Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obama’s Own Words Diminish His Leadership

He may have the most negative leadership style since Jimmy Carter.

Here’s how he talks (From his speech to the 93rd Annual Convention, American Legion, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 30, 2011):

"Don’t give up!

We Americans have been through tough times before, much tougher times than these. And we didn't just get through them, we emerged stronger than before. Not by luck. Not by chance. But because in hard times, Americans don't quit. We don't give up. We summon the spirit that says, when we come together, we choose to move forward together, there's absolutely nothing we can't achieve."

68 words, 8 negatives.
Mobilizing language is the most powerful tool any leader has. Obama has shown a consistent pattern of disabling his most significant ideas and constructive concepts with needless, negative, demotivational language.

Here’s what he should have said :

Americans have been through tough times before, much tougher times than these, and every time we emerged stronger than before. We made our own luck. We took some chances. That’s because in hard times, Americans always stay the course or choose a new one. We have always joined in a common spirit that when we choose to move forward together, we can overcome any obstacle, any barrier, any distraction to achieve whatever we set our minds and collective energies to accomplishing. It’s time for every American to ask themselves what they can do for America today, and just do it.

Abraham Lincoln knew how to use negative words as powerful image energizers and memorability enhancers.

Here’s the Gettysburg Address:


“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.


But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”



277 words, 7 negative words or phrases, but what a difference.

To be fair, let’s look at what Lincoln could have said had I edited out his negatives:

But, in a larger sense, only the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, can adequately consecrate this ground. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it must remember what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the work that remains to be done which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall have died so this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall last forever.

You can decide on these:

In the case of Richard Nixon’s famous, "I am not a crook.” If we remove the negative we get, "I am a crook.” The truth.


With President Clinton’s remark, “I did not have sex with that woman.” My edit would have changed history, “I had sex with that woman.” The truth, again.


The lesson: Negative language is always erroneous, error prone, confusing, unclear, wrong, and leads away from the truth. Negative language starts or prolongs all arguments, contentious situations, divorces, and wars. Test it yourself.

Leaders who lead avoid negative language or, like Lincoln, truly know how to use these flammable words correctly.
By James E. Lukaszewski

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