Dear Mr. President

Posted 01.21.2009

Dear Mr. President (and, wow, does it feel good to call you that) –

Congratulations and Godspeed on this, your first full day in office.  There are many reasons why I’m excited about your presidency.  One of them stems from my work as an executive coach.  Your predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, called the presidency a bully pulpit.  With that idea in mind, my hope is that you will continue to fill the office in the way that you have started – as a role model to leaders in organizations around the world.


As a coach, I frequently ask colleagues of my clients for feedback on behaviors and actions they should keep doing. These are the strengths from which they can build their leadership platform.  With that in mind, I’m offering these observations as encouragement to you and with the hope that leaders everywhere will be inspired by the example you set.  So, here are some leadership behaviors I hope you keep showing us:

Speaking the Truth:  In your inaugural address yesterday, you called it the way it is.  By saying that “the challenges we face are real,” you leveled with us and didn’t sugarcoat it.  That helps us define the work we have to do.

Offering Hope:  You showed confidence that, as you put it, “the challenges facing us will be met.”  You painted a hopeful picture of the future when you concluded by saying, “Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

Challenging and Engaging Us:  By admonishing us that “the time has come to set aside childish things,” you issued a call for focusing on the big things and not the petty things.  Your consistent reminders over the past weeks and months that this is not about you, but about what the American people need to do together make the point that a leader’s job is to help the group define the work that needs to be done and to mobilize them to do it.

Seeking Dissenting Opinions:  When you took time the night before the inauguration to attend a dinner honoring  John McCain you demonstrated that you intend to work with those that hold different points of view and sent a signal that you intend to listen to those points of view.

Showing Respect:  In the midst of the pomp and circumstance of your lunch in the U.S. Capitol yesterday, you took time in your remarks to acknowledge and thank the wait staff for their work and to apologize for whatever disruption you caused them while you worked the tables.  That kind of connection with the front line goes a long way in building good will for a leader.

Showing Affection:  You clearly gain strength and energy from your family and friends and you are not shy about showing how much you care for them.  That’s a wonderful reminder for all of us to keep our jobs in perspective and to take care of the people that matter most to us.


Keeping It Real:  You come across as a real person.  When you spotted  Al Roker while walking the parade route, you, to his great delight, shouted out, “It’s warm!” in the 15 degree wind chill.   By showing your sense of humor, you make it easy for people to connect with you.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I’m reminded that when you’re a leader, you’re always on stage.  You, of course, are on the biggest stage in the world.  We’ll be watching you on your good days and bad days and taking our cues from the example you set.  We wish you well and safe travels on the journey.