I’m not one to “drink the Kool-Aid” or generate ideas about others solely on personality because there are many other factors that make a person a leader or follower. While there are different types of leaders and followers how many times have you ever heard anyone refer to a boss, co-worker, a teacher or peer as transformational? What about just referring to another individual as charismatic, potential, inspiring or motivating? Well, this is exactly what other’s said about former President Barrack Obama. I recently reviewed a story on the former president about his struggles with identity and culture and how others were affected by him before, during and after his political journey took action http://documentaryheaven.com/barrack-obama-biography/. I know that people have their ideas about who they believe Obama to be but I want to discuss how the former president aligns with the Transformational Leadership theory. Understanding how the former president became to be (Barrack) tells us why others call him charismatic, potential, inspiring and motivating.
Let’s begin with what transformational leadership is, according to (Northouse, 2016, p.161) is the process that changes and transforms people. How are the individuals transformed? (Northouse, 2016, p.161) With emotions, values, ethics, standards and long-term goals. Barrack Obama who became one of the highest-ranking black elected officials, not only struggled through poverty he struggled in finding his identity. Because Barrack Obama was bi-racial this created significant milestones to the man he was to become and that he’d one day conquer. Individuals shared that Obama wanted to do something that made a difference, some believing that he could breathe life into the Democratic Party and one calling him a president years in advance before he got there. What makes these individuals speak this way? What these people are witnessing is the disconnect between Barrack and his father, a long-distance relationship with his mother that ate him up inside, attempting to find his identity in the black community, moving from Kenya to Hawaii and the Philippines and losing his father and this his mother. Within all the events that had taken place in his life, the pain, family which he considered most precious, always excelling at whatever he attempted, facing confrontation and seeing that the world needed his help is what inspired him to be first a leader of himself (transformation).
Obama found his identity through, education, family, poverty, environments, and struggle which transformed him and eventually transformed everything he became a part of. According to (Northouse, 2016, p.161) transformation leadership is a process that often incorporates charismatic and visionary leadership. During college at Harvard he became the president of the Harvard Law Review, he worked as a community organizer, focusing on issues such as hazardous waste cleanup, school reform and even established a Job training center. He knew a change was needed and he filled a void, he was aware that it could only be done by obtaining credentials in Law, in which he did, by becoming the state Senate (Illinois), but what does all this mean? What it means, is that the former president’s message (long term goals) about change, and “yes we can” were driven by his word that soon got out to followers who were inspired to keep watch of where he was going. That because he was able to self-reflect on self-concepts and Identities through struggle and success he could relate to all people and changed how politicians were viewed by citizens. While transactional leaders are in it for the exchange of benefits between leader and follower, one interviewer in the film stated that while others work on wall street for personal gain, Barrack wanted to do something that made more than temporary change and while another described Barrack as charismatic but made clear note that Barrack was not leading on charisma alone (Northhouse, 2016, p. 164-165).
Negativity was not on the list of traits when speaking of Barrack. Self-consumed, exploitive, and power driven describe his opponents in his race for presidency such as Alan Keys and Jack Ryan who dropped out of the race of the Republicans against Obama because of their scandal and warped moral values and according to (Northouse, 2016, p.163) these traits are associated with pseudo transformational leadership and is more personalized than centralized, threatening to the welfare of followers, ignores what is most important (common good) and is self-serving (Northouse, 2016, p.163).How much can get done when those who have power, don’t use them for the common good? Which is to help those citizens sleep better at night, feel safe, obtain jobs, have a roof over their heads and eat three meals a day. His influence was idealized by “togetherness” stating “yes we can” make changes where one minute was unknown to becoming the state Senate, then House. Intellectual stimulation was of no consequence capable of moving twenty pieces of the legislature before presidency and followers came to him because they were motivated to do so and loved to listen to his speech. While He interviewed alongside others who were less considerate, he did not fail to gain the respect of most and admiration from more. His position was not contingent upon rewards such as transactional leadership but the satisfaction that he was able to ignite change the way he felt his father would be proud of.
According to (Northouse, 2016, p.175-176) transformational leadership to 1. leaders have to become strong role models, his charge much like Martin Luther King’s message of erasing color lines, that we can all work together harmoniously regardless of race or political party for one common goal was his motivation. 2. Empower others; he empowered us to believe in ourselves and others for a result. 3. Creating a vision, confident, competent and articulate which has been made evident and known throughout his education, political journey, speeches and most of all, 4. People; he works well with others as many have noted. While no one is perfect and no-one is without fault, transformational leadership is Barrack’s middle name. Because Barrack (Northouse, 2016, p.180) is aware of how his behavior relates to the need of others and the country, he behaves in this way because it teaches and trains his followers to act in the same manner, this is our training and development. When is the last time you heard of Barrack within the tabloids or on the news for scandal, when nearly the entire world is? This not only says a lot about his values and morals but about who he is not. Strengths of this theory lay within the large amount of research made on the subject but remain weak in its clarity to define concept and needs to define its parameters of transformational leadership (Northouse, 2016, p. 178). Again while all theories are subjective and not every single detail to the theory was included on reference to Barrack, nearly all that could be assessed of the theory aligned with what followers said about the former President Barrack Obama and his public examples he has set forth, the theory compliments and highlight the man as a leader in transformational leadership.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications