5 Leadership Lessons from Michelle Obama
It’s inauguration week in the United States – the week when the new President of the United States is sworn into the Oval Office. As the soon-to-be former President and First Lady prepare to leave the White House, I think back on the many accomplishments this powerhouse couple have achieved over their 8-year tenure – particularly, Michelle Obama.
Whether or not you agree with her politics, Michelle Obama was a force in the White House and on the world stage. From her work in childhood obesity, and supporting veterans to her blistering speeches during the 2016 US election, her leadership style hold valuable lessons for any emerging woman leader. Here are 5 Leadership Lessons that I learned from Michelle Obama:
#1. Don’t apologize for being confident.
One of the first things you notice about Michelle Obama is her quiet, unapologetic sense of self. She was able to demonstrate respect for others AND respect for herself. In a world that can sometimes treat powerful women harshly, it’s easy to develop a tricky relationship with your personal power. But if you want to lead, you’ve got to get that relationship sorted pronto.
Resist the urge to play small in order to gain the acceptance of others. Never speak negatively about yourself. Only apologize when you genuinely mean it.
#2. Embrace those times when you career takes a back seat.
Michelle Obama was a highly successful lawyer and non-profit executive when her husband Barack Obama was elected to the white house. She gave up that career to become first lady and she was clear throughout her tenure that her family would be her first priority.
If you want to combine motherhood and a big career, there will be phases where you decide that your professional life is going to take a back seat to the needs of your family. For ambitious high achievers, these phases can be agonizing.
Let Michelle Obama be a source of inspiration here. Remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Taking time away from your professional priorities isn’t
"leaning out” — for many women, that’s life. Relish the time away from work and when you're ready to return, take another lesson from Michelle Obama.
#3. Know how to own the room.
As Barack Obama’s presidency wound down, media attention swirled around What Michelle Would Do Next.
Why this intense focus? It is because Michelle delivered two of the very best campaign speeches during the election.
The lesson for you? When you are ready to step back into the game, or if you are in the game and have a big bold opportunity, leverage it for all its worth.
#4. Fun is a powerful leadership skill.
You know what set Michelle Obama apart from so many of her counterparts? The sense of fun and light heartedness she brought to the White House.
Powerhouse women leaders understand that FUN is a powerful tool to unite your team, and drive great results. Take it from FLOTUS, "teams that play together, slay together".
#5. Know your values.
As a leader, one of the most important qualities you bring is a sense of certainty. And as Michelle Obama demonstrated, the most powerful origin of certainty is when you are crystal clear on your values.
Authenticity, integrity and hope characterized her tenure, and these values are what she will be remembered for.
What do YOU want to be remembered for? Taking the time to identify — and live out — our values is critical work for any woman who wants to be in charge.
My Challenge to You:
• Sort out your relationship with your own personal power.
• Decide when you need to allow your professional life to take a back seat to meet the needs of your family.
• Know when to leverage great opportunities and allow yourself to own the room.
• Create a fun, light-hearted working atmosphere.
• Know your sense of certainty (and uncertainty).
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Until next time,
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