Business Leadership Lessons from President Obama

Today was a day that should inspire and encourage everyone. Young or old, black or white, Republican or Democrat. Today was about change. Today was about progress. Today was about hope, humanity, faith and courage. It was about presence and tenacity – the welcoming of a new leader for a resolute country.

Many things that President Obama said today could be applicable to any business leader tasked with motivating and retaining a discouraged staff. The nuggets of wisdom bestowed upon us today can serve as guiding principles for business leaders and words of encouragement for budding entrepreneurs – tough decisions are necessary, challenges should be met head on, unity of purpose leads to greater success,  greatness doesn’t just happen and hard work is a privilege.

If you missed President Obama’s speech, you can read it in its entirety here. Some of my favorite parts – ones that I will lean on during what is sure to be another tumultuous year – are below. I have bookmarked this speech and will continue to go back and read it when I need a reminder to keep leading with courage and integrity – and most of all, faith that we will all carry on and prosper, especially when we work together.

Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.