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…”)

DeborahAnconaMITC+BBOne 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.
SusanAshfordMichiganA-BBHe lacks Washington street smarts. A little bit is the people around him. A little bit is his inability to control the media.
WarrenBennisUSCA-AAWhen 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.
AngelCabreraThunderbirdIncomplete*C+B+He may have avoided a US depression and passed a health care bill, but he needs a broader coalition of support.
BillGeorgeHarvardC-CB-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.
ManfredKets De VriesINSEADB-CAHe should be more combative, authoritative in dealing with his critics.
JeffPfefferStanfordACCObama is too nice. Contrary to much conventional wisdom, compromise often doesn’t work–in the end, no one is happy.
JeffreySonnenfeldYaleB+BB+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.
NoelTichyMichiganB+B+BAt the end of the day, the wealth-producing engine of society is business. He needs them on board.
MikeUseemWhartonAA-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 GradesB+B-BFinal grades are the sum of all the grades given by the ten leadership experts.