Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

Leadership By Letting Go

Upon reflection on yesterday's inaugural events, I realized there's a reason I'm inspired by Barack Obama that doesn't get much press. 

He was telling us his father was denied service in that same town just 60 years ago because he was black. And I thought, "We did that to him, he's now the top dog, and yet he's not seeking revenge! Revenge would be understandable, and in some circles, expected, yet we're hearing about hope and prevailing through difficulties instead." Has anyone else noticed this? 

The rage Obama has surely felt from past insults seems to have galvanized him to rise above that world of retribution, to a higher plane. He's calling us to join him, and he's the leader of the free world. I can't imagine anything more inspiring than that.

I think this is a hallmark of a great leader -- the ability to transform the pain and disappointment of the past into determination for a better future. Sometimes I think we hesitate to let go of the past because we're afraid its pain and disappointment will haunt us forever if we do. We often put our faith in the alternative -- keeping the past alive by defending our role in it. We keep trying and trying to somehow make it turn out right. 

The great leaders know there's an alternative. They can turn the other cheek, they can admit defeat, they can put it in perspective, and they can use the emotions from it to harden their resolve to do better next time. 

I hope this inauguration signals the reawakening of this kind of leadership at all levels of society. What do you think?