Analyzing the Leadership of Putin, Obama, and Assad (Part I)

By Cletus R. Bulach, Special for USDR. Featured and Exclusive to USDR.

Three of the world’s leaders seem to be in the headlines almost every day because of what happens in the country they are leading. What is it about their leadership that is similar or different? In order to make that comparison, I will have to describe what is meant by the word “leadership.”  Many theoreticians have written books on leadership, but I will not rehash their theories. Instead, I am going to give a common sense description of leadership and what a person has to do to become a leader.

Three key words can used to describe leadership, and they are influence, motivation, and power. Anytime a person exercises leadership, whether that person is a parent, teacher, or leader of an organization or country, they are attempting to influence or motivate someone to do something. In order to do that, they must use some form of power. Definitions of these three words are the following:

• influence: the ability to motivate others.
• motivation: a process that causes others to sustain or change a behavior
• power: the ability to influence, control, and/or motivate others.
• leadership: something that occurs when the leader motivates others through use of the nine forms of power to sustain or change a behavior.

Within these definitions are two key concepts that need further definition. They are the “nine forms of power” and “sustain or change a behavior.”  There are only nine forms of power and a leader often uses one or more of them to influence and motivate others. These forms of power will be described later. Much has been written about sustaining and changing behavior, but the words leadership and management are often used instead.

The act of changing behavior is often described as “leadership” and the act of sustaining a behavior is often described as “management”. For example, a teacher in a classroom who is able to enforce classroom rules is managing or sustaining a behavior. A teacher who is able to motivate a student who is a failure to become a good student has changed behavior.
A leader has to be able to be able to change behavior (leadership) as well as sustain behavior (management). If a leader only exercises leadership, they will not remain the leader for long. The change that was introduced has to be managed or it will not be a successful change. On the other hand if a leader only manages affairs and introduces no change, eventually that will also lead to a lack of success. Changing and sustaining behavior is like a hand in a glove. Both work together. One without the other will not work.

In my opinion, Obama has exercised leadership with Obamacare being his signature change. His management of that change has been inadequate which has led to a lot of problems with the introduction of that change. As I look at his leadership over the years of his presidency, he is spending most of his time leading and not managing the duties of his office. For example, some of his key appointments have had serious problems and he did not seem to be aware of what they were doing. The Benghazi, the implementation of Obamacare, the NSA, the IRS, and the Operation Fast and Furious are examples of a lack of management on his part. Delegation is a key leadership responsibility, and he has done a lot of that. However, a leader who delegates and does not oversee how subordinates are carrying out their responsibilities will not be a successful leader.

Aassad , on the other hand, seems to be spending all of his time managing the affairs of Syria without exercising his other responsibilities as their leader. All of his efforts are being spent managing and controlling the crisis in the country. Instead of giving citizens more freedom and introducing some of the changes they want, he is doing the opposite. They are getting less freedom and more punishment and control than they have ever experienced.

Putin is a good example of a leader who both changes and sustains behavior. His takeover of Crimea is the best example of leadership that creates a change. His control of natural gas supplies to the Ukraine and to Europe is another example of using his leadership to change how Russia is treated by other countries. His control of what happens within Russia is an indication of his management skills. Very little happens in that country which is not controlled by him or his administration.
A key function of leadership is the ability to control or manage the responsibilities of that position. In order to do that the leader must use one or more of the nine forms of power. Four of these forms of power are called controlling forms of power and five are called freeing forms of power.  (These forms of power and how these three leaders use them will be described in Part II)

Dr. Cletus R. Bulach is a retired Ohio school superintendent and associate professor emeritus at the University of West Georgia.  He is the author of numerous articles in educational journals and is co-author of the book Creating a Culture for A High Performing School: A Comprehensive Approach to School Reform, Dropout Prevention, and Bullying Behavior. His website is

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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