Sunday, February 2, 2014


I wonder if any of you - like me - grew up being told that children are to be seen but not heard. If so, then you'll understand why I find these to be some of the most powerful pictures of President Obama.

And here is perhaps my very favorite picture. It was taken back during the 2008 primary when not many people were paying attention to that skinny guy with the funny name. I imagine that all this little girl knew was that she had his undivided attention.
Recently Jim Stuart has written about the fact that one of the characteristics of an integral leader is their ability to engage in deep listening.
It's hard to describe this deep listening that is the foundation of the integral leader's personal power. You the reader need to reach into your personal experience for a time, a moment when you felt totally seen, totally heard - as if the person listening to you was offering you a safe, even sacred space in which to be heard.
If only for a moment, that is what I believe we are witnessing in these photos - President Obama offering children "a safe, even sacred space in which to be heard."


  1. I have always been struck by that powerful commitment he has to listening to everyone, especially children. The press used to note that trait in Bill Clinton, but they hardly ever remark upon it with President Obama. From one of those very early photos of him bending down to let the little boy feel his hair, the President has made clear there is no American of any age, who cannot command his respect and attention. I love these photos, many I've never seen before, and I deeply appreciate your validating my impressions that this man is deeply caring as well as incredibly smart. How ANYONE can call him aloof or out of touch with people just boggles my mind. He's incredibly warm and engaged always! Thank you!

  2. I remember one time in my life that I would describe as a moment when I was being totally listened to. One. I was interviewing for the top H.R. job for the Dallas School District back in 1984 or 85 by the District Superintendent. I don't even remember his name. I didn't get the job - clearly wasn't qualified for the job - but he spent 45 minutes completely listening to me. Total listening is so much more than just hearing words. Your mind has to be clear of all other thoughts and you have to be listening to the other person's body, movements, tone of voice, etc. It is a real gift and I am not at all surprised to find it in our wonderful president.

  3. I also notice that he frequently mirrors the facial expressions of the people he is engaged with. I notice it especially with small children and babies. This is a sure sign that the listener is deeply engaged.