Therole of political leaders in shaping the way their countries areperceived by other countries cannot be underestimated. Theseperceptions are core in establishing international relations.Politicians therefore should harness the power and identity of theirrespective countries in order to stimulate positive perceptions fromforeigners thereby facilitating positive relations. Identity is thesense of self that is common in every individual. Identity can alsobe depicted in groups which is referred to us the collectiveidentity. Collective identity can be seen as belonging to aparticular family, religion or state. Identities extend to countriesand ethnic groups such that people feel bruised if other peoplesharing their identity are hurt or injured and this may cause areaction. Collective identities express ideas of belonging to acertain social group forming culture orientations. Culture ischaracterized by general beliefs about ones society, about othernations, and the relationships that they should establish with othersif the international arena. Leaders, in order to achieve acompetitive edge, they tend to include people of certain identitiesthat are in favor of their campaigns while excluding others that areagainst their campaigns (Hibou, 2011, pp. 46). By doing so, theleaders manage to generate influence or on the identities theyconsider favorable or of their own shared beliefs, whilediscriminating other identities. An effective leader should aim atestablishing a national identity where there exists an independentand sovereign nation with an explicit character whereby the interestand values of the nation at large take priority over all otherinterests and values (Hibou, 2011, pp. 46). Such assertions willenable a conducive environment for establishment of foreign policiesand international relations thus generating positive perception fromother countries.
Onthe other hand, power is equally important. It is generally theability to influence others. The mentioning of power mostly generatesvaried feelings in different peoples’ minds. Some perceive power tobe positive, others perceive power negatively. This has lead to asituation where people who have power deny it, people who want powertry to look like they are not looking for it, and those who acquirepower, are secretive about how they acquired it (Robbin & Judge,2011).However people may choose to perceive power, various positionshave some kind of power bestowed in them. For example, the Americanpresident has the power to sign bills into law, making treaties anddeclaring war. Such powers generate negative effects if misused ornot managed properly.
Everyoffice of the president assigns certain powers to the holder. It isup to the holder of the position to determine how he will executesuch powers in order to influence their nations. Some leaderstherefore, may choose to use coercive power which is the ability of aleader to influence their subjects’ decision by setting upsanctions or by punishing them, thereby creating certain threats.Such people will comply to the leaders command due to fear ofsanctions and threats but not because they are willing to (Beumers etal, 2009, pp. 49). Other leaders may use expert power which is theability to influence other people’s decisions due to recognizedknowledge, skills or abilities. People will follow instructions givenbecause they believe in the holder’s expertise in the area. Third,is the referent power, where a leader is able to influence otherpeople’s decision due to perceived respect, liking and admirationfrom his subjects (Northouse, 2010, pp. 46). Charismatic leaders areable to ignite the whole nation with their ideologies since theyautomatically command respect and admiration.
Anhonorable leader should be able to influence other people’sbehavior via referent power. Some leaders are able to portrayreferent powers in their leadership whereas others are still usingcoercive power to rule. Coercive power should be discouraged as itmost of the times led to abuse of power or mismanagement of the same(Kumar et al, 2011, pp. 156). The burden lies on the identificationof the use of such powers especially where the citizens respect thecoercive form of power and are not willing to reprimand it (Takahashiet al, 2012, pp. 534). Such situation is possible where the citizenfeel that the leaders have positively contributed to the growth oftheir nations economy and improved political stability.
Thispaper will consider the legacies of the current American President,President Barrack Obama and the Russian President, President VladimirPutin. To start with, President Barrack Obama who receivedoverwhelming perception in his early years of leadership as peoplebelieved in his Yes we Can slogan and had great expectations for him.Obama originated from the minority group- the Black Americans andtherefore, his win was seen as a big fight against his rivals. Obamahas over time demonstrated high level of integrity and moral ethics(Takahashi et al, 2012, pp. 534). According to Malcolm Friedberg,2008 Obama was perceived to be a man of unquestionable integrity andwould be willing to lose elections instead of compromising his ethicsor principles for short term gain.
