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Leadership lessons from US President Joe Biden

Leadership lessons from US President Joe Biden


On 21 January, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. It was a long time coming for the political journeyman, the pinnacle of a very long career.

However, the new president has his work cut out for him and will need to draw on all his leadership skills.

He will have to navigate the turbulent times we now live in. His election and the riots that followed have left his country divided and the challenges of the coronavirus continues across globe – something that HR professionals have become all too familiar with.

So as a new era dawns in the US, what can Joe Biden teach us about leadership? Here are three essential lessons.

Rolling back his predecessor’s decisions
Biden has already taken decisive action on reversing decisions he considers will have a lasting and negative impact on the country.

He has committed to signing an agreement to help prevent and fight discrimination – including in the workplace – on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. He has also lifted Trump-induced travel bans on certain countries with a majority Muslim population.

He has also made it crystal clear that much stricter coronavirus restrictions will be implemented to contain and ultimately stop the virus in its tracks. He has also recommitted the US to re-joining – and re-funding – the World Health Organisation in its hour of greatest need.

Empathy defines good leaders
Biden is able to draw on the heartbreak of his own life to encourage and give comfort to others. He lost his first wife and one-year-old daughter in tragic circumstances when their car was hit by a truck. More recently, he lost his son Beau in 2015 to brain cancer.

How a leader responds to adversity is a guide to their character. The response to Biden's own tragedies has been one of compassion. As evidenced on the day before his inauguration when he gave an impassioned speech commiserating with the families of the 400,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19.

Also recently, upon hearing of a bike accident that British business guru Richard Branson was involved in, he reportedly called him up “just to see how he was doing”. There are many such stories about Biden. It gives an insight into why he is respected by so many colleagues and fellow Americans. Leaders should be aware of the power of such an inclusive mindset.

Corporate social responsibility should be a leadership priority
One of the first things that Biden did upon assuming the presidency was recommitting to the Paris Agreement on climate change. He’s also committed to rolling back Donald Trump's other environmental actions over the past four years, which were seen by many as going backwards on the issue.

It’s also incumbent upon senior leaders of organisations to take proactive steps when it comes to the environment and contributing to the community and those in need – especially during the challenging economic times we are in.

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