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HRM / OB Case Study

Case Title:

Communicating In Crisis Times: Lessons from Barack Obama

Publication Month and Year :  June 2009

Authors:  Vara Vasanthi under the guidance of Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

Industry:  Not Applicable

Region: US

Case Code:  OB0029

Teaching Note:  Available

Structured Assignment:  Available


This case was written primarily to highlight the importance of communication especially during times of crisis. The 2008 US Financial Crisis is being considered as the worst crisis the world has ever seen since the Great Depression. At such a crucial stage, Barack Obama (Obama) became the 44th President of the US on January 20th 2009. His communication techniques and ability to get his thoughts across effectively was considered as one the key factors, which helped him win the presidential elections. ‘Yes we can’, ‘Hope’, ‘Change’, these are just some of the words with which he awed his supporters and the public and helped them believe that the crisis can be overcome. However, dealing with the crisis will require more than just great speeches. Can Obama pull the US out of the crisis considering the magnitude? Can he sustain the hope given by him to the citizens of the US or will his charisma soon fade away? What lessons can Obama learn from leaders of the past who have dealt with such crises?

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To understand different types of crises and analyse the psychology of bad times
  • To examine and debate on the role of the leadership in managing the crisis
  • To debate on the different types of crisis management tools that should be used during crisis time, especially depending on the nature of the crisis as discussed in pedagogical objective No. 1
  • To examine and evaluate Barack Obama as an effective crisis communicator and debate on the efficiency of the crisis communication tools he used
  • To reflect on the historical lessons from the earlier and major crises from the vantage point of view of communicating through those crises.

Keywords :  Organizational Communication, Internal Communication, External Communication, Leadership, Level 5 Leadership, Leadership Traits, Leadership Types, Are Leaders Born or Made?, Understanding Leadership, Leadership Theories, Behavioral Theories, Contingency Theories, Leadership Skills, Determinants of Leadership, Challenges to Leadership, Leader Vs Manager, US Presidents, Managing Crisis, Crisis Communication


  • Psychology of Bad Times
  • Barack Obama as the 44th President of the US: The Impending Economic and Financial Challenges
  • Barack Obama as Crisis Communicator
  • Obama's Communication Techniques
  • What Obama's Words Convey

  • Obama's Online Communication Techniques
  • Crucial Mistakes in Obama's Campaign
  • Leadership in Times of Crisis
  • Parallels Between Obama and his Predecessors
  • Five Basic Steps Suggested by Financial Experts
  • Speaking Like Obama

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