The Obama campaign was not just a political victory, it was also a case study in leadership. If managers can strip away the politics, they’ll find strategies they can use to motivate their retail employees just as effectively as Obama rallied his supporters.
Employees Want a Mission
Different groups of people assigned all sorts of meaning to this election. The validity of all those meanings was not the important matter from a managerial perspective. What deserved managerial attention was the behavior of people who believed they were part of something bigger than themselves.
The “change” mission tapped into a seemingly inexhaustible supply of commitment, energy, persistence, and creativity. An equally compelling mission in the workplace would access the same high level of engagement. Here’s a hint, though. “Do what I say or get fired,” is not as compelling as it might seem to be.
Employees Want Clarity
The goal was clear – win the election. How supporters could participate in creating the win was equally as clear. Register. Get others registered. Influence the undecideds. Get to the polls. Get others to the polls. Voters were glad to take their marching orders from a leader they believed in and respected.
A mission without clarity is a wall poster. Clarity without a mission is an employee handbook. A mission coupled with clarity is victory.
Employees Want to Celebrate
Voters took to the streets in New Year’s Eve fashion on election day because somebody gave them both the reason and the permission to celebrate. Employees are looking for that reason and permission as well, and they want a genuine opportunity to celebrate more than once every four years. Leaders who proactively create a culture of celebration will find that their employees will perform in ways that are celebration worthy.
Certainly president-elect Obama has not yet proven himself to be a legendary leader. He has (at least) four years to do that. So far, what Obama has given the leaders and managers of the world is a contemporary benchmark for inspirational leadership. When you think about it, that's a pretty valuable gift.