Leadership

Barack Obama reveals 3 pieces of leadership advice he's shared with his daughters

President Barack Obama speaks at Goalkeepers 2017.
President Barack Obama speaks at Goalkeepers 2017.

At a recent event for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, former President Barack Obama revealed the leadership advice he's shared with his daughters Sasha and Malia over the years.

After giving a keynote speech, Obama joined Bill and Melinda Gates on stage and discussed lessons he learned from his time as a community organizer up through his role as U.S. commander-in-chief. He used these experiences as examples to teach his daughters about how to "shape the world."

Here are three of those leadership lessons.

"Being responsible is an enormous privilege"

The first lesson Obama says that he and wife Michelle Obama have tried to teach Sasha and Malia growing up centers on responsibility.

"When they were small, their responsibilities were small, like, 'say when you want to go potty'," Obama says half-seriously and with a laugh. "As you get older, your responsibilities grow."

Obama says he and Michelle have tried to instill "basic homespun values" in Sasha and Malia, including being kind, considerate, empathetic and hardworking. Obama says these are the "tools by which you can shape the world around you in a way that feels good."

"Part of what we try to communicate is that being responsible is an enormous privilege," Obama says.

As the 44th President of the United States of America Barack Obama takes the stage, with his daughters Sasha and Malia and wife Michelle at his side, at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, November 4, 2008.
Nikki Khan | Getty Images
As the 44th President of the United States of America Barack Obama takes the stage, with his daughters Sasha and Malia and wife Michelle at his side, at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, November 4, 2008.

Although Sasha, 16, and Malia, 19, are technically still teenagers, Obama says that owning responsibility is what marks them or anyone a "fully grown human." He adds that means "other people rely on you, that you have influence [and] that you can make your mark."

"What we try to encourage is the sense that it's not somebody else's job, it's your job," Obama says. "That's an ethic that they've embraced."

"There are a lot of different ways to make a contribution"

Obama notes that a common mistake people make is thinking there's only one way to make a difference or be involved.

He recognizes that Sasha and Malia "will choose to participate in different ways because they've got different temperaments, different strengths."

Obama also says that "you don't have to go out and lead the protest march." Other ways of being a leader include mentoring children or working at a local health clinic that will make a difference.

"If you are a brilliant engineer, you don't have to make a speech," Obama says. "You can create an app that allows an amplification or the scaling up of something that is really powerful if you're someone who likes to care for people."

"There are a lot of different ways to make a contribution and I try to emphasize that to them as well," Obama says.

"You have to be persistent"

The third lesson Barack and Michelle have taught their daughters over the years? "You have to be persistent," he says.

Obama says he thinks people often feel impatient because change, at times, is not always immediate or impactful.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks with his daughters Sasha (L) and Malia during the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House November 25, 2015 in Washington, DC
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks with his daughters Sasha (L) and Malia during the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House November 25, 2015 in Washington, DC

"We get disappointed and we get frustrated," Obama says. "I always tell people that my early work as a community organizer in Chicago taught me an incredible amount, but I didn't set the world on fire."

He mentions that despite his accomplishments in the role, including getting public parks for communities that needed them, starting an after-school program and setting up a job training program for laid-off workers, there was still more work to be done.

"Those communities weren't suddenly transformed, they still had huge problems," Obama says. "But I took that experience and then I was able to build on it."

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