Obama's Iowa speech: The Difference btw. A Tactician and A Leader


We’re not political at Found|READ, but in watching the Iowa caucus results Thursday, we saw a glittering demonstration of two fundamentally different, kinds of leadership: the Tactician vs. the Inspirer.

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech was a showcase of her skills, in particular, with strategic messaging. She had to be stunned, but remained pitch-perfect. Gracious but unapologetic, she quickly diverted supporters’ attention away from the setback with a commanding (some might say, possessive) reminder of their long term goal. Iowa, she implied, was just one step among many in getting her to the WH. Setback minimized. Troops refocused.

Anyone who perfroms this well in defeat has serious leadership talent.

Imagine she was a startup founder, speaking about a delayed product release, or a fundraising that had come in short. I thought: This is how you rally your rank and file to keep the ball moving forward.

Then came Barack Obama.

I haven’t always been impressed with his public speaking. Thursday was new ball game. Watch it for a sense for what it really means to galvanize a crowd with your ideas and your passion.

Where Clinton’s speech is tactically swift and powerful, Obama’s inspires emotionally and intellectually. He lights a fire in the audience. (Just listen to them!)

Compare the candidates’ body language. Compare their tones. She is a showcase of competence.

I talked to a friend that night who said he got up off his couch in the middle of Obama’s speech. The man just makes you want to stand up.

I’m sure Clinton got her supporters’ “buy-in” for the next step in the long term goal (New Hampshire). Obama achieves long term “buy in” period:you find yourself wanting to know more about his goal for today, the goal that will come tomorrow, and the one that will come after that.

This is inspiration. It is a true emblem of a Leader. For all her qualifications — mostly unrivaled by competitors — Clinton does not do this. I suspect this is why, in the hours after Iowa’s returns (and for the first time) members of her camp began privately expressing doubts about her run to reporters.

Tactics are not enough. Neither is passion, but tactics can be learned.

Again: while watching, imagine that these two people were startup founders, and that instead of a caucus result, each was speaking about challenges slightly more mundane, like a late product release, a client lost, or layoffs. Whom do you think the rank and file would stand behind?


Carleen Hawn

I think it’d be great to have a dialogue about which of the (many) attributes these two potential leaders possess are the ones we think founders/enterpreneurs can — and — should, emulate? One, IMHO, is the ability to inspire (Obama).
But are tactical attributes (Clinton) just as important in the startup business?

What do you guys think?


It will be an interesting election process to watch. I’m just thrilled there is as much diversity in the candidates as there is. As for who I would follow, I think it all depends on the situation and what the leader is expected to do at that given time.

rons dixon

I agree they would make a formidable team, outside of Bill Clinton (say what you want about the guy) has someone been able to captivate his audience like Obama and what is ever better he is not trying to sensinalize bs.!! man just speaking the truth. America needs a change, and if we continue to go down the same path, I am sorry for my kids and their kids.

Carleen Hawn

That IS precisely what I mean. She is strategic and tactical. But he’s revealed as an inspirational leader. I think you misread. Or maybe didn’t read the whole thing?


I think you’ve got it backwards. Carleen. Hillary is the tactician. Cool. Rational. In command of the facts. Obama is the leader. Emotional. Metaphorical. Inspiring. In touch with his audience. They’d make a formidable team, they complement each other so well. They can appoint Bill as U. N. Ambassador.


i think the word you are looking for is tactician.

His victory speech in Iowa was good, but if you really want to see him on the top of his game, try to download the Obama speech from 2004 Democratic Convention. That was a masterpiece, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

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