The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
Zombie Obama. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) Zombie Obama. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)  

TheDC Interview: Harvard Business School professor Robert Steven Kaplan on his book, Obama’s leadership

Robert Steven Kaplan wants you to figure out what you’re really supposed to do in life.

A professor and associate dean at Harvard Business School, Kaplan is the author of  ”What You’re Really Meant to Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential.” Previously a vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, he is also currently the chairman of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and a founding partner of Indaba Capital Management.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Kaplan talked about his book, President Barack Obama’s leadership skills and much more:

Why did you decide to write the book?

I believe there is an enormous amount of confusion about how to achieve a fulfilling life and career. Shouldn’t I try to do what my family, friends and society want me to do? Who defines my success? I wrote this book to help people create their own definition of success and then work to achieve it. This can be a tall order for many people and I wrote this book to lay out a step by step roadmap for getting there.

How does one determine what they are really meant to do?

It starts with understanding yourself. What are your skills, what are your passions, do you know your values and ethical boundaries? How does the story of your life impact your mindset and ability to bring your skills to bear? Reaching your potential is about understanding all these facets and then working to match them to opportunities. It also involves making the most of each opportunity once you’re in a specific job. This is not a destination. It is a lifelong effort that takes many twists and turns.

What makes a great leader — as opposed to a bad or even merely good one? 

In my view, great leaders learn to articulate a clear vision of how their organizations distinctively add value. They set priorities based on their vision and work to align the organization to achieve their objectives. While they’re doing this, they are constantly learning to frame questions, engage others and better understand themselves. Leadership is not about having all the answers or trying to go it alone — it is, instead, about asking the right questions, being open to debate and adapting to reality.

How do you rate the current president’s leadership skills?

The current president is a very talented person. However, I would love to see him articulate more clearly and frequently his aspirations for the country. He did that very effectively as a candidate for president but maybe less effectively once in office. For example, how does healthcare reform or improved regulations of the financial services industry fit with his vision for the country — how does it serve to help rebuild the middle class and improve our competitiveness? There’s a tremendous narrative to be told and the president has to do that. Without a clear narrative, people attribute motives to Obama that he may not have and the country gets mired in tactical debates which don’t really connect to the future of the country. The vision is the prism through which each action and priority makes sense.