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John R. Ryan
Military/Administrative leader

John R. Ryan

John R. Ryan is president of the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive education.

Raw Ability

In my experience, great leaders master three critically important skills - vision, communication and judgment. President-elect Obama shows great promise with all three. His vision of a rejuvenated nation and changed political process has inspired millions of voters. This vision, however, would not have captured their imaginations without Obama's unique ability to communicate it in memorable and uplifting language. Obama communicates frequently and innovatively through multiple mediums, from books and formal speeches to e-mail messages and talks on YouTube. Additionally, his judgment seems solid. He first showed it in putting together a strong campaign team that pulled off an upset in the primaries. More recently, he's exercised it in assembling a very talented administrative team.

During the election season, Obama sometimes was not assertive enough in separating himself from associates who did not help his cause. He's gotten better at that - and that's critically important. An effective leader must be able to stand up against both critics and supporters at the appropriate times. Perhaps Obama's biggest challenge will be keeping perspective as he settles into the White House. The media has focused a lot lately on big lifestyle changes for him and his family as they move to Washington. But millions of other people throughout the United States are experiencing considerably more upheaval, including layoffs, military deployments, foreclosures and other hardships. He'll need to convey that he understands that - and avoid getting isolated by the Beltway crowd and the press from those who are counting on him to lead us through these challenging times.

I'm very optimistic about Barack Obama's presidency. He has the raw ability - the first-rate intellect, strong emotional intelligence, confidence and good judgment - to be a truly great president, one who comes into office with serious potential and lives up to it by continuing to grow.

By John R. Ryan

 |  January 15, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I am struck by the number of Bush administration apologists who use the term "Bush haters". While there are undoubtedly some who may feel true hatred for the man I believe their numbers are limited to a few hysterics.

It seems to me these posters are conflating the disagreements about his policies to hatred for the man. It does reflect, in a way, the attitude Bush and members of his administration have often verbalized: to whit "if you are not with us you are against us". Thus they personalize any criticism in the eyes and minds of their supporters.

This kind of transference clouds the issues and deflects honest and, often helpful viewpoints. It is sad to consider what might have been if his administration and he had been willing to accept criticism as just another view point to be seriously considered. Lack of comity has a steep price.

Posted by: sauerkraut | January 19, 2009 2:48 PM
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mikel4, I, too, wish Mr. Obama the best of luck in his presidency and agree whole-heartedly with your point that an individual possessing the traits of a popular and electable politician don't necessarily mean that he has the traits of a great leader. I believe that the vast majority of "Obamessiah" supporters that have been taken in by his talk of "hope" and "change" will be somewhat disappointed when they realize that this guy is, in the end game, just another politician (and a fairly inexperienced one at that). I disagree with you, however, that this change of administration will in any way mitigate the rants of Bush-haters; I've already seen posts alluding to the "decades long" recovery that will be needed to "repair" the damage done by Dubya. 3 years from now, they'll still be ranting about all that GWB got wrong, and blaming him for all the ills of the world as cover for any mistake Mr. Obama might make. I'm glad to glad to see Bush go, if only because he's become the focal point of such irrational hatred. Perhaps if both the ethereal "neo-cons" and "liberal leftists" give Obama half a chance, we'll emerge from this a more united nation.

Posted by: EddietheInfidel | January 16, 2009 8:37 PM
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Regretfully, our leaders today are more image than substance. Obama successfully manipulated the political process to become president. That does not make him a leader.

Now that he will be charge, will he be able to demonstrate that really has substance and is not all image?

Posted by: SteveR1 | January 16, 2009 7:01 PM
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Was this article a joke? All persons who manage to make it to the Presidency score very high on leadership. Duh?! That is how they got there. They convince enough people at a moment in time that they are the person to put their trust in.

Obama did it this time with a generous assist from a faltering business cycle. Even so, he still only managed to convince 53% of the population that he was that leader. Not a rousing endorsement, but all he needed was 50 plus 1.

Good luck to him. All these Bush haters need a break anyway. They were going to have a stroke at the rate they were going.

Posted by: MikeL4 | January 16, 2009 5:49 PM
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The one thing I wish Obama hadn't done was distant himself from people because of the charge of guilt by associtaion. I would love to see him invite all of them to the White House for dinner. The Right Wing nut jobs like Palin, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, would all have heart attacks. And that would be a good thing for the country.

Posted by: AverageJane | January 16, 2009 4:49 PM
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There is a class of posters who revile Obama, on what basis I cannot determine, as much as some of us revile Bush and Cheney on the basis of the Bush and Cheney record over a period of eight years in high office. Should Obama succeed in undoing the egregious harm that has been done to our nation, thanks to brainless, faith-based, oligarchic leadership during the recent past, it will come as a shock to some people.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | January 16, 2009 3:27 PM
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Yes, it was like pulling teeth getting him to separate himself from communists, anarchists and racists, not to mention crooked politicians, but he didn't have any problem throwing grandma under the bus..what a leader.

Posted by: chatard | January 16, 2009 3:07 PM
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I wonder which planet some folks live on where they can never watch Barack Obama speak without a prepared text, as in his many televised interviews, read the resumes of the very talented people he has selected to advise and serve in his Cabinet, or take note of the absolutely brilliant campaign that brings him to the most powerful leadership post in the world only two years after he launched his long shot bid for the White House. Will he fulfill his potential? I don't know, but I am certain America will be much better off than if we had been confused and fearful enough to elect John McCain and the ridiculous Sarah Palin.

Posted by: greyparrot | January 16, 2009 2:22 PM
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"...great leaders master three critically important skills - vision, communication and judgment. President-elect Obama shows great promise with all three." BHO's vision skill is unrevealed, therefore, unknown. BHO's communication skill is good only when from prepared text, and even then the words are vague, nebulous, and open to multiple interpretations. BHO's judgment skill is mostly unknown (voted "present" a gazillion times...), and, where known, is poor (inability to anticipate need to jettison his racist America-hating pastor of 20 years, etc.)

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | January 16, 2009 12:46 PM
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Note that on all three analytical criteria advanced by this writer, the outgoing President scores right around zero. If you add integrity and intelligence as two more elements, Bush still fails to break out of that almost-zero category. After 8 years of the worst President in U.S. history, Obama is set up to look good -- he HAS to be an improvement on Bush. He is the first Presidential candidate for whom I voted for positive reasons -- my other votes (since 1968) have been pretty much all least-of-evil votes. Good luck President Obama -- stay with what got you elected!

Posted by: dolph924 | January 16, 2009 11:57 AM
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