Overtime he has supported diplomacy and fairness since 2008 when hebecame the US Presidential candidate. He stood for diplomacy even inthe most challenging situations (Mullin, 2011, pp. 267). This wasexemplified when he visited countries such as Iran and Cuba toestablish international relations ties even though the countries werehistorically perceived as US enemies. This shows that he respectedall organizations regardless of their historical background (Mullin,2011, pp. 267). He also restored fairness in the U.S tax code when hedelivered a tax cut to that benefited the middle class people inAmerica and small business owners who employed people. This acted asan initiative for job creation and increased productivity in America.
Similarly,his citizenship is depicted in the way he executes his obligationsand functions as a citizen. As a Citizen in Chicago, he worked forthree years in a church based community organization as the directorof Developing Communities Project. During his directorship, theorganization staff grew thirteen times and the annual budget grewfive times .This potrayed self- motivation of a community that he waspart of. He is also depicted as a caring leader as during his speechin Washington, he acknowledged that his biggest challenge as thePresident of America will be to balance time with the population heis leading and his family (Rockstuhl et al, 2011, pp. 834). Despitereserving dinner time sit down with his family, he is most of thetime seen in public with his family. Additionally, He introduced theObama-care universal healthcare in America as an illustration thatthe health of every individual in America is his top priority.
Obamaalso Portrays confidence in decision making. This was depicted by hiscapacity to take action during his first sixty days in the office. Following his inauguration, he not only inherited historical economiccalamities but also a massive foreign debt (Burkus, 2011, pp. 58). Hehowever inspired confidence in people by assuring them that they aregoing to make it through the harsh economic times by creating andproper implementation of policies that aim at reducing the foreigndebt. This was emphasized by his remarks in his 2009 inauguraladdress. He mentioned that, “Starting today, we must pick ourselvesup, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America.”
Theabove characteristics have depicted the President of America as aCharismatic leader who is capable of identifying with the needs ofhis people influence their behavior through admiration and respect.His capability to inspire through speaking enables him to getstraight to the issue while still maintaining the feeling of nationalunity (Burkus, 2011, pp. 58). His speech capabilities are compared toAbraham Lincoln, the American 16thPresident. There are varied perceptions between the Democrats, theindependents and the Republicans. While the democrats have depictedhigh levels of confidence in Obama’s personal Characteristics, theindependents and the republicans are reluctant on Obama’scapability of effectively managing the government (Adams, 2009, pp.229). The bottom line is Obama’s approval rating has decreased inhis second term due to the mounting federal budgets and his take onthe wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However,perhaps one of the most outstanding images that President Obama hascreated out there is one of approachability. Scholars have underlinedthe fact that he took the White House at a time when the UnitedStates had created the image of a war-monger as a result of thefailed war on terror that was pioneered by President Bush. As much asa large number of countries felt that the United States was justifiedin attacking other countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, it latercame to be that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, inwhich case the United States had simply taken its soldiers to thecountry just to topple Saddam Hussein (Anholt, 2010, pp. 49). Whetherthis was the appropriate thing to do or not is subject to debate.However, the war had a particularly negative impact on the image ofthe United States, with individuals across the globe seeing it as awar-mongering nation that harbors dictatorial tendencies and couldeven take up other countries’ resources at will (Northouse, 2010,pp. 46). Nevertheless, the entry of Obama, with his desire to end thewar and pull out soldiers from Iraq, as well as reach out to otherpresidents that were considered as pretty much enemies of the UnitedStates such as Cuba and Yugoslavia, enhanced the image of the UnitedStates.
PresidentVladimir Putin also came into power when the Russian government wasin major crisis of economic catastrophe. His efforts to curb thechallenge have portrayed him as the best President in Russia, with alegacy of 10 years of extra ordinary achievement. He also overtookPresident Obama as the most powerful President worldwide with anapproval rating of 87% (Bennett, 2008, pp. 24). His success isassociated with his despicable character which includes standing withhis allies. Putin is has made an effort in having his friends backand would stick to his decision no matter the challenges encountered.He was able to develop a successful foreign policy and improve theinternational relations with other countries.
