Michelle Obama (6 lessons)

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This weekend I dove headfirst into Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming,” which now, after selling 1.4 million copies in all formats during the first seven days since it hit shelves on November 13, is a New York Times Bestseller.

After supporting thousands of thought leaders write books over the past dozen years, and facilitating leadership trainings for Fortune 1000s and non-profits, I thought it was appropriate to use Michelle Obama as a lesson in leadership.

Why?

Not only did she and her team conduct an impeccable book launch, one must recognize, whatever their political affiliation, that Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, is a quintessential leader.

Specifically, Michelle Obama personified the following 6 leadership distinctions during her book launch this week:

  1. Leaders are advocates. Michelle advocates for others to use their voice and tell their story, especially women. Of course, the best way to cause and create change is to BE the change yourself. By sharing her story, Michelle encourages others to do the same. Michelle states on her Instagram, “I hope you’ll also think about your own story, and trust that it will help you become whoever you aspire to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” Michelle uses the #IAmBecoming to encourage others to share their story of their own personal evolution.
  2. Leaders are storytellers. In her memoir, Michelle eloquently weaves her personal and family stories into historical and cultural context. For example, how “white flight” in Chicago during the 70s impacted her family, school and community. This gives the reader insight into her life, creating compassion and common ground.
  3. Leaders are marketers. Your message is only good to those who hear it. Michelle aptly used social media, a nationwide arena tour, TV interviews, including all three network morning shows, and press to promote “Becoming” and her burgeoning #IAmBecoming movement. Before she launched her book, she documented the book writing journey on Instagram by sharing candid videos and photos of the book cover and manuscript.
  4. Leaders are collaborators. Michelle kicked off her book tour in her home town of Chicago with Oprah Winfrey in the interviewer seat! Other celebrities and leaders, such as Tracey Lee Ross, Ellen Degeneres, and even Barack Obama joined in to champion her. Leaders are not “islands unto themselves”, rather they work together to amplify the message and results.
  5. Leaders are vulnerable. When discussing her book, Michelle shares “It’s candid, it honest, it’s open. It’s totally and utterly me.” Leaders dive into courageous conversations to forge connections with others.
  6. Leaders are writers. Leaders reflect and write. Writing is a tool for leaders to impact millions; sharing musings, methodologies, stories, and solutions. Michelle states on Instagram: “The process of writing this book has been so personally meaningful and illuminating for me.”

Questions for you:

What came alive for you as Michelle Obama embarked on her book tour?

What leadership lessons did you learn?

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