Colin Powell's Endorsement of Barack Obama: The Fruits of Obama’s Communicative Power

In my recently-published book, Say It Like Obama: the Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision (McGraw Hill, 2008 -, I highlight the many communication practices that have enabled Senator Barack Obama to convey his vision and ideas with great effectiveness—in compelling ways that have enabled him to reach out and unite people across traditional barriers of race, ethnicity, region, religion, economics, age and gender. The communicative power of Barack Obama has enabled him to garner impressive levels of support, and helped bring about a significant endorsement today.

Recently, Colin Powell—a highly respected international statesman and a member of the Republican Party—endorsed Barack Obama for U.S. president. Unlike many endorsements, which are perceived as big news for fifteen minutes and from there only symbolic, this endorsement has legs. It has legs because Colin Powell is famous, a solid leader, an accomplished soldier and public servant, and a man known for adhering to a high standard of ethics. Powell’s embrace of volunteerism since he left public office underscores the notion that he is a man who supports the "best for America." Powell wields much credibility and influence among Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.

What does the endorsement do for Obama? Three key things.

Powell’s endorsement—coming from a man who served so closely with a President, worked his way up in the military to the very top, and is a world leader—supports the idea that Obama is a highly qualified leader, ready to serve as Commander-in-Chief. It will greatly dampen any idea that Obama lacks the necessary foreign policy credentials. It will support perceptions that Obama has created himself, through three solid presidential debate performances, that he has the depth of knowledge and good judgment to lead the country in both domestic and foreign policy matters.

Powell’s endorsement reinforces the notion that it is time for generational change, and that Obama is the face of this new generation. People will believe more strongly that Obama is the leader who can mobilize and inspire the next generation of leaders, who will usher America into a secure new era. He inspires the young. Older generations will give this much thought. Many people adhere, after all, to the belief that America’s future always resides in the hands of the "next generation". Obama represents the face of transition to the next generation of leaders. Powell’s endorsement recognizes this and endorses the vision of America that Obama has put forth.

Powell’s endorsement also underscores the notion that Obama is a "transformational leader" who will help America become stronger, "take government back," and live up to the American promise. Obama’s list of endorsements is quite impressive—coming from supporters as diverse as Warren Buffet, Bill Richardson and Caroline Kennedy.

These are the fruits of Obama’s excellent communication. People in all walks of life—businesspersons, teachers, lawyers, professors, small business owners, students—have much to learn and apply from Obama’s effectiveness as a communicator. Obama’s communication best practices are well worth studying.


Dr. Shel Leanne is author of Say It Like Obama: the Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision (McGraw Hill, 2008 - and President of Regent Crest, a leadership development firm whose clients come from Fortune 500 companies.

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  • David Utts

    I do not think Obama's style is necessarily right out of the pulpit - his skills are much broader than that. If you look at key leadership competencies from most any well respected 360 - he has embodied true leadership competencies that go beyond his strengths as a communicator.

    I believe Obama will lead and bring to bare the greatest minds to help him in making the right decisions. I don't think this tax and spend thing will stick - in fact there is little grounding for that label. Anyway - I suppose the future will tell because it does look like he will be our next president... maybe by a landslide.

    Come take my presidential leadership poll at:

    Not a scientific poll but the results have been interesting.

  • Randall Drew

    Obama gets his style right out of a pulpit. His cadence and delivery remind me of Sunday sermons, but his prose doesn't mean he is presidential. He has NO experience running anything, and has only served in the senate for 143 days. If he were you or me, he couldn't even get a low-level security clearance, much less become Commander-In- Chief. If he gets elected, just get ready to pay higher taxes everywhere, and watch the markets tumble. I am not looking forward to watching my free country become a socialist nation. My grandfather, who served in WWII, would cringe to see what has happened to the nation he defended with his life.