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Management Tips from Barack Obama

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Pete Souza/White House

In a new piece in Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis implores President Obama to "teach me how to be president." Along the way, Obama offers some advice that leaders at other levels of government not quite as lofty as the Oval Office might find useful:

  • "You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia."
  • "Keep a list.”
  • “You have to exercise, or at some point you’ll just break down.”
  • "Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision. You can’t be paralyzed by the fact that it might not work out.”  
  • “One of my most important tasks is making sure I stay open to people, and the meaning of what I’m doing, but not to get so overwhelmed by it that it’s paralyzing. Option one is to go through the motions. That I think is a disaster for a president. But there is the other danger. There are times when I have to save it and let it out at the end of the day.”
  • "These days people practice being authentic. But I’m at my best when I believe what I am saying.”

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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