Why Focus on Leadership Lessons From Hillary Clinton Now?

Hillary Clinton's leadership attributes and skills allow her to be effective in today's turbulent environment.
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Hillary Clinton has always intrigued me -- just as she has the rest of the world! Her life, both personal and professional, has been a topic of conversation at dinner tables and water coolers for almost two decades. She has incredibly broad name and face recognition in both the public and private sectors in the United States, Asia and Europe. Go anywhere in the world and mention her name, and someone will have an opinion of her. While some may agree with her and others disagree, they all recognize her as a global leader who is now in one of the most important leadership roles of her lifetime.

Many people do not understand her formula for leadership success, but most realize that she has one and that she has followed it systematically as she has competed for, and won some of, the highest leadership positions in our country. They also recognize that her current role as U.S. secretary of state will require that she be an extraordinary leader in these extraordinary times.

Her leadership attributes and skills allow her to be effective in today's turbulent environment, and also to teach others how to be successful as they lead their own organizations and business teams through the global recession that began in 2009.

Her leadership lessons are visible and are supported by data as well as by experiential stories that readers will relate to. While many of these "lessons learned" come from her own positive experiences and results, some valuable insights can also be learned from her setbacks.

On a personal note, my experience in speaking at business meetings and conferences in the United States and around the world in the second half of 2009 has highlighted a significant