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With unemployment rates at 6.5% in the UK, 10.4% in Ireland, 8.1% in the US and rising, these figures can make for depressing reading. However, if you look at them in a more positive light they indicate that employment rates are between 89% and 93%.

This raises the interesting question of what are we currently doing to motivate this retained work force? Has employee engagement effectively been put on hold? Was “the war for talent” really just a myth?

Of course businesses need to cut costs in order to survive, but once this ’survival strategy’ has been achieved, business leaders will need to focus on employment rates if they are to formulate their ‘winning strategy’. To do so, they might like to consider the following:

  • Continue to manage talent within the organisation. The war may be at a temporary truce, but talent will always find opportunity and as the economy recovers, talent can quickly migrate.
  • Re-engage and motivate the retained work force. Organisations should be looking to realign goals and objectives, develop managers as change leaders, continue to focus on the full range of reward mechanisms, measure employee engagement with more cost effective tools and provide targeted opportunity for development of their people.
  • Reward business ideas and innovation. Only by harnessing entrepreneurial talent will organisations beat their competitors in the economic recovery.
  • Align and develop your senior leaders for current and future challenges. History has many examples of exceptional leaders who come to the fore in times of conflict or economic hardship - however, it also shows us that many of these individuals were far less successful when leading in times of peace or economic prosperity. Organisational leaders need the competency and agility to both survive and grow.

Unemployment rates may be an ongoing challenge for governments, but it’s the employment rates that are the real challenge for business leaders.

The emergence of Barack Obama brings with it a new age of leadership. His profile matches the theoretical framework for great leadership and in a sense his success or otherwise may well be the most interesting real time psychological experiment of our time.

Against all the known frameworks for leadership Obama is a close match. So quite apart from the small task of attempting to rescue the world from an economic meltdown he is helping to define leadership in the 21st century. If he succeeds we know we have the right model for political and also importantly for corporate leadership- the latter having taken something of a pounding recently.

Our research shows leadership to exist on three dimensions which we summarise as Thought, Task and People. For the Thought area you need to be able to create a vision of where you want to be which requires levels of insight and intelligence. The 'g' factor (intelligence factor) is an important factor in leadership and this is evident in president Obama. It does not relate solely to your GMAT (MBA entrance exams) or other test scores but relates to your intelligence, your ability to see links between different sources of information and set out possibilities.

The Task area relates to the drive and determination a leader can bring to their role combined with the ability to put in place structures to make things happen. In President Obama's case this may be the area where he has still to prove his leadership in results and was an area targeted as a weakness by his electoral opponents. So does he have the credentials to be a successful task leader ? His level of drive and energy is obvious by his first day's work schedule with a workout before breakfast at 5 am! However, more importantly he has been swift to show decision making and to deliver on some pre-election commitments. However, the most important thing that makes him stand out as a potentially great leader in this area is that he sees it as the one he needs to develop. He has appointed a range of advisors, is prepared to listen to them and has made it clear he will then take decisions based on their input. He has also appointed people who are good at carrying out tasks and getting results in their chosen field.

It is in the area of People that Barack Obama brings the most interesting perspective. The key to his success in this area may not be his undoubted charisma, his ability to speak well in public or his presence and manner, characteristics which are often thought of as being the mark of a good leader but nonetheless can be trained. Instead what he brings to a new era of leadership is a genuine 'inclusivity'. He has already been reported as describing one European leader as 'lightweight' because their view was too parochial, being only concerned with protecting their own patch. Inclusivity is at the heart of his speeches but the difference for him as a leader is that it comes across as sincere.

It is interesting how many groups are claiming a part of Barack Obama. In Kenya, for instance tourism has increased significantly since his appointment. He has ancestors from Moneygall a small village in Tipperary in Ireland. The first African American in the White House and so on. The global inclusivity is not only in his background but is also at the heart of what he stands for.

Obama's approach to inclusivity takes Goleman's Emotional Intelligence factor (EQ) to a new level and when combined with a 'g' factor the potential in Obama's leadership is enormous. The essence of this approach in organisations will give CEO's and senior executives a blueprint for their own leadership style in wider framework of inclusivity and corporate decision making. Corporate social responsibility is likely to be redefined and become central to a new emerging leadership.

So can we use this knowledge about the new President's style to predict, select and develop future leaders? The answer to this is yes we can !

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