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Obama's Lessons for Leadership in a Time of Change

President Obama on Air Force One

The President works on his Libya speech with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon during a conference call on Air Force One, via The White House on Flickr

The President's speech last night was primarily billed as his chance to plead his case to the nation for the ongoing military intervention in Libya. But slipped into his remarks was a primer on 21st century leadership in a time of change, a topic Life in Beta is particularly interested in. Here were Mr. Obama's take-home messages for any leader:

1. Change comes at you in two main forms: the easy kind, and the hard kind.

The popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia are exhilarating examples of regime change in the Middle East. Our eight-year struggle in Iraq is quite the opposite. Obama cited both examples as he raised hopes and managed expectations in Libya, making it clear that we're not pledging a long-term military intervention.

2. Circumstances change. Values don't.

Obama made a strong humanitarian case for intervention. "When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsiblity to act," he argued.

3. Agility is to your advantage.

Obama pointed out proudly that in the early '90s, when Milosevic was perpetrating genocide in Bosnia, it took President Bill Clinton nearly a year to muster a military response; in the case of Libya, the President's diplomatic team, headed by Hillary Clinton, formed a coalition and moved to action within 31 days. No doubt social media has helped keep the current Mideast upheaval top of mind for both the public and politicians here at home.

4. Collaboration is the new leadership.

In announcing the turnover of command of the Libyan operation to NATO, Obama articulated a new philosophy of American power: Whenever possible, we don't act alone. We seek to work with allies and use our influence and expertise to help spread our values around the world. "Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well," Obama said, a statement that's as true whether you are running a design firm, a large corporation, a university, or a country.

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