Commerce Matters with Benjamin Akande: Barack, Inc.: Lessons From Obama's Campaign

Published in: Ladue News
Author: Benjamin Ola. Akande

Business schools who use case studies as a basis for teaching understand the value that lies in learning from the success and failure of others. Combining their own observations with those of media experts, authors Barry Libert and Rick Faulk break down the unprecedented campaign of our 44th president and what businesses can glean from it in their new book Barack, Inc.: Winning Business Lessons of the Obama Campaign.

The authors offer critical lessons from one of the most successful presidential campaigns of all times. Some of the lessons are tried and true business practices, others are cutting edge. Together, they lay out a blueprint with practical insight on managing projects, the ability to focus and the power of results. Barack, Inc. is not a love letter lauding the candidate (now president) as perfect. In fact, Libert and Faulk use mistakes and how they were handled to highlight lessons from the campaign.

Take for example "no drama" Obama's unflappability. Staying cool under pressure and ignoring all distractions allowed the candidate to stay on message, correct problems seamlessly and adjust quickly. Like a well-heeled business leader, he could do this because of his soundly built organization, the contingencies it had at the ready and the organization's ability to implement those plans at a moment's notice. Staying cool also means leading with humility, a trait that doesn't come second nature for most business leaders. But, the upside of putting egotism and pride aside to gain feedback from bright, opinionated people will always pay off with a more cohesive workforce.

In Barack Inc., the authors wrote candidly about the Obama campaign's use of social networking. From Facebook and Flickr to Twitter and YouTube, it could be said the candidate was able to blog and text himself to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Tapping into the world of the iPod generation (18 to 28 year old voters), Obama's supporters were able to register millions to vote for the first time while also setting fire under individuals who sparked a nationwide virtual campaign. Only by embracing the new, nurturing 'netroots' and knowing when to let the platforms speak for itself like the Obama campaign did can business in the 21st century compete in a Web 2.0 world.

"We are the change that we seek," Barack Obama said on the campaign trail. And according to the authors, his choice to embody change over running away from it or turning it into a marketing ruse made all the difference to his campaign. He used it to challenge his opponents, who campaigned on 'past' experience and to share his vision of the future. "Change is the engine of both politics and business, the power of growth and progress," the authors write. What better time than now for business leaders to initiate change for their companies and become the new brand of commander-in-chief their organizations need to battle the current economic realities?

Taken by Obama's strategy for success and what it can do to help turn businesses around, the authors call on their readers to e-mail the dean of their favorite business school and urge him to offer a crash course in Obama campaigning and leadership. I think I will heed that advice and contact the dean of business at Webster University asking that he look closely at this request!

As a student of leadership, I believe that leading is a marathon and the race is won not necessarily by how fast you go but by your ability to pace yourself. Obama's tenure as President of the United States will not be measured or remembered by what he did in the first 100 or 200 days but by the collective achievement over the next 1,460 days in office. It's a long way from here to there; but the leadership he displayed during the campaign and in the initial days may provide some verification of his potential for success. To find out whether that potential becomes a reality or not, we will have to wait until the end of this marathon.