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Obama’s Symbolism from the C-Suite

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President Barack Obama sits in the ultimate C-Suite. I don’t agree with everything he’s done, but he’s giving it his all. He’s everywhere: meeting with world leaders, holding press conferences, appearing at town hall meetings, working the late night crowd, and using the Internet to communicate with the American people. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s way too early to know how he’ll do on substantive matters. He’s working on them, but it may take his entire first term to see how substance plays out. Despite every CEO’s desire to succeed in the short term to satisfy our desire for instant gratification, substance is a long term thing.

Symbolism, on the other hand, can happen every day. It’s not as important as substance, but it’s important. Obama gets that. Most CEOs don’t seem to. Shareholders, customers, employees, and the public will give them more time to perform substantively if they’re good at symbolism. But, alas, Obama isn’t perfect.

In an effort to show he’s just one of the people (or maybe the guys), he called ESPN to witness and share his completion of the NCAA men’s college championship bracket. He has North Carolina winning it all, which caused Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski a little upset, something he and others say was misinterpreted. Carolina is in the Final Four.

Surprisingly, the President focused entirely on March Madness, the men’s tournament. Despite his expressed concern about a level playing field (or basketball court) for his two daughters and all women and girls, he never mentioned the simultaneous women’s tournament. For someone good at symbolism, he missed an easy layup.

Not a big deal? It’s the little things that often give symbolism its power.

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