Obama: A Reality Leader and his ‘To Do List’

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Having a tough day?

Your to do list; stressing you out? Feel like running in the opposite direction? Maybe if you just stick your head in the sand, all this will go away or better yet if you skip the biggies on the top of your list and just do the minutia on the bottom you will feel better?

Not exactly Obama style, now is it?  Just think about the ‘to do’ list he woke up to the morning of November 4th! Of course we don’t expect a leader like Obama to stick his head into the sand, retreat into denial, react in fear, stay in bed with the covers over his head or pull the wool over his tribes eyes- do we?

Our new President elect is a Reality Leader. He is a student and teacher of Reality based leadership.



Reality is the state or quality of being real. A reality leader is comfortable with "what is," the facts. Reality based leaders are rooted in the now and comfortable with the uncomfortable. They have the uncanny ability to inspire their tribes to the ideal, the beliefs, the purpose of their union while simultaneously remaining in the present, embracing reality, the challenges, opportunities and threats.


A reality leader is present. Obama has a rootedness, a presence that is conveyed in his body and his eyes, his words and actions confirm the integrity of his knowing . Obama’s presence never appears to limit his powerful understanding of the past and inspiring vision of the future.  Reality based leaders get darn close and chummy with facts, tough facts, embarrassing facts and tragic circumstances, not seeming to worry about finding themselves neck deep in muck. Courageous, Reality leaders fend off temptations to deny, ignore or sweep the facts under the carpet. They understand that denial and ignorance are the enemies of progress of the vision, the ideals of their tribe. The reality leader must go through the swamp of his/her current reality exactly because if he doesn’t, he can’t orchestrate the team, tribe to the other side, the vision, progress, the beliefs and ideals.

Full Disclosure

Reality leaders don’t own brooms or vacuuming cleaners.  All the Facts; good, bad and the ugly, everything is out on the table, the cards turned face up for everyone to see. The realists believes that the fastest way to the the future is smack dab through the middle of "what is" now and to get there everyone on the team needs a full understanding of the current reality, landscape and marketplace. The reality leader knows that clarity and understanding are essential elements to decisive, effective action.

Reality based leaders calmly and patiently engage their tribe in dialog about reality; the good, bad and ugly. They are experts at storytelling and effective at getting the tribe focused on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats they face. Comfortable with the uncomfortable they completely vett out the disappointing, tragic, intolerable and unacceptable.

Obama  is a Reality leader, he understands that the human story, the human condition is full of ugly, tragic and terrible. He is comfortable with Reality, but unyielding in his desire to change it.


Reality based leaders galvanize their tribes by effectively communicating the gap that exists between where the tribe is today (reality) and the tribes ideals,vision and beliefs. Empowering, the reality leader turns his tribe free to solve, resolve, improve, right, clean up the ugly. Reality based leaders create an environment of decisive action and hold tribe members accountable to consistent and congruent team actions.

So now let’s go back to Obama’s ‘to do’ list. Quite a list don’t you think? But for him – for the radical reality based leader it’s his dream, the goal.The chance of a life time as he described in his final words of his last speech before the election, "let’s go change the world."

Go ahead.  Tear up your ‘to do list.’

Now sit down and make a reality list. What are the opportunities, threats, weaknesses, issues that face you and your team? What is your tribes purpose, the purpose that excites you and unites you, your ideals, beliefs?

Your one big thing?

Your mantra?

What you must do …together…

Now as our President elect reminded each of us before the election. "We rise or fall as one…people…"

Get with your team and be Real….be a Reality Leader….

Pam Hoelzle

"With"is a powerful thing


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No Responses to “Obama: A Reality Leader and his ‘To Do List’”

  1. Barbara Mackie

    Great post on the “Obama style”, from a Canadian supporter. It also made me think of Richard Branson. Here’s to being Real!!

  2. Pam Hoelzle

    Thanks for the comment yes- it’s like the Stockdale Paradox that Jim Collins has coined. We desperately need leaders who do not give up the faith that eventually we will be victorious- realize the vision, the ideals and simultaneously courageously confront the brutal facts of their current reality. Obama is just the leader the world needs now helping each of us to get real and get busy making a difference!
    Pam Hoelzle
    follow me on twitter at pamhoelzle