Ranked as Forbe’s 6th most powerful woman in the world, Hillary Clinton is a force to reckon with. Few would argue about her ability to lead, make tough choices and endure difficult challenges.
As many anticipate her announcement for a 2016 presidential bid, which could make her the first woman president in the U.S, here’s what business leaders can learn from America’s Iron Lady.
Since coming to the limelight as the First Lady during former President Clinton’s term, Hillary has experienced difficult personal and political challenges. From underperforming in healthcare reforms, enduring the highly publicized Clinton-Lewinsky affair, losing in the democratic primary elections in 2008, to withstanding a lot of criticism from the American and global public. Yet, she has always been known for her resolute outlook, a spirit of never giving up in the face of great tribulation and her ability to navigate difficult situations without giving up.
Great leaders require a certain kind of grit that will enable them to transition their organization through the tough times. Your team and thus your business are only irrepressible to the extent that you nurture a culture of resilience within the organization. Businesses face innumerable challenges and therefore require leaders who are ready to put up a spirited fight.
By virtue of being a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, Hillary is unsurprisingly connected by a very short link to some of the world’s most powerful people.
“Cultivating connections is an indispensible cornerstone of doing business and indeed, leading.”
In Mark Granovetter’s definitive 1974 study entitled Getting a Job, he found out that 56% of the Boston workers under study got a job through so-called weak ties. But weak connections are not just important in securing a job; they are also essential in accessing business opportunities and leading your team toward progressive growth.
An important lesson to learn about connections and leadership is the ability to reach out to others. When Hillary lost the 2008 primaries to Barack Obama, she immediately expressed her support for him as a presidential candidate and was keen on keeping the Democratic Party together by reaching out to all members and rallying them to support Barack.
In an interview featured in the Marie Claire magazine, Hillary aptly asserted:
“You have to be true to yourself. You have to be enough in touch with who you are…how you want to live and what’s important to you, to make your decisions based on that.”
Admittedly, authentic leadership is easier said than done. In fact, many leaders struggle with the concept of leading ‘authentically.’ In their exhaustive article, Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones explain that teams are looking for sincere, honest, real leaders. But, on the other hand, leaders who have no control over how they express their authentic selves risk losing their team’s respect.
There was a lot of debate over Hillary’s emotional moment during the 2008 New Hampshire primaries. However, Rebecca Shambaugh, author of the Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton contends that by showing her emotions, Hilary revealed her authentic self. She showed her human side and exposed her vulnerabilities. The emotional connection that people felt towards her might have contributed to her winning 18 million votes in those primaries.
The rule of thumb when it comes to authentic leadership is to be ready to reveal your vulnerabilities while also being in control of how much more vulnerable you become by taking into consideration the context. After all, your team needs a strong leader who does not break down when faced with challenges.
It is rare for leaders to admit failure or at least to take responsibility when things go wrong. Only a handful of strong leaders will readily carry their own cross, accept unfavorable feedback and admit their shortcomings. Unsurprisingly, these types of leaders tend to bounce back faster and win back the trust of their team than those who completely fail to take responsibility for their actions.
Perhaps the most challenging political incident during Hilary’s term as secretary of state was during the 2012 Benghazi attacks in Libya that left a US ambassador and three other Americans dead.
Hilary faced a lot of acrimony from Congress as they accused her of failing to provide adequate security to the diplomatic mission in Libya. Instead of shifting blame, she accepted responsibility for the bureaucracy at the State Department that undermined rapid communication and the free flow of information.
She was also keen on implementing the changes proposed by the congressional committee and the State Department to improve communication and other operations within the Department.
Tough times, difficult decisions, or a challenging business environment can break or make you as a leader. Like Hillary, it is paramount to develop a dogged resilience that will push your team and your organization past the day-to-day challenges of managing a worthwhile enterprise.
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