Tag Archives: Purpose

Hillary Clinton: Three Leadership Lessons from the Democratic Presidential Candidate

hilary clintonAuthor’s Note: This article is not intended to be an endorsement of a candidate. The leadership tactics we will discuss are proven to be effective in persuading others and bolstering influence. How you choose to use these techniques is up to you.

Since today kicks off the beginning of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, it is a good time to discuss the leadership techniques utilized by the projected Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. When describing her methods, hard work, thorough understanding of the issues, and the desire to achieve a particular goal were my initial descriptors. Unfortunately, the only tips I could pull from this list were work harder, read more, and practice goal planning. These are all recommended, but after more thought, here are (another) three techniques we can learn from Clinton:

Fight Through Adversity

Whether it’s a result of her views, actions, or a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” Hillary Clinton has endured through almost thirty years of harsh, negative inquiry. If this sounds overstated, a Harvard University study showed that Clinton’s media coverage was more negative than that of any other candidate in 2015.

clinton media bias

Media Tenor, January 1-December 31, 2015. Tone figures based on positive and negative statements only. Neutral statements are excluded.

In 11 of the 12 months studied, Clinton’s “bad news” outpaced her “good news” by a wide margin—in the first half of 2015, negative statements outpaced the positive by three to one; the second half was three to two, negative over positive. This negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, contributing to the increase in her unfavorable poll ratings. And this was not based on conservative-leaning media bias. The study analyzed thousands of news statements by CBS, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

I don’t write this to defend Clinton or to disparage the media. My point is that it takes a tremendous amount of resilience to persevere through adversity… and she’s done it with an impressive track record of professional successes that will be topped off this week with the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Most of us will never be subjected to the virile attacks Clinton has experienced; this does not mean we can cower when confronted with hardship. A leader without resilience is a leader who is short-lived in their role. If you desire to do anything of substance, you will face setbacks. Resilience is how you recover. Here are a few ways you can enhance your ability to persevere:

  • Operate with a sense of purpose; sustain your key values and principles
  • Disregard sensationalism and hype; maintain perspective with logic and facts
  • Give yourself time to bounce back from the obstacle without wallowing in pity
  • Learn from your mistakes and move on
  • Remain focused on achieving the goal(s)

Don’t Minimize the Power of Predictability

Since reaching national notoriety in the 1990s, Clinton has presented herself in a consistent manner—a driven professional with high standards and even higher expectations. This ability to remain consistent may not sound exciting, but it is a foundational leadership attribute that followers actively seek.

Research in the Journal of Business Ethics found that self-consistency is a predecessor to authentic leadership and followers’ satisfaction with supervisor, organizational commitment, extra-effort, and team effectiveness. Another study in the journal Human Relations found that consistency results in a significant positive interaction with mission, adaptability, and involvement in predicting market-to-book ratios, sales growth, and overall performance. Google echoed these findings after conducting a widespread study of their hiring practices to determine what makes a successful leader.

When [Google] crunched the numbers, what they found out was remarkable for its overlooked common sense. Leaders must be predictable and consistent, because then employees grasp that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. In other words, when managers are predictable, they remove a roadblock from employees’ path—themselves. On the flip side, if your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.— Walter Chen, CEO of iDoneThis

If your team can predict what you are going to do, they won’t waste energy trying to forecast your mood, prophesize your priorities, or change course with every erratic decision. They are freed up to do their job.

Express Your “Humanness”

When people describe Clinton, they tend to discuss her in professional terms—industrious, multitask-oriented, organized, goal-driven. While these seem like the qualities you would desire in a President (or any other leader), there is something that has not connected with many in the public arena.

David Brooks, a political commentator who leans sharply on the conservative side of the bipartisan spectrum, recently wrote,

Agree with her or not, she’s dedicated herself to public service. From advocate for children to senator, she has pursued her vocation tirelessly. It’s not the “what” that explains her unpopularity, it’s the “how” — the manner in which she has done it.

This “how” is the need to exhibit a multifaceted, well-rounded version of one’s self. Poll after poll shows that people do not feel like they know Clinton’s non-political side. They know she’s a mother and grandmother, but they see her more as a career-minded workaholic.

For whatever reason, people want to know what their leaders do for fun. A 2004 poll found that voters favored George W. Bush over John Kerry because they “would rather have a beer with Bush than Kerry.” Bill Clinton surged in the polls when he played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. And Barak Obama always garners positive press when he releases his annual NCAA Basketball Championship bracket.

According to research by psychologists Maurice Schweitzer and Adam Galinsky, leaders need to strike a balance between warmth and competence. They illustrate this theory with an accomplished psychiatrist who would employ one of three tactics when he first met a new patient: drop a pencil, tell a bad joke, or spill his coffee. His intent was to show his fallibility, i.e. warmth. Combined with his display of competence, including his office of diplomas, published books, and awards, the doctor was perceived as being more trustworthy and more proficient.

