Netflix’s Michelle Obama Documentary ‘Becoming’ Teaches Us New Lessons In Leadership And Life
I wasn’t expecting to be taken aback by another Netflix documentary so soon after, “Never Have I Ever.” But have you seen Michelle Obama’s “Becoming?”
The documentary, that’s based on Michelle Obama’s bestselling book by the same name, and produced by Obama’s entertainment company, Higher Ground, can teach us leaders, marketers, and mere mortals a thing or two about engaging younger audiences.
Here are my four favorite quotes and their corresponding lessons.
“I am from the south side of Chicago. That tells you as much about me as you need to know.”
Boom! You heard that right, that’s all you need to know. Michelle Obama unabashedly embraces her identity as a black woman. I found it refreshing how she didn’t distance herself from her roots or try to project a more ‘appropriate’ version of herself. She’s uncensored and unafraid of the fact that she’s different, and there’s a part of her that still feels “working class.”
According to Pew Research, Gen-Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation that has ever existed in the U.S., with nearly half of this cohort being members of racial and ethnic minorities. In a separate study, Pew Research found that 62% of Gen-Z members believe that increasing racial and ethnic diversity is a good thing for society. I do think that is being able to see a role model accepting her identity as both a woman and as a black person is vital to young people who look for people who reflect who they are.
“So little of who I am happened in those eight years. So much of who I am happened before.”
Yet another loaded statement. One quality of Michelle Obama that has always stood out to me is her sheer authenticity. And the fact that she talks so openly about her struggle after becoming First Lady is groundbreaking.
It’s no surprise that members of Generation-Z revere Michelle Obama. According to CNBC, 67% of the members of Gen-Z reported that being true to your values and being authentic makes you cool. Gen-Zers can easily spot when brands are inauthentic. So what’s the lesson for leaders? Authenticity is an all or nothing game. Be authentic and honest with your audiences without trying to pander to young people.
“If we can open up a little bit more to each other and share our stories, that’s what breaks down barriers.”
I’d have to agree with this one too. Another refreshing part of Michelle Obama’s leadership style is that she’s enormously self-expressive and unafraid to show her vulnerability. She opens up about the fears that she’s had at different times during her life and during her tenure as the first lady. She also expresses her vulnerability through her body language and facial expressions.
Similarly, Gen-Z is more willing to express themselves and to show their vulnerability than previous generations. PSFK found that 46% of Gen-Zers said that self-expression is essential as compared to only 37% of Millennials. So, don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability.
“We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.”
I concur! No time like the present. I love how Michelle Obama is willing to engage in an open and intimate dialogue with members of the public and people who are interviewing her without reservation. In doing so, she creates an atmosphere of artful intimacy. There are few barriers she won’t cross.
While 57% of the members of earlier generations expressed, they would need to confront the system to change the world, only 49% of the members of Gen-Z also think so, according to research by McKinsey. Instead, they are much more willing to engage in dialogue with institutions and companies to try to effect change by reaching a mutual understanding.
Which brings me to my final thought.
From the documentary Becoming, it’s clear that Michelle Obama craves to learn from younger generations and to embrace change. Similarly, ICPAS found that 60% of the members of Generation-Z want to want to impact the world through their future careers positively.
And while I have no doubt we must all reinvent ourselves, go out on a limb, and speak up about the things we feel strongly about, I also believe leaders will have a greater reach with this generation by exploring themes of connectedness and unity.
Jeetendr Sehdev is a media personality, international keynote speaker, and the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells (and How to Do It Right).” He was also named Esquire’s Influencer Of The Year. Twitter @jeetendrsehdev. Instagram @jeetendr_sehdev.