Leadership Presence – Focus on the moment

By now, most folks following the news and the blogosphere have caught the brief perishable news of President Obama’s tone-deaf gift of a DVD set to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown:

“After Brown presented Obama with a pen holder crafted from the timbers of the 19th century British warship HMS President (whose sister ship, HMS Resolute, provided the wood for the Oval Office’s desk), Obama offered up … 25 DVDs of American movie classics.”

Ok, so not necessarily a quid pro quo, but I suspect President Obama chose this gift personally, without the sage advise of White House Social Secretary, Desirée Rogers.  Or we hope so.  We don’t believe this incongruent gesture will lead to overly upset international relations, but he could be reminded of a lesson from Susan Scott on Taking One Conversation at a Time.

Consistently, in all the interviews and filming engagements we have conducted, leaders who have made a marked difference in their teams, their organizations, have all emphasized the importance of being present and engaging wholly in each interaction.  A common sentiment among people led by people who inspire them is that each time they engage their leaders – internal or elsewhere – is that they feel, in that moment, that they are they only person that matters.  Consistently I’ve heard people say that when they have the rare opportunity to talk to Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Immelt, Al Gore, or (pick your luminary, your killer chance encounter), they feel in that moment as if their interests, their concerns are all that matters, and that they are genuinely ‘heard.’  Although I’m not sure Gordon Brown walked away feeling slighted, the UK media jumped all over it, as well as nations witnessing the transaction.