Likability counts, so if you want to be a more effective leader, show your team who are when you’re off the clock. Don’t downplay how hard you work, but throw in a few personal details. Talk about your weekend. Discuss your kids. Tell self-deprecating stories. Basically, display your vulnerability so you can be more relatable.

Hillary Clinton has run a solid campaign to reach this next stage in her career. Many factors have led to this moment, but her resilience and consistency have been key ingredients in her candidacy. As I wrote in my preceding article on Donald Trump’s leadership lessons, if you support her, these techniques are working. If you don’t, sharpen your skills to help defeat her. Either way, let’s hope this election cycle can become more competence and issue-based, and move away from the less substantive bouts that have become all too commonplace. It may not be as exciting, but is excitement really your measure of a world leader?

The United States of Rebranding

GeorgeWashingtonDid you know George Washington was not really the first President? This widely-held belief has been propagated for over two centuries. So how does a historical misnomer of such proportion occur? It took a massive rebranding strategy.

For a quick history lesson, the United States declared its independence in 1776, thirteen years before Washington took office. In this time, eight men held the position of President (ten if you include the two who presided before the Articles of Confederation were ratified). Granted, they were considered to be President of the Constitutional Congress, which is different than President of the United States, and their authority was extremely limited in power and scope. Yet these forgotten forefathers were responsible for holding the thirteen states together (no easy task) and defeating Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.

When Washington became the president under the current United States Constitution, there was a determined effort to start anew. This independence marks the establishment of the country as we know it today. In theory, it is not much different from a company trying to reinvent itself.

To ensure your rebranding campaign is successful, here are four things our founding fathers considered when redesigning the government and the presidency.

Define Your Mission

Any rebranding strategy needs to begin with an understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were pushing for democracy over monarchy to a group of people wanting a greater sense of freedom. Your intentions may be less consequential, but you need to believe in the purpose before investing your energy.

Ask yourself, “Why do we need to rebrand?” Are you repositioning, scaling up, inviting a new audience, introducing a more diversified product line? Knowing the why will allow you and the team to focus and generate more pertinent ideas.

Research the Competition

If you are going to put the effort into rebranding a product/service that people are already familiar with, you need to know what your competitors are doing and how your new persona will compare. For our pre-1776 brethren, living in a Britain-dominated territory for a few hundred years provided a unique opportunity to understand the enemy. Representatives also spent time in London among Parliament.

Since you most likely don’t have the advantage of getting first-hand intel from the competition, you’ll need to dig into the research. To ensure you remain cutting edge, conduct ongoing studies in two areas—within your industry (How is the market changing?) and outside it (How can the product/service be more relevant?).

Pursue Allies

Reinvention does not happen without a support system. This is no slight against your willpower; it is a product of leading people who possess free will. Just as America could not have won the war without France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic providing supplies and soldiers, you cannot make sustainable changes with your alliances.

Put time into communicating with the team. If you are making a change, you need to tell the story why. Explain how it will benefit the organization, the customers, and those within the company. Promote collaboration and celebrate milestones as they are achieved.

Create an Action Plan

Nothing happens without a plan. The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution served as a plan for how the United States would conduct itself. There were also financial plans on how to pay the war, military plans to fight the war, and structural plans for rebuilding after the war.

Establish your timeline for preparing and implementing changes. Designate priorities, allocation of resources, deadlines, and measurements for success along the way. Then specify the role of each team member who is accountable for each task. Check your plan periodically and make adjustments as needed.

To remain competitive, your brand cannot stagnate. You don’t necessarily need to cleanse your history of those who preceded your new image, but you must evolve and adapt with the times. Whether it’s a total overhaul or a just few adjustments, we can all use a bit of reinvention. That’s why we amend the Constitution and our organizations—to change, develop, and become a better version of ourselves.

10 Leadership Quotes to Get You Through the Holidays

end of the yearAnother year, another list of great quotes that I wasn’t able to use in an article. So, in an attempt to kick off 2016 with a fresh list of topical pop culture references, the following are ten leadership quotes to inspire you through the holidays.

Jennifer Lawrence“Waking up without a purpose and going to sleep without achieving anything–like what other people call vacation or time off–makes me depressed.” —Jennifer Lawrence, Entertainment Weekly

Martin Short“I’m a writer who’s had to write out of duress. My brother-in-law, Bob Doleman is a writer, but a real writer. He wrote Willow, he wrote Far and Away. He’s always writing scripts… I write because I have an assignment. I’m going to host Saturday Night Live; I have to figure out what I’m going to do for the opening… I had a special a couple of years ago for CBC where I literally didn’t know what it was except I made the deal and then I said I gotta figure it out them. If there’s an assignment that’s the way I do it.”—Martin Short, Nerdist

