Barack Obama says that he had two big lessons for his daughters: 'be kind and be useful'

A Conversation with President Barack Obama Marc Benioff 4Former President Barack Obama speaks with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce.Salesforce

  • On Thursday at Dreamforce, Salesforce's annual mega-conference, former president Barack Obama said that the two big lessons he had for his daughters were to "be kind and be useful."
  • Obama, who is working with the Obama Foundation to train leaders, says that he sees these traits among young leaders today who work to make changes to problems they see today.
  • Obama also said that an important part of being a leader is "identifying the power of other people and unleashing that."
  • Read more on Business Insider's homepage.

Former President Barack Obama says that the sum of his time as a parent comes down to two lessons.

"If you sum up the things I try to impart to our daughters, it has been: 'be kind and be useful,'" Obama said onstage at Salesforce's annual Dreamforce mega-conference on Thursday, in conversation with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

"Everything sort of boils down to that. If you're those two things, if you're kind and you're useful, usually in whatever field you are, people will appreciate working with you and being with you, and you'll feel good about yourself," he said.

He says that when raising his daughters, his wife Michelle was "obviously the boss parent" and "management," while he was the "laborer," but they both tried to work on emphasizing those lessons.

Those lessons are just as valuable to the young leaders of today, Obama said. He and Michelle are overseeing the Obama Foundation, which provides leadership training and mentoring to promising young people.

"What I'm seeing in young leaders around the world who are making a difference is a sense of responsibility for others, a sense that regardless of our surface differences, there's a core humanity and a core dignity to each of us that has to be cherished and respected," Obama said.

He also sees that many young leaders are willing to put in the work to see a problem and work towards a real solution.

"There is a boldness to saying, 'there's a problem - I'm not resigned to just accept this, but I have some power to change it,' and almost as importantly, or maybe more importantly, being predisposed to see the power of other people's changes," Obama said.

Obama said that his best advice about being a leader is that it's not about making speeches, but rather, about building other people up.

"Being a leader really is identifying the power of other people and unleashing that," Obama said. "If you are good at doing that, you will inevitably have influence because there are going to be a lot of people who want to work with you and a lot of people who want to collaborate."

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