President Obama on Storytelling and Leadership

Mar 18, 2024

Thriving Through Storytelling: Insights from President Obama at the FTI Supernova Opening 

I attended the opening event of Flanders Technology and Innovation Supernova, which President Obama attended as the guest of honor. Surrounded by 1800 guests, I soaked in the wisdom shared by a leader who has inspired millions.

Here are the most remarkable takeaways that resonated with my journey in business and thought leadership:

𝗪𝗵𝘆 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗡𝗲𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴

Obama emphasized the crucial role of storytelling for entrepreneurs and leaders who envision change and innovation."Can you project a possibility? Can you tell a story about something that's not here today but could be there tomorrow if we work together?”

"𝙏𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙜𝙤𝙤𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙖𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨."


𝗟𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝗦𝗸𝗶𝗹𝗹

Part of being a good storyteller is learning to listen. Many leaders miss the opportunity to connect because they don’t listen to the stories of those around them. By genuinely listening, we learn about others' values and priorities, making our storytelling more impactful and inclusive. 
Obama reminded us that "The average person does not think in abstractions. They think in their experience." This insight is critical for leaders to tailor their messages to be relatable and resonant with their audience's lived experiences. 
In an era where the lines between politics and facts often blur, Obama's advice to 𝙛𝙤𝙘𝙪𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙨𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙮 𝙥𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙨 is a reminder to stay grounded in truth and integrity.

𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝗶𝘀 𝗩𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻, 𝗡𝗼𝘁 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗱

He poignantly noted, "Leadership implies that you have a vision. Too many people think it means everyone has to do what I say." This distinction between having a vision and commanding obedience is vital for cultivating a culture of respect and collaboration.


Focus on the Long-term

"𝗗𝗼𝗻'𝘁 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀. Ignore the day-to-day. And try to keep your eye on the broader eye." Obama's advice on staying focused on the long-term vision rather than getting distracted by short-term setbacks is invaluable for anyone striving to make a lasting impact.


The North Star

His question, "𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚'𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙚? 𝘼𝙧𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙛𝙤𝙘𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙉𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙝 𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙧? 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙡𝙚𝙢-𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙫𝙞𝙣𝙜." reminds us to constantly evaluate our direction and ensure we're aligned with our core mission and values.