characteristic, and I think it’s going to serve him well in the White House.”
Former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., considered Obama’s political mentor, often witnessed Obama’s steadiness and in particular remembers when Obama worked to reform Illinois’ ethics laws. “There was a lot of opposition within his own party,” Jones recalled. “He was under siege and attacked. At times I felt sorry for him. But he was able to talk to the members and convince them that this was the direction we should go in.”
Corporate Lesson: “We, as people of color, tend to be very emotional,” says Ken Roldan, CEO of the minority search firm Wesley, Brown & Bartle in New York. You cannot be strategic and emotional. Emotion clouds your thinking and forces you to focus on your feelings instead of the task at hand. “You need to be true to yourself,” says Roldan, “but at the same time you have to understand that you are playing a game.” Opponents and competitors will always attempt to pull you off course. Being successful requires a steadiness and a focus that reacts and shifts based on actual circumstances, not insults and barbs.
He Motivates People To Work Together
When Obama presided over the Harvard Law Review in 1990, racial issues such as affirmative action and faculty diversity polarized the faculty and student body at the law school. Berenson admits he was part of the “hearty band of politically conservative students on the Review” and initially didn’t vote for Obama.
“At times the staff of the Review felt like warring tribes, and he managed to keep them all working together pretty smoothly,” says Berenson, a Washington, D.C.-based partner at global law firm Sidley Austin L.L.P. “He encouraged people to arrive at consensus and forget compromises. He did an amazing job keeping the peace among a group of very fractious personalities and big egos. His political skills in that internal sense were extremely evident, even back then.” Even as Obama chose his cabinet and advisers, his team represents a diversity of backgrounds and ideologies.
Corporate Lesson: As the economy becomes increasingly influenced by global markets, it is crucial that companies embrace a diversity of ideas that will be based on varying influences from culture to social status to politics. The challenge is creating consensus around those diverse and even conflicting ideas. Effectively managing and leveraging those differences is what will drive creativity and innovation in a wild competitive marketplace.
There Is No Room For Drama
Throughout the presidential campaign Obama was challenged, particularly about his former and present associations with friends, colleagues, even his own pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright over inflammatory rhetoric in church sermons. Obama was no doubt disturbed by the charges that his political views mirrored those of some of his past and present associates. He and his camp also knew that they could easily assert similar charges against his opponents—a tactic even the media slyly suggested. But Obama understood that while dramatic plays in politics make for good copy in