a politically-styled company line, guess what? No-one is buying it.

President Obama maintained this “tell it like it is” approach, while always being respectful, inclusive and fueling optimism, for eight years. We as board governors can certainly do so for the duration of the terms we accept to serve. Our stakeholders, including our clients, staff, volunteers and colleagues will more likely join us in our efforts, than had we acted otherwise.

View President Obama's Farewell address and complete transcript here.

Gisele Guenard, Principal - VisionarEase & associates / Client Centered Governance ®


By Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project - http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/new_official_portrait_released/, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5767332


Leave a reply