Have you seen Obama’s farewell speech? If not, you should watch it. It is just brilliant. I think it’s one of the best speeches a political leader has delivered in the past decades.

I have listened to it several times and I can tell you, it’s a salute to sustainable leadership. Sustainable leadership is more than leadership. I define leadership as allowing people to move in order to create value for other pope. That leadership is based on the fact that people trust the leader(s) and they do because these leaders are at the service of other people and a greater cause.

If you ask people what they appreciate in their best leaders, it’s always about character. But that very character is under pressure. The heavy weight of responsibility, the corrupting forces of power and the temptation of money and personal advantages lead too often to an erosion of character. I have seen the best waver and shake.

Over 50% of leaders derail. They lose their empathy, kindness, fairness and their sense of reciprocity. These foundations of our humanity, are also the foundations of sustainable leadership.

Obama’s speech was full of kindness, compassion, hope, fairness, empathy and gratitude. Leadership is human. Leadership should be humane.

These times are rough. We see people in despair in VUCA-times. They ask of their leaders to give them the certainty they crave for. But there is no certainty to give. Terrorism, geopolitical aspirations, migration, climate change, demographic evolutions, … It’s clear there is a shift going on.

And everyone has a choice to not stay at the side. We should shape that shift. Because if we do not shape that shift, we will regret it. That’s what Obama said at some point in his speech. Take action. be a part of the future. Let’s shape the shift. Together. With kindness. With compassion. With solidarity.


I wrote a book on Sustainable Leadership. It will be available soon in English. The Dutch version is available here. You can find the French version here.



David Ducheyne

David Ducheyne

David is a specialist in people strategies, leadership and organizational development. He has gathered international experience with Henkel, Alcatel, Case New Holland, Securex and the University of Ghent. As an author he has published on Sustainable Leadership, Customzed Work, Health Management and Learning. He's also an avid blogger and key note speaker.

A Salute to Sustainable Leadership – Obama’s Farewell Speech
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