Movie Review of Southside With You
I recently had the opportunity to see this movie and walked away with some valuable nuggets. To my surprise (spoiler alert) the movie didn’t go into a full narrative of President Barack Obama’s rise to the White House with his wife, but rather focused on a very brief preview of his courting of Michelle Obama during their early years of law school.
What was enlightening to me were glimpses of Obama, the man, and how some of those traits permeated his professional life of the presidency. While I respect and admire his accomplishments as an African American, there are also many philosophical views and decisions within his presidential tenure that I disagree with.
Regardless of your political stance, affiliation, or feelings towards the Obama presidency, here are a few principles seen in play through this movie that we can glean from.
Persistence is rewarded. The word ‘no’ is not always the end all, be all.
Barack’s relentless pursuit of Michelle Obama is admirable, to say the least. Although tension persisted throughout the courting process, he knew what he wanted and refused to accept ‘no’ for an answer where many would have backed off. While wisdom and caution is needed here, especially when courting :), Barack’s persistence is undoubtedly one attribute that has enabled him to capture two presidential terms.
Aim to learn and to understand. Understand why and how people think.
Throughout the story, Barack converses like a smooth investigator, continuously probing through question and observation, but in a very social non-invasive way and genuine way. He’s not just asking for the sake of conversation or trying to fix something, but he is earnestly trying to understand how people think, why they do what they do, feel the way they feel, and say what they say. These are hallmarks of a great communicator and relater that understands how to win with people and be in the best position to later help and serve them.
Don’t be quick to cast judgment when you haven’t walked in their shoes.
Chances are you’ve heard this one before, but it’s a good reminder. After a combustible conversation with Michelle, Barack finds himself out of bounds as he thought he had pretty much nailed this thing down. I believe that we all cast judgment on some level in some way, shape, or form whether it’s actually expressed or just internalized. We observe and then formulate a judgment of what we experienced. And more often than not, it is so subconscious that we may not even realize that we’re doing it. But no matter to what depth or intimacy we observe, the picture always looks a little different when you’re in the shoes, walking the path that they walked, feeling what they felt.
The take-a-way here is that when we don’t fully consider what it was like to walk in the other person’s shoes, conflict will ensue. We should always aim to get the 360 view and approach with humility and an open mind in light of the understanding that they could have experienced it differently than we did, and we need simply need to respond with empathy and act accordingly.
Turn self-interest into mutual interest. Understand who they are and what they need. Where their needs align with our needs is where things get done.
This quote from Barack after meeting with a tough crowd was gold for me and wonderfully illustrates one way in which leadership is mobilized into results. This principle holds true for politics, parenting, relationships of all kinds and in short — leadership. A good leader knows how to align the needs of the team for the advancement of the bigger goal without detracting from it.
A good leader also understands how to align common interests for momentum and the better good of the team. Have you considered what matters to them and why? The humility in seeking to understand (first) means meeting people wherever they are, and then walking forward together.
Winning with people means winning their heart.
Early on in the film, Michelle was adamantly opposed to dating Barack. He had a lot of winning over to do to and even needed to make up for some on top of it after exposing her vulnerability. Yet still, he was able to pursue and win her heart using what he had come to understand about her.
After you understand something about who people are and what they need (professional or personal), don’t just aim to convince their mind — aim to win their heart. People might forget what you say, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. Winning a person’s heart often requires a tenacity that goes over and beyond. For better or for worse, Obama has intuitively interwoven this throughout his presidency. “Yes we can” is a great example of a movement that resonated with the hearts of people whom Obama aligned with their need for “change.”
What lessons or nuggets did you take away or find interesting about this movie?