Pretty Amazing Grace – Obama and Emotional Intelligence

I always had high hopes for President Obama, and while he may have failed to bring about change at the pace many hoped for (remember “yes we can”?), he will be remembered for something wonderful, long after his Presidency is over.

He broke into song,  Amazing Grace, and he talked about “grace”, during the memorial service to one of the Charleston victims.

That he did so in the style of a Southern Baptist preacher, fuelled by the call and response of the congregation and supported by the swelling church organ was pretty amazing and exactly what that congregation needed to hear from their President at that moment.  This in itself showed great emotional intelligence, sensing the feelings in that room (and of the millions watching) and choosing an appropriate, if daring intervention to manage those feelings.

But what about the concept of grace?

“Reverend Pinckney … conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently,” Obama eulogised, “He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.”

Now that strikes me as summing up everything we talk about in personal development when we use terms like Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Skills.  The idea that grace is simply the act of charity, empathy and forgiveness to others strikes a chord with me and I wonder if this is at the heart of what should be instilling in others.

A workplace where grace is the everyday norm, a place where we share challenges, successes, even defeats.  A workplace with a bit more humility and a whole lot more forgiveness… A workplace where we take time to really know each other and what’s important to each of us.  Now that’s grace.

Reverend Pinckney had that grace, Obama has that grace. Surely we can show we have that grace too, in everything we do.




3 Leadership Ideas:


  1. What does your audience need to hear from you right now?
  2. In what situations can you show more empathy to people and what might that achieve?
  3. How are mistakes or failure treated in your organisation? With “grace” or something else?
Posted by John Drysdale
10th July 2015
John's Blog


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