Similarly,Putin is a man of action. He promised to double the productivecapacity of the Russian economy in 10 years which has been fulfilledduring his 10 years. In addition, the real wage grew at about 12% ayear due to an introduction of a flat rate tax of 13% increasing theincentive to work and reducing black markets. He also introduced acut in corporate tax by 11% and gave business an option of paying 6%of gross revenue in tax or 15% of the profits (Adams, 2009, pp. 233).He managed to clear the foreign debt before the maturity ofinternational bond fell due. This was facilitated by the advice fromWorld Bank and international monetary fund. He is also an intelligentleader. Despite managing to clear the foreign debt, Putin went aheadand floated the Russian currency, liberalizing current and capitalaccounts completing the requirements for full integration into thecapital markets. The World Bank also reported that Russia is moreeconomically prepared to handle to deal with crisis more than otheremerging economies.Russian economy moved from the 22ndposition in 2000, to the current 7thposition worldwide during is legacy. Putin also managed to lowerpoverty levels from 30% to 14 %.
Putinalso Prioritizes national interest and a geopolitical power play overmorals and ethics. He has maintained a growing military strength, astrong foreign policy and improved standards of living which are ofnational interest but has done little on morality and ethics. He maynot have the natural charisma however, he has won respect frompeople for standing strong for what they believe in and doing whatthey say.
Putinis Self-less and Religious. Earlier on, the Western analystspredicted that he will use the financial crisis to possess more statecontrol, but instead, he embarked into privatization of 5500 stateowned corporations which were earmarked for sale. He acknowledgeshis religious faith by putting on his cross and reading the Bible.Similarly, He is said to have restored the Prestige of the RussianOrthodox Church. Despite the major achievement under President Putin,the validity of such reports in the media is questionable due to thegovernment influence on media content in Russia. Unlike US whereonly a quarter of the stations are pro-Obama, most of the media inRussia are Pro- Putin. There are three spheres of controls that arepower related. One is the Russian tradition information that imposesindividual censorship routines. Secondly, censorship placed on mediaby the government operatives requires news to go through politicalfilters. In addition, there are frameworks used by the localauthority and are applied selectively. The Press freedom and mediacensorship is typical in non- democratic regimes with authoritarianleadership. Such controls are used to curtail democracy. Putineffected the media controls by adopting various controls thatrestricted the independence of the media. He took all the major TVstations and newspapers under state control (Bennett, 2008, pp.58).Similarly, he listed various practices that were consideredillegal and prime violators of privacy and nation’s security. Thegovernment promotes fear and distrust among the members of thecountry in order to influence peoples’ opinion on the onlinematerials that should be censored. Of course, this has a bearing onthe manner in which the country is perceived from the outside(Bennett, 2008, pp. 58). It is noteworthy that in instances where notmuch is known about a country, there is a loophole or a chance foraspersions to be cast about the country.
Recently,Putin addressed journalists in a press conference held in StPetersburg. He described Internet as a “CIA project” that isdesigned by the intelligence agency in pursuit of Russian duty toprotect its online interest. Further research showed that thecitizens in Russia perceive the mainstream media coverage as morecredible than any other online news. The “law on the Internet”was unanimously supported by the Russian government 1998, wheninternet was proclaimed as a security concern. The draft was lateramended in 2004 but due to public criticisms, it did not go through.The government also established a requirement for all the providersof internet services to install certain equipment that would enablethe government to regulate their internet content and those whofailed to comply were forced to go offline or were threatened on therevocation of their licenses. The government also came up with thedocumented plan that will enable the Russian government to regulatewhat was communicated to the foreigners and what was received fromthe foreigners also referred to as the foreign propaganda. Thedocument was later signed in year 2000 by Putin and it becameenforceable immediately. (Zaidatol et al, 2011, pp. 1086).Byenforcing the doctrine, Putin was depicted as prioritizing nationalgoals over the moral values. The Media was defined as fair and strongby the way they present and portray the government’s activities. Inthe same respect, the doctrine limited the freedom of speech of themedia personnel by restricting their coverage and reporting ofterrorist activities and claimed that they prioritized nationalsecurity over press freedom. In addition, there were laid out laws offighting extremist activities which were later revised in 2006 toinclude all actions that were aimed at criticizing the officials ofthe state, actions that demean the national pride and insecuritythreats. Individuals convicted of such crimes were to face a threeyears jail term and their publications were suspended or closedindefinitely. On many occasions, the government has accused variousnews sites of spreading extremist ideas.