Louis C. Kv“Whenever you leave behind failure that means you’re doing better. If you think everything you’ve done has been great, you’re probably dumb.” —Louis C. K., GQ

Adam Duritzg“I’m fascinated by anyone willing to obsessively strive for something… whether it’s becoming a scientist, or a ballerina, or a football player, I just think that’s really interesting to me and I identify with that because I’ve lived a lot of my life the same way.” —Adam Duritz, USA Today

RuPaul Charlesb“Progressive thinkers [are] people who think in terms of doing things in a way that is more effective.” —RuPaul Charles, WTF

Larry David“I remember when there was some interference from NBC with Seinfeld when we first started doing it, and fortunately I didn’t have a family at the time, so it was very easy for me to say to them, ‘No, I’m quitting. I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to do that and I can’t do it.’ And for me, it wasn’t a big deal to just pack up and go home… That’s the first piece of advice I’ll give anybody who wants to get into this: Don’t have a family for a while, until you’re successful, because it will just make it very hard to ever get out of things and you’ll always have to compromise.” —Larry David, NPR

Dax Shepard“People judge you by your actions, not by your intentions.” —Dax Shepard, Off Camera

Don Henley“[To trigger creativity] you do a simple task. I’ve written some of my best stuff while unloading the dishwasher because you’re distracted — and yet you’re not. I’ve read Zen masters talking about the same thing. Plus, of course, you get brownie points with your wife.” —Don Henley, Rolling Stone

Ronda Rousey“Somehow, self-deprecation is considered modesty and my confidence was considered arrogance, and it’s considered a bad thing to compliment yourself. We’re always told to compliment everyone around you and talk yourself down. I don’t know how we’re expected to look at ourselves healthily if we’re told to talk about ourselves negatively.” —Ronda Rousey, Esquire

Taylor Swift“I think the tiniest little thing can change the course of your day, which can change the course of your year, which can change who you are.” —Taylor Swift, Seventeen


Have a happy, healthy and productive new year! See you in 2016.


Aziz Ansari on Why You Need to Find Meaningful Work

Aziz AnsariThere is an onslaught of information on the need to find meaningful work. It doesn’t take research (although there’s plenty to support the idea) to know that those who find purpose in their job are significantly more likely to have greater performance, motivation, engagement, empowerment, career development, and general well-being. If this doesn’t convince you, consider that those who make an effort to find more meaningful work also seem to be surrounded by other people who have the same intentions.

In a recent interview on Freakonomics podcast, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari was discussing, among other things, how he picks projects and the effects this has on his fan base.

I’ve been very careful about what I chose to do and I only do things that I really like. [I]f you do a show like Parks [& Rec] or you do standup, which is just going to be you, you’re going to attract people to your work who are people you would probably enjoy meeting or speaking with. Like if I did some douchey show that I didn’t like, I’d probably have some douchey fans that I don’t like. But since I’ve done stuff that I’m proud of and respect, the people that come up to me are cool and respect me and I respect them and they are usually cool people. It’s about the choices you make and what you do.

We typically associate the need for meaningful work with intrinsic, “feel good” attributes. This is true, however, it also has a dramatic effect on who chooses to follow us. When we go down a path that doesn’t mesh with our core value or interests, we may find success, but the people behind us won’t necessarily be those we respect or like. Whereas when we do things that matter to us, we are rewarded with like-minded people who feel the same way.

If you are looking around and realizing that you are leading a bunch of people who you aren’t proud to be leading, we have good news – you can find meaning in your work that authentically represents your beliefs and will lead to the team you prefer to lead. In her 2013 book Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace, professor Jane Dutton outlined three ways you can redefine your job to make it more meaningful.

  1. Alter the tasks you perform. You may not have the latitude to completely redesign your job, but there is some room to tweak duties. Get the undesirable tasks done first so you can spend more of your efforts on those that are fulfilling. When possible, you can also limit the time you spend on the “less fun” list and create meaningful tasks that benefit you and your organization.

You can be an architect of the tasks. – Jane Dutton

  1. Change relationships in the workplace. Once you have more meaningful tasks in your day, you can start rebuilding your following. Make an effort to spend less time with those who deplete your positive mindset and collaborate with colleagues who support your newfound sense of purpose.

We never make meaning in a vacuum. Work is very social. – Jane Dutton

  1. Use cognitive restructuring to reframe the way you think about work. Not all undesirable tasks can be hastened or discarded; we all have responsibilities that we don’t like but need to accomplish. In these cases, find the meaning. Consider why the task matters, how it helps others, how it improves you reputation, etc.

For all these things in our jobs that we just don’t like, we can take a step back and link it to the things that really matter. – Michael Steger

We spend too much time at work to not enjoy those with whom we are spending our time. As Aziz said, he respects the people who are his fans because he attracts people who respect him and his work. Explore and embrace how you can be proud of your work. It will generate a team of people you appreciate and will maximize your socialable work time.