As the world’s leaders convene for the 50th World Economic Forum to consider how to tackle “stakeholder capitalism and income inequality, societal division and the climate crisis,” the Priority Consultants team is proud to share our own recent encounter with the United States’ 44th President, Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama when they came through Singapore late last year.

As media relations partner for this one-time event organised by The Growth Faculty, the Priority team heard the former first couple share their collective wisdom on topics ranging from business, leadership and empathy gained through their eight years in the White House.

Team Priority at “In Conversation with President Barack Obama”

 

Former US president Barack Obama in candid conversation in Singapore. PHOTO: petelongworth.com
Former US president Barack Obama in candid conversation in Singapore. PHOTO: petelongworth.com

 

Their remarks have many parallels to the discussions taking place this week in Davos and remind us of three key takeaways:

Takeaway 1: There is much to be thankful for today 

Bushfires have ravaged Australia, destroying over 18 million hectares and 6,000 homes, Asia’s second most active volcano, Taal in the Philippines, spewed a massive cloud of ash, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate their homes while Indonesia’s capital Jakarta was struck by floods that claimed 66 lives. This collective catastrophe, said to be the worst disaster of the century just passed, represents one of three issues that keep the former President of the United States awake at night: climate change. The other two being political polarisation and the unexpected corruption of social media networks.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama remains a dealer in hope and change. During his conversation he stressed his firm belief that, despite these issues, the world has never been wealthier, more educated, more peaceful, or more tolerant with a greater sense of understanding between cultures. However, he emphasised that these advances are not a cause for complacency because suffering still exists in all parts of the world. In this new decade, with technological advancements and improvements in global income inequality and life expectancy we should all believe there is so much hope for the future.

Takeaway 2: Women in leadership are as capable as men, if not more

Drawing a laugh from the audience and applause from the female members when speaking about women in leadership, Mr. Obama commented,

“Now women, I just want you to know; you are not perfect, but what I can say pretty indisputably is that you’re better than us [men]”.

“I’m absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything, living standards and outcomes.”

Research by many business and non-governmental organisations has shown that diverse people and perspectives contributes to better decision making and innovation in organisations. We look forward to watching and contributing to elevating more female leaders in business and politics over the next decade to expand opportunities in Asia.

Former First Lady to the 44th president of the United States, Michelle Obama with moderator, Corinna Lim the executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), sharing excerpt of her book “Becoming”
Former First Lady to the 44th president of the United States, Michelle Obama with moderator, Corinna Lim the executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), sharing excerpt of her book “Becoming”

 

Takeaway 3: Giving Children/Younger People a Voice at the Table

During her event, Michelle Obama discussed the need to start early in childhood development to build and develop confident adults who could go against the grain as individuals in society. She shared how we can cultivate this confidence by allowing children a voice at the family table, noting that this is the first table they will encounter in life and will shape how they interact with the world later. This means having the opportunity to ask questions, explore and challenge as children, and also includes adults adapting to each child’s needs.

Anyone who has read her bestselling autobiography, “Becoming” would know that the life of the former First Lady has not always been smooth sailing; from discrimination in America to dealing with “imposter syndrome”, which she described as a belief people have that they should not have a seat at the table – whether in career or life – that keeps them from pursuing more opportunities.

Ms. Obama offered these bits of advice to overcome self-doubt,

“Practise who you want to be,” “doing it when you are scared…, repeating it, working hard, failing, and getting back up again.”

It was clear at the event that Ms. Obama speaking candidly about her challenges and vulnerabilities would inspire even more women and girls.

Just like the Obamas, the Priority team is confident of the promising developments on the horizon which we believe will make this decade an amazing period of growth and socioeconomic development that certainly help us keep believing in the potential for good in the world.

“An Evening with Michelle Obama”
Team Priority at “An Evening with Michelle Obama”