Jon Gordon’s Positive Leadership Lessons from American Politics

Jon Gordon’s Positive Leadership Lessons from American Politics

Written by Jon Gordon ( and brought to you because it touches on elements of positive psychology and leadership

This is not a political article. I understand that there are many of you who voted for Barrack Obama and many who voted for John McCain. I know that the passions run deep and after politics 24/7 I believe most people are thankful the election is over and will now pray for our new President and pray that he makes the right decisions for our country.

However, as someone who studies and teaches leadership I can”t help but analyze, from a leadership perspective, why America chose Barrack Obama as our new President and leader. Why were so many people energized by his candidacy? Why were so many young and new voters engaged in his campaign? What was it about him that brought so many different people together?

Some argue that it was the unpopularity of President Bush, the financial crisis, and his campaign’s use of technology while others say it was because he was to be the first black President. Yet, these reasons don’t explain why people of all races celebrated his election victory in the streets. They don”t account for the hope and tears in people’s eyes. They don’t begin to describe the wave of powerful emotions felt around the world. And they don’t adequately express why a majority of voters chose to follow him.

While researching and reading an article the other day about Obama’s “Yes we can” speech the answer struck me like a bolt of lightning. The reasons why he was chosen to lead this county were big and profound, and yet they could be explained by three simple words. Yes. We. Can.

Yes. We. Can. I believe they are three words that elected the next President of the United States. They are three words that demonstrate the power of positive leadership. They are three words at the heart of any meaningful movement in society. And they are three words that every leader needs to know in order to lead their business, organization, school, church, and community more effectively. Let’s look at these words more closely.


Does any other word invoke more positive energy than “Yes”? It is the first word in the positive leader’s dictionary. “Yes” signifies optimism, hope and possibility. Despite what the critics say, Optimism is necessary to create success. Belief is fundamental. Hope is a strategy. All are essential to effectively lead and inspire others. Positive leaders don’t focus on how things are. They focus on how they should be. They share their vision for a brighter and better future and their optimism, hope and faith attract people to their positive vision and cause.

In the process of leading others it is their optimism that allows them and their team to overcome adversity, negativity and challenges. At the heart of any movement is a leader whose positive energy is greater than anyone’s negativity and whose certainty is greater than the cynics” doubt. Ronald Reagan’s optimism energized people during the 80’s and Barrack Obama’s optimism and message of hope and positive change clearly resonated with people today.

Question: As a leader are you sharing your vision, optimism, and positive energy with your organization/team?


Great leaders transform me into WE. They know that by themselves they can do nothing but together “We” can accomplish amazing results. Great leaders don”t just get people to believe in them. They inspire people to believe in themselves. If you listen to Obama’s speeches he repeatedly said, “I’m not asking you to just believe in my ability to change Washington. I”m asking you to believe in yours.” He inspired people to be part of something bigger than themselves and he encouraged them to be part of the process and solution.

Obama often made statements such as, “We can do this, We are the change we have been waiting for, Yes we can create positive change.” In essence, he invited people on the bus to be part of his team and then he empowered them to drive their own bus. In doing this he created a fleet of buses all working together with a shared vision, focus and direction. Supporters organized thousands of meetings around the country. Volunteers knocked on doors. Millions of people donated to the campaign. Artists created viral songs and videos such as “Yes we can.”

WE eventually became millions of people who enthusiastically accepted his invitation to become a part of the team. On one level McCain and Obama competed for the Presidency while on another level Obama mobilized “WE” into a powerful movementê¢__‘Ô_and that made all the difference.

Questions: As a leader have you invited your team on the bus? Have you empowered them to be part of the solution? Are you a me team or a we team?


CAN says that if you share your positive vision, stay positive, bring people together and empower them to take action then together you CAN accomplish what you set out to do. Great leaders inspire faith and confidence in people that their hope, optimism and actions will make a difference and have a positive outcome. CAN creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because you and your team believe that they can succeed, you do.

While some people say that hope and positive energy are nothing but pollyana, CAN is the fuel that turns optimism and hope into action and results. Most people don”t want to sit on the sidelines. Most people have a desire to accomplish something meaningful. In many cases they just don’t know where to start and what to do. CAN shows people what’s possible when WE come together with a positive vision and together WE take action.

CAN is the difference between talking about change and creating it. Great leaders don”t just talk about hope. They talk about action. They talk about collective teamwork and individual responsibility. They inspire hope and they encourage people to act on this hope. At the heart of this hope and action is CAN which acts as the bridge between a positive vision and real positive change.

Question: Have you inspired confidence in your team that together you can accomplish what you set out to do?

WORDS matter. When we hear “I love you” it matters. When we hear “You”re not good enough” it matters. When we hear “Yes we can” it matters. And it’s not just the words that matter but the energy, meaning and belief behind the words that matters. The words “Yes we can” were not invented by President-elect Obama. In fact there’s even a wonderful children’s book titled “Yes we can.” These words are not owned by any political party or country. They are available to any leader, in any profession, with a vision and a desire to unite others and generate positive change. And as America faces one of the biggest challenges of our time we don”t just need to hear these words from our President but from each other. Now is a time to come together as one nation under God to overcome our adversity and challenges with positive beliefs and positive actions.