President Obama’s Leadership Report Card


We asked ten of the world’s most respected and admired professors of leadership to assess President Obama on three tenants of leadership: vision, execution, and results. His biggest fan: Warren Bennis at USC who gives the President straight As. His tougher critic? Harvard Business School’s Bill George who gives Obama a pair of Cs and a B-. Below are the grades and comments from all of the ten professors. We also asked these leadership gurus what advice they would give the President if he was a student in their classrooms (“If Obama Was In My Leadership Class…”)

Professor School Vision Execution Results Comment
Deborah Ancona MIT C+ B B One would have given him A+s on Vision, execution and results for the election. He was the epitome of the vision of distributed leadership: yes WE can…we will make this happen. [Then] after energizing and inspiring this huge mass of people, he left everyone behind.
Susan Ashford Michigan A- B B He lacks Washington street smarts. A little bit is the people around him. A little bit is his inability to control the media.
Warren Bennis USC A- A A When he assumed office, he was facing probably the most difficult, complex, and long-range problems than any president in US history has ever faced. I’m amazed at what he’s accomplished.
Angel Cabrera Thunderbird Incomplete* C+ B+ He may have avoided a US depression and passed a health care bill, but he needs a broader coalition of support.
Bill George Harvard C- C B- I assumed, perhaps naively, that he’d give us a vision of where the country was going to go, and would set that out as a long-term plan. He chose not to do that, nor has he done so since.
Manfred Kets De Vries INSEAD B- C A He should be more combative, authoritative in dealing with his critics.
Jeff Pfeffer Stanford A C C Obama is too nice. Contrary to much conventional wisdom, compromise often doesn’t work–in the end, no one is happy.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld Yale B+ B B+ There are no underlying economic signs that we’re approaching a cliff. Only fear is holding us back. He needs to bring confidence back to CEOs, risk-averse boards, and to employees.
Noel Tichy Michigan B+ B+ B At the end of the day, the wealth-producing engine of society is business. He needs them on board.
Mike Useem Wharton A A- Incomplete* In his first 18 months, he faced war, financial restoration and health care. On all three areas, he’s not been shy about making really big decisions. He’s been decisive.
Total Grades B+ B- B Final grades are the sum of all the grades given by the ten leadership experts.

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