Recentdevelopments require that all major websites be registered with thecommunication regulatory bodies and also conform to media controls.This has generated various negative reactions from the onlineactivists and bloggers who felt that the government is overlyexercising its controls over the online content. While protectingpeople from internet crime and fraud is important in a country, theblatant censorship and control over online content is seen as theeffort by the government o interfere with press functions, therebymanipulating the public opinion. The main image that Putin creates isthe strung-up nature of the Russian society. As noted, the policiesand regulations that the president puts in place create the imagethat the Russian nation is secretive and loathes freedom. Similarly,the sanctions made on the media houses in Russia mean that thecontent of news is controlled by the government in which case it isdifficult to know what exactly they stand for. In essence, thepolicies that Vladimir Putin has put in place create the impressionthat Russia is a secretive country that always has a hidden agenda.
Inconclusion, the identity of a leader is a key determinant of how thepublic perceives the country. This is because, such leaders arecharged with the responsibility of coming up with policies thatbenefits the country and forming the international ties with thecountries that they perceive to be of benefit to their country. Byunderstanding the leader’s identity, and his approach to power,other countries will be able to judge the credibility of country interms of economic and political stability. For example, PresidentBarrack Obama holds meeting with countries such as Iran and Cuba whoare historically enemies of the United States thereby creating animage that the US is not a war- monger. A president who is known ofhis consistency in achieving what he promises will attract moreapproval rating percentages than the President who just makepromises. Such Presidents will attract more countries willing to beassociated with his country even in long term deals. On the otherhand, the Public should not feel that the identity presented by thePresident is doctored through deprivation of freedom of speech andfreedom of expression. Such feeling may cause the foreigners towithdraw from the international relations due to mistrust.
Adams,E. A. (2009). Voices from two sides of the Atlantic: Women’sleadership in Finland and the United States. In A. Wiseman (Ed.),Educational leadership: Global contexts and international comparisons(Internationalperspectives on education and society,vol. 11, pp. 221–243). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.
Anholt,S. (2010). Places:Identity, image and reputation.Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Beumers,B., Hutchings, S. C., & Rulyova, N. (2009). Thepost-Soviet Russian media: Conflicting signals.London: Routledge.
Bennett,J. M. (2008). On becoming a global soul: A path to engagement duringstudy abroad. In V. Savicki (Ed.), Developingintercultural competence and transformation: Theory, research, andapplication in international education(pp. 13–31). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Burkus,D. (2011). Building the strong organization: Exploring the role oforganizational design in strengths-based leadership. Journalof Strategic Leadership,3(1),54-66.42
Hibou,B., (2011). TheForce of Obedience: The Political Economy Of RepressionInTunisia.Cambridge: Polity Press.
Kumar,R., Anjum, B., & Sinha, A. (2011). Cross-cultural interactionsand leadership behavior. Researchers World: Journalof Arts, Science & Commerce,2(3), 151–160.
Mullin,C., (2011). The US Discourse on Political Islam: Is Obama’s a TrulyPost- ‘War on Terror’ Administration? CriticalStudies on Terrorism,4(2), pp. 263- 281.
Northouse,P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed.). ThousandOaks, CA: Sage.
Rosenholm,A., Nordenstreng, K., & Trubina, E. (2010). Russianmass media and changing values.London: Routledge.
Rockstuhl,T., Seiler, S., Ang, S., Van Dyne, L., & Annen, H. (2011). Beyondgeneral intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ): The roleof cultural intelligence (CQ) on cross-border leadershipeffectiveness in a globalized world. Journalof Social Issues,67(4), 825–840
Takahashi,K., Ishikawa, J., & Kanai T. (2012). Qualitative and quantitativestudies of leadership multinational settings: Meta-analytic andcross-cultural reviews. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 530–538.
ZaidatolAkmalih, L. P., Sdeghi, A., & Habibah E. (2011). Analysis ofheads of departments leadership styles: Implication for improvingResearch University management practice. Procedia– Social and Behavioral Sciences, 29(2011),1081-1090.