Barack Obama – Three Factors of Character Type

small_obama ETB ScreenwritingI’ve written extensively on the differences in Character Type between John McCain and Barack Obama.  Both candidates’ response to the recent American financial crisis is further revealing of all aspects of their Character Types.

Today let’s take a closer look at Barack Obama’s response
A Character Type is made up of three key factors:

1. Immediate Tactics: This is how a character reacts to a specific challenge, opportunity or threat.  It is a character’s immediate tactical response or maneuvers to deal with a specific problem or obstacle in the short-term.

2.  Long-term Orientation: This is how the character views the world, sees his or her role in it and is what a character believes is true about life and love.  It is a character’s overarching personal philosophy and view of self.

3.  Strategic Approach: This is how a character goes about leading or getting things done over the long haul.  It is how a character works with others overall. It is how a character takes charge or commands to achieve a larger goal.  Strategy deals with the art of of obtaining a grand overarching objective.

Each of these key factors is motivated by the fight, flight or embrace/submit response.  These are the three possible biological reactions to anything.  A character can confront something (fight).  He or she can withdraw from something (flight).  Or a character can embrace or submit to something.

Each of these key factors is motivated by the fight, flight or embrace/submit response.  These are the three possible biological reactions to anything.  A character can confront something (fight).  He or she can withdraw from something (flight).  Or a character can embrace or submit to something.

Obama is a classic Power of Imagination character.

Interestingly, Obama’s tactical and strategic dynamics are exactly the same as McCain’s: Immediate Tactics (embrace) and Strategic Approach (withdraw). This combination manifests itself very differently because a Power of Imagination character’s overarching personal philosophy and view of self is poles apart from that of the Power of Idealism character like John McCain.

1. Immediate Tactics: Power of Imagination characters embrace an opportunity, challenge or threat as something to be communicated to others. Power of Imagination characters believe they have a big message, an important directive or urgent call from “somewhere out there” or somewhere “deep inside.” They know in their heart when they have connected with something bigger and more extraordinary than themselves.

These characters are then compelled to embrace others and share their perceptions. They want others to embrace the common good inspired by their vision. Power of Imagination characters are the most unlikely of messengers. They usually people who are normally overlooked. As a young black man, with only a two year tenure in the Senate, Obama is a very unlikely Presidential candidate.

Despite their improbable chances, the power of their idea, message or inspiration forces these characters to gather others in some kind of common quest or group journey. These characters want to simply embrace and be a part of the group but, in the end, they are thrust forward to take on the hero’s role.

In the recent US financial crisis, Obama took a background role. He quietly worked the phones trying to bring members of Congress together in some kind of compromise. He only came forward when forced by John McCain to attend the Presidential level meeting with Congressional leaders. Afterward Obama said: “It is a mistake to interject Presidential politics into sensitive negotiations.” McCain characterized Obama’s low key unifying tactics as not providing bold enough leadership.

2. Long-term Orientation: Power of Imagination characters see the world as a vast web of interconnection. They take an inconspicuous background role in order to embrace and validate others and more effectively weave together collaborators who ordinarily would have nothing in common. They stress that whatever personal differences there may be, a common purpose should unite the group.

The Power of Imagination character’s philosophy might be stated: “We must be inspired to work for the common good and the welfare of the whole.” They believe: “All for one. One for all.” They value unity, cooperation and collaboration above all else.

Barack Obama often uses the words “we” and “us” in his campaign. “America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.” “Now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out (of the financial crisis).” “We have a daunting task ahead of us.” He sees leadership as being an exercise in building relationships and using teamwork.

These characters’ worldview can make them seem impractical, quixotic, dreamy and disorganized. Their extreme aversion to conflict and confrontation often inhibits setting appropriate boundaries, standing their ground and making difficult choices. At their worst, Power of Imagination characters dither, compromise, and endlessly discuss needed decisions for fear of offending someone or not including everyone in the decision-making.. At their best, they bring people together to work toward a common goal.

3. Strategic Approach: A Power of Imagination character’s overall method of working with others toward a goal is to step back or withdraw for the good of the group. These characters don’t want to impose themselves on others too stridently. They are extremely patient and are willing to work through thorny problems or difficult issues by listening to all sides. These character don’t particular seek individual credit. They much prefer to be subsumed in the team. Their challenge as leaders is to step forward decisively and make the hard potentially divisive decision on their own.

Obama’s actions during the financial crisis seemed cool and distant. He doesn’t exhibit a lot of passion, a sense of urgency or boldness. His Immediate Tactic: Embrace along with his Long Term Orientation: Embrace combine with his Strategic Approach: Withdraw creates a measured approach which is directed at patiently building consensus.

McCain sees a challenge in terms of a personal call to step forward as an individual hero. Obama sees a challenge in terms of bringing people together as a unified group. If this were a romantic comedy sparks would fly as the two characters exchanged gifts and filled in the missing pieces in the other.

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