On January 20th Barack Obama will be President of the United States. Expectations are high. I’m anxious to see what is going to happen. As a political scientist and strategic advisor I have great admiration for the way he campaigned. In many way different and completely new. Especially the way he use the internet and social networking sites is amazing. Thanks to millions of small donations his campaign budget was far bigger than that of his opponents Hillary Clinton and John McCain, both no inexperienced campaigners.But his campaign strategy went further than money only. Thanks to the social networking sites he had daily direct contact with his (potential) supporters.His was able to listen to their experiences and opinions and provoked discussions by trying out his own opinions, sending text messages and asking for reactions. That was a decisive factor in his victory.
Speed and directness of contact with the public has never been used on this scale and Obama in this way did bind a lot of people to his vote. But this also is the first big challenge for the new president. Can he hold these connections with millions of supporters also after January 20th? Can the president of the USA keep sending text messages from his blackberry of write messages on Facebook? If he doesn’t he risks losing the political capital he just build fairly soon again.The second big challenge lies in the leadership of his new team and the expectations that are attached to that. During the transition period Obama has operated very strong. He formed a governing team of great quality. He collected a group of people around him that have strong qualities and who also dare to disagree with him. Look for that with the CEO’s of big companies today. But again, there is a risk here. Great qualities lead to big expectations regarding the solution of the big world problems. That we need these qualities is indisputable. De financial and economic crisis, the necessity to sign a new Kyoto-agreement to end the warming of the Earth, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Afghanistan, tensions between India and Pakistan, the failure of the current Irak-policy. What strikes with all these problems is that they cannot be solved by “strong men or women”. Neither can America do it alone, though it can play a decisive role. But the core will be to form a new form of collective leadership, where all stakeholders take common responsibility for solving the problem. It the new team relies mainly on force and too less on building real commitments, high expectations will lead to even higher disappointments soon. Also Obama himself can easily makes mistakes in this respect. Two weeks ago he raised the number of jobs that he will create from 2,5 to 3 million without sound arguments. I think that is dangerous for politicians. Because presidents don’t create jobs, though they can create the economic climate where this becomes possible. By smart economic and fiscal policy.Likewise is it impossible for the president of the USA to solve all world problems on his own. Let’s see if Obama is up to the challenge to create real collective leadership. Only then his presidency will really succeed and the effect be a lasting one.