Obama, small business and the big err …

They say to err is human. Alex Bellinger argues that a little imperfection is a powerful force for small businesses and Presidents of the United Sates.

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23rd January 2009 at 8:52 pm

In this historic week I’ve been trying to resist the temptation to jump gratuitously on the Obama blogging bandwagon.  Well, I held out until Friday!

Obama - the power of imperfection?

Obama - the perfect president?

Despite my best efforts Obama’s inauguration has been playing on my mind. In particular his stumbling oath, followed by his powerful speech.

That and the experience of seeing him speak unscripted when he’s often thoughtful and a little hesitant – sentences punctuated by ums and errs.

It reminded me of something I’ve always called the ‘power of imperfection’.  What do I mean?  Well it’s the glimpse of the human behind the super-human.  The man or woman behind the machine.  That peering behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz moment.

It’s often easy to believe that business, or politics for that matter must be ruthlessly efficient.  Both worlds are often described in terms of ‘machines’.

But the fact is however efficient your processes and systems are and ought to be, business is always intensely personal.  And entrepreneurs and small business owners recognise that above all.

The necessary systems of larger businesses often get in the way of their relationships with customers.  The computer says no.

Good small businesses don’t have this problem.  As Irish entrepreneurial coach, Kevin Kelly said to me in a recent podcast, you should turn customers into friends.

Which brings me to Pullitzer prize winning poet Robert Hillyer who said:

Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world.

There’s certainly been no shortage of the imperfect in the world in recent months.

But the power of imperfection is not about focusing on weaknesses, giving up on the idea that you can make things better or making do with competent.

It’s about recognising and acknowledging the human – frailties, ambition and that drive to make progress.

A leader who can build confidence, loyalty, inspire people with a vision and reveal his or her common humanity to connect on a personal level, is a strong leader. A leader that in many ways evokes the essence of the entrepreneurial.

Obama, right now, is achieving that.  He is the embodiment of the American dream, as many have said over the past few days, but he’s also the embodiment of the US entrepreneurial spirit.

So for this week at least, despite the gloom, let’s raise a glass to the new President of the USA, to the American people, and use their example to reaffirm our own spirit of enterprise and our own business hopes and dreams.

[Picture credit: Steve Rhodes licenced from Flickr]

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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