Obama As Leader: A Freshman Year Report Card

Harvard Business Publishing | Jan 25, 2010
Norm Smallwood

Barack Obama’s first year in the presidency has been one of tumultuous change. The nation is reeling under two wars, a potential global economic meltdown, bailouts of the financial services industry and so on and so on.

Assessing his first year, most Democrats would say Obama is a good leader because of actions he’s taken on critical issues about the economy, the war and health care. Most Republican detractors would point to the very same actions on the very same issues and say he’s a bad leader.

From a bipartisan standpoint, what grades should Obama receive on leadership after his first year in office? First we need to understand what makes a great leader. In our book, The Leadership Code, Dave Ulrich, Kate Sweetman and I identified five elements that are common to any leader. Using this framework to assess Obama’s leadership attributes, we find he has many of the right tools but has lots of work to do if he’s going to be the leader that this country needs him to be.

See what grades Obama received on the five elements of leaders.