Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Obama and his "mojo"

This morning CNN posted an article entitled, “How did Obama lose his mojo?” ( As the president approaches the midway mark of his first term in office, many Americans are analyzing his effectiveness in leading our nation and whether he has lived up to the high expectations that the nation held when he was elected. While so many Democrats supported Obama in the beginning, many of these politicians are beginning to stray because of the lack of significant accomplishments on the agenda. While there is no doubt that the administration has made progress and achieved some goals, there are many people who feel too much was promised and not enough was gained in a quick amount of time.

Immediately, I began to think of our class discussions on charismatic leadership and the characteristics that define the leaders that are so influential in our world. Dubbed a “campaign superstar,” President Obama promised the nation a “transformational presidency” and represented a changing country. He won the support of so many and began to be the more popular candidate due to his charismatic personality; however, does our president’s dropping approval ratings prove that charisma is not all that a nation needs in its leader? Is charisma only effective if you believe in the goals and values of the individual you are following and if that person can fulfill your expectations? Can charisma be as harmful as it is beneficial, and can a leader truly lose this admired characteristic?

Rakesh Khurana writes in his article “The Curse of the Superstar CEO,” “the charismatic CEO…was expected to offer a vision of a radically different future and to attract and motivate followers for a journey to the new promised land.” Obama certainly followed this characteristic, inspiring the nation to elect him as their leader; however, because not all expectations have been met, individuals are disappointed in the administration’s leadership. Oftentimes, as Khurana writes, when performance slows or fails, followers look to a new “savior”, even if the difficulties are attributed elsewhere. Why do we often place all of the responsibility on a leader and attach the successes and failures solely to them? There are so many other participants and factors that contribute to an accomplishment yet oftentimes they are overlooked. As followers, do we not have a responsibility to also work to fulfill the goals and vision that we associate with our leader? If we do not create an environment of success and opportunities for change and growth, we cannot expect it to happen.

At what point are we, as followers, responsible for the situations we find ourselves in? President Obama is certainly not the only man creating policy and working to implement change, so why does it appear he is the scapegoat for our failures? The CNN article quotes a voter that believed “the president is simply stuck in a toxic political environment.” How do we determine if this is actually the case or if the president’s charisma overshadowed his capabilities to inspire reform?

Regardless of your feelings for a leader, how do you think we should evaluate leadership style and effectiveness? What role does charisma play in the current Obama administration? How does a charismatic leader influence the involvement of his or her followers?


  1. Great post, Helen.

    I think most of the frustration with the President comes from the fact that expectations were too high. No one could have lived up to that hype.

    I think the main problem with Obama is how his influential tactics shifted once he was elected. During the campaign he seemed to use inspirational tactics, but as President he mostly relies on rational appeal. Maybe he should get back in campaign mode..

  2. I agree with you Wes. With all things considered, Obama never had a realistic shot at making the changes that he promised in his campaign. Yet, how many politicians in general do that? Not many...

    Maybe this is the problem with Obama's and other politicians charisma. They end up using their charisma to get into office and then fail to continue it throughout their term. Like Wes said, maybe "campaign Obama" is what the Oval Office really needs.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Wes and Mark. I agree with both of you, especially regarding the change from inspirational tactics to more rational and practical appeals. But the question remains, was Obama's charisma effective in accomplishing anything but gathering followers? What tangible progress was made that can be directly related to his charismatic personality?


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