Barack Obama was the toast of the nation last week. In the parlance of the new generation, he is one cool dude!
HE is the Big Boss to more than 200 million Americans in his country and, some say, to about three billion other people elsewhere.
It was a whirlwind 48-hour visit here and at each place he went, people watched his every move and jotted every word he uttered – right down to the food he ate and to his stunning remark, “Malaysia Boleh!”
A president of a powerful nation often conjures images of a strict taskmaster or a stern authoritarian.
Yet, the most important guest Malaysia had the opportunity to fete came across to many observers as just a regular American guy trying the best he can to win friends for his country.
I followed Obama only on TV and the net, and while I do not agree with some of the thoughts he shared with his varied audiences, I think, in the parlance of the now generation, he is one cool dude!
I was impressed that he did not have to put on a different mask or façade to satisfy each different gallery he was playing to.
He showed the same casual moves, spontaneous responses and frankness, whether speaking in the presence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, interacting with children, engaging with young leaders or giving a sympathetic ear to grouchy NGO activists.
When you think about it, he would be the ideal company boss who understands the importance of his associates’ own job satisfaction and success and he inspires them with every encouraging word.
Indeed, those who had the chance to get up-close to the man rated him “five stars” for his people-friendly demeanour, his eloquence and his sense of being a good listener and persuasive speaker.
And that’s another lesson that can be learned by bosses everywhere – whether they are political chieftains, corporate captains, association heads or youth club leaders.
Gratifyingly, every interest group which came to listen to the president got something from the discussions to further push their cause: business opportunities, education prospects, talent search, race relations and, yes, even a chance to badmouth the country before the world’s most influential leader.
Sure, Obama came with an agenda and he was unrelenting in pushing for his favoured Trans-Pacific partnership (TPP) that, among others, purportedly seeks to improve trade and investment as well as promote innovation, economic growth and development in the region.
He sees Malaysia as a worthy partner, although TPP critics look at his country as being a bully that regards smaller nations as being easy to wrap around Uncle Sam’s fingers.
Obama admitted he too faces tough opponents back home but their flak against his administration had not veered him away from the TPP goals, objectives and responsibilities.
His message was plainly that lack of focus is the source of a lot of frustration and confusion; and that’s a point bosses in Malaysia can learn.
Returning home, however, he would find many of his countrymen disapproving of his policies on a myriad of matters, particularly in the economy, healthcare and his management of the crisis in Ukraine.
For his party people, the president’s low numbers could hurt Democratic candidates facing legislative elections in November.
But he certainly did not show his anxiety during his visit, and he was as persuasive as he could be in chalking up good ratings here – and presumably also during his trips to Japan, South Korea and the Philippines – despite hitting low ebb in the United States.
Admittedly, I have gained new respect for Obama. And, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak and his colleagues can give themselves a pat on the back for having hosted and managed a remarkable presidential visit.
At the end of the day, bosses – president, prime minister and right down to the ketua kampung – have to work equally as hard as the people they lead.
Granted, many managers could use some improvement in their management style and skill. But before you judge them too quickly, just think of the enormous pressure they work under daily; at times with few resources.
And remember, the only thing any manager, especially the one running the country, can hope to get truly rewarded for is: the bottom line.
Associate Editor Shah Adyll Dadameah thinks ‘boss’ is a four-letter word that, at times, intimidates. At other times it can be as frivolous as going into a mamak restaurant and calling out “Boss, kasi teh tarik satu.” The STAR Opinion Columnist 04 May 2014