In his 2003 book ‘The Audacity of Hope’, Barack Obama wrote: ‘I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them’
In his last months in the White House, the Accountants of Hope have landed to count the Audacity of Hope and are now ready to list the done and still-to-do, will never be done. And disappointments there are, as he predicted.
I am not an American. I am a political voyeur, world citizen with a Spanish passport, and organization architect as a profession, passionate about people mobilization in organizations. I am biased. (You too). I do believe that in the not distant future, not that entity that we call ‘History’ that we all refer to, meaning several generations back, Obama will be seen as one of the greatest presidents that country has had. And, in saying so, I am of course in collision force with those who think that ‘Making America Great Again’, as Mr Trump slogan says, will happen by building big walls, widespread insult, carpet bombing and populist circus.
I am digressing. This Daily Thought was not meant to be a political chat. I think that the little line in Obama’s book, ‘a blank screen on which people project their own views’, is a great metaphor for leadership. We project on leaders our hopes and expectations, also our rejections and judgements. We see on that blank screen what we want to see, not what is there; hear what we want to hear, maybe not what he says; and make judgements on ‘the screen’ itself with no other foundations than what we want to project, the achievements that we want to see or the disappointments that we have perhaps a priori decided we will see.
A reflective leader then should look at himself or herself and watch that projection, see the movie, hear the music.
As leader, what I say may not be what people hear, what I do may not be what people see and what I build may be a house that people don’t want. Maybe. Trick is, invent a sort of out-of-body experience, and watch. That may be the best and handy leadership development needed.