Tim Cook announced Monday to attendees at this week's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) that Michelle Obama would be onstage today for an hour-long "fireside chat." Unfortunately for the rest of us, Apple also announced that there would be no press reporting of the event, and no live streaming. The idea was to have an "intimate" conversation with no one but the audience, Obama, and her host, Apple VP Lisa Jackson.
Fortunately, with more than 5,000 people in the audience, most of them developers and entrepreneurs, and all of them toting smartphones, video of the talk was bound to get out. On Tuesday, Mashable published a description of the talk--and a link to a Periscope video where you can watch and listen to the whole thing. The visual quality is about as good as you'd expect from something that was recorded surreptitiously from a seat in the middle of a crowded hall, but the sound quality is perfect.
If you're pressed for time, I recommend watching from about 11:45 to about 20:50. In those nine minutes, answering Jackson's question about how to deal with fear when breaking new ground, Obama described succinctly what makes a great leader.
Here's what she had to say:
1. Expect to be frightened.
"Fear is an emotion that can be played on," Obama said. "If we let it consume us, then we don't move. If we allow fear to define one another, then we go down a very dark path. But it's an emotion that we all feel. So the thing I would tell entrepreneurs is first take time to know yourself. Because if you have a foundation of knowing who you are and knowing your values, if you take some time to determine what your higher purpose is, what you're doing that has nothing to do with you--that will give you a foundation that you can fall back on when fear, embarrassment, challenge, failure comes. Because it's coming. It's coming for us all."
2. Don't make it all about you.
When things get tough, think back to your higher purpose, Obama advised. "When people said messed up things about me, when they criticized me when I thought I was doing the best that I could, what I fell back on were those values. It was my sense that this isn't about me. This is about those girls who don't get an education, the kids who don't have healthy food to eat, and the military families who are sacrificing way beyond anything I have ever experienced. But if it's too much about you and that's all you're focused on is you and what you're achieving and what you're driving for, you will be more susceptible to fear. You will be susceptible to folks trying to break into the cracks in your soul and make you do things that don't reflect your values."
3. Don't try to do it alone.
It's important for entrepreneurs to remember that no one reaches great achievement all by themselves, Obama said. "You have to surround yourself with good people. None of thus do this life alone. Maybe you're working in your basement alone and you think, if I just get this right, if I just focus a little bit more...you've got to have a team of people around you in some way, shape, or form, and those people have to reflect your values."
That's how it was for the Obamas, she added. "Barack and I could not have done this if we didn't have friends who we respected who kept us honest, if we didn't have family members who loved us unconditionally, if we didn't have strong staff." These people keep you grounded when fear sets in, she said.
"So don't do this alone. You do not succeed alone; you're not supposed to. If somebody's up here pretending like they got here on their own, they're lying."
4. Communicate with everyone.
"It's the little things," she said. "If somebody is sweeping your office, how you treat them, how kind you are, how much attention you give to the least of these. We always had trouble with people who 'managed up.' People who were good in front of us, but then you'd hear about how they treated the interns or their own staff. We had to make sure that when we felt that energy, we eliminated it."
It also means connecting on a human level. "I want to hear about every aspect of my team and where they are, so we don't just start a meeting and get into the work," Obama said. "I want to know, how's everybody doing? How's your mother? How are your kids? Are you getting sleep? I want my team to laugh a little bit because especially in the White House, everything is so doggone serious. But communication is key and making sure the channels of communication are open on your team because when something's going wrong they really feel like you have their backs."
5. Live your values every day.
"You can't talk out of both sides of your head, as everybody's grandmother has said, or at least the black grandmothers have said," Obama said. Barack, she said, "knew more, worked harder. If there was something that had to be done, he was going to do it better, faster, stronger because he was always modeling for his team."
The fact that the Obamas spent eight years in the White House with no major scandals was because Barack put ethics front and center from day one, she said. "It's not rocket science," she added. "You have to surround yourself with people who reflect your values. But then you have to know what those values are and be honest with yourself about whether you're living those values. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we talk a good game, but what we show to the world is something different. You have to be that person even when no one's looking. That's something I tell my kids all the time. I don't really care who you are in front of me. The question is, who are you when you know that I'm not paying attention? What kind of person are you in the world? And I think that's something we all have to keep in mind, particularly in these times."