Who is Barack Obama? … or why the ‘This is who I am’ story is your biggest asset



From time to time I touch on stories that people in general and managers in particular should know about themselves.

The first and most important one is the ‘This is who I am’-story that tells about your background and the way you got to where you are right now.

Why is it so important?

Well, for a starter it is totally unique, it is yours. Nobody else on this planet shares this story; not even your identical twin.

Even more so our ‘backstory’ is also one of our greatest assets in building credibility and trust. Telling our personal life in story form with all its ups and downs is way more influential than just saying who we are now. Hearing something personal about you and your life builds trust.

Think about it. A lot of challenges in business (and life) are about influencing others and convincing others to do something you like them to do.

And what do you need before you can influence somebody? Yes, trust! Unfortunately a lot of bad leaders skip the trust step when trying to influence.

But would you buy something from somebody you don´t trust? Highly unlikely.

Trust comes before influence

People hate nothing more than vanity but they like people who show humility and admit to their flaws and shortcomings. They like to hear something personal about you. That builds trust. So tell them something unique about your upbringing, be open, admit to your flaws. People will appreciate that.

Barack who?


Want a real life example?

Let´s wind back 13 years to see how somebody very prominently and successfully told his very own ‘This is who I am’ story: Barack Obama.

‘Barack who?’ …you would have asked in early 2004; but after July 26th 2004 basically the whole of the USA knew who Barack Obama was. On that day Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, seen by 9.1 million viewers.

Obama gave an exhilarating speech about his challenging upbringing; about his parents who had a multi-racial marriage in shaky times, his father leaving his mum when he was a toddler. His father only visted him once in 1971 and died in an automobile accident in 1982. His mother died in 1995 from cancer. So Obama was an orphan at the age of 34.

But he never gave up. He went on to study at the prestigious Harvard Law School and University and worked as an associate in a law firm and a lecturer and later on joined the democratic party.

That´s the story he told . Very personal, full of ups and downs and flaws; just as his life was.

Obama told his very own backstory

Obama could have told several other stories that night; about the slowing economy, the shortcomings of the Republicans and President Bush or whatever politicians love to talk about. But he decided to tell a very personal story about himself. His very own ‘This is who I am’ story’

And successful it was.

Many analysts still regard this particular keynote as the speech that later made him president. It is basically an early predecessor of his `Yes, we can’ movement that won him the presidency.

Immediately after the speech MSNBC host Chris Matthews admitted, “I have to tell you, a little chill in my legs right now. That is an amazing moment in history right there. It is surely an amazing moment. A keynoter like I have never heard.” He added later in the night, “…I have seen the first black president there.”

We now know that Chris was right.

So go out and tell your very own ‘This is who I am’ story. Keep it fresh. Don´t hide your flaws and shortcomings. They are part of who you are.

People appreciate authenticity. Always.

Oh, and here is Obama´s speech from 2004. Enjoy!


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