The Communicative Power of Barack Obama: How He Became President-Elect

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 will go down as a monumental day in American history, when America elected an African American to serve as its president. What enabled Senator Barack Obama to tear down traditional barriers of race and ethnicity, to become such a historic figure? There were two key factors. His outstanding communication abilities, which enabled him to garner support from one of the most diverse coalitions in American history; and his excellent ability to launch and lead a formidable organization—he exhibited leadership and managerial skills of the highest order. I elaborate here on his tremendous communicative power. 

As we see in my recently published book, Say It Like Obama: the Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision (McGraw Hill, 2008 - www.sayitlikeobama.com), Senator Barack Obama is a “master of the craft” of communication. In Say It Like Obama, I still the key communication practices that have enabled Senator Barack Obama to enjoy such a meteoric rise from his position as a state senator in 2004, to president-elect of the United States in 2008. Notable among these practices are: 

His ability to use communication in all of its forms—from body language, to voice inflection, to gestures—to establish a strong first impression and to sustain that positive impression. 

His ability to use communication to tear down barriers and build up bridges, focusing on areas of commonality that enable him to gain support from a diverse set of people. 

His ability to use oration to win the hearts and minds of listeners. He has shown great skill in using key communication practices to inspire people, securing their loyalty and passionate support.  

His ability to communicate his vision excellently, using words that resonate with people. 

His ability to drive points home. Obama uses key rhetorical techniques to present his ideas powerfully. 

His ability to persuade. Obama uses key rhetorical techniques that enable him to sway listeners. 

His ability to draw on excellent communication practices to weather controversy, emerging with his positive reputation largely in tact. 

His ability to use effective communication skills to motivate people to action and to leave a lasting strong impression. 

Together, these outstanding communication practices enabled Barack Obama to overcome obstacles that would have hindered another politician—his age, his race, his “exotic” name, his unconventional personal story—to become the president-elect of the United States. We have much to learn from him, as we see in the book Say It Like Obama (McGraw Hill, 2008 - www.sayitlikeobama.com).  

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

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