Lessons in leadership from Hillary

I am sure that many of you saw the first presidential debate. I came away impressed by the integrity, calm and resilience of Hillary Clinton and it prompted me to think, what are the lessons we can learn from her in a broader leadership context?

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The first, and perhaps most important lesson, is the need for courage. I came across a piece on social media which sums this up very well, and I quote it in full.

‘I’m officially done with the ‘she’s so flawed but she’s the lesser of two evils’ rhetoric. I’m flawed, and you are flawed. Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and even Michelle Obama are flawed. But the difference between all of them and me, and probably you is that they have all given their flawed lives to public service. Now they are all working together in their inevitably flawed ways, to save all of us and the world from Trump.

Every day Hillary puts on a hopefully unflawed bullet proof vest on her flawed and aging and sometimes unsmiling self and stands up in front of people who have been incited by her opponent to shoot her. And she says calm and rational and intelligent (and sometimes flawed) things about how to make a difference. In my book that makes her a rock star. And in the words of another flawed and resilient rock star'

‘There is a crack in everything. That’s where the light gets in’

Leonard Cohen

In business life the bullet proof vest is more metaphorical than real but sometimes you will need one, or perhaps a suit of armor. Like Hillary, You may also need to slay a dragon or two along the way. You will certainly need to exhibit some of her qualities, which In no particular order include;

· Vision, to see a brighter day where your ideas can be put into practice.

· Intellect, to deal with increasingly complex, ambiguous and intractable problems.

· Resilience, to survive the slings and arrows and continuously bounce back.

· Active communication, to get your ideas across and take people with you.

· Flexibility to deal with the changing realities on the ground

· Pragmatism, to accept the inevitable compromises without compromising the things that really matter to you. You know what these are.

There are several things which Hilary did better than Donald in the presidential debate, including meticulous preparation, remaining mindful and polite (i.e. not interrupting) and retaining her poise. Of course there are several weeks to go and two more debates so the result is far from certain, It will be worthwhile reflecting on the contest and the lessons for leadership. This includes how Trump modifies his approach in the coming weeks and what this says about him as a leader?

Hillary smiled more in this debate than she usually does, reflecting a sense of humor. Occasionally, as you can see, she fails on this last point. Sometimes she smiles too much or sends emails to the wrong server. Like all of us, she is only human and therefore flawed…

From my perspective as an observer of leadership behaviors and qualities, the most ringing endorsement comes from those who have worked most closely with Hillary. Generally they regard her as a great listener with empathy and understanding. She has a strong work ethic and the ability to deal with enormous complexity. She has made mistakes along the way and is prepared to admit these and learn from them. Perhaps most tellingly, the man who defeated her in the last presidential race appointed her to high office and then spoke extremely well of her performance there.

Two questions for you to consider; Why, in spite of her strengths, experience in office and the alarming flaws of her opponent, does it appear so much more difficult for Hillary to get elected? From where I am sitting the bar seems to be higher for her than it might be for a man, however flawed he may be (take Nixon or Trump for that matter). What are the parallels in business and broader society?

Secondly, why does some of the most vociferous criticism of Hillary (on social media at least) seem to come from other Females? Overall she has a larger share of the Female vote than Trump- hardly surprising. However, some of the vitriol coming from other Women I find difficult to understand, particularly given her opponents attitude towards Women, and any number of minority groups for that matter .

Do share your views and if you have any counter arguments in favor of Donald Trump as a leader, I would be curious to hear those too.


David Head

Coach and Mentor, Accelerating Experience

With twenty years experience in the search industry before becoming a coach, I combine highly personalised coaching and mentoring with broader commercial insight and perspective. I will help you to find your purpose, to thrive in your career and to change direction when this is what is needed. I will commit to helping you to achieve a state of flow by aligning values and purpose with what you do and how you do it. contact me via david.head@acceleratingexperience.com 07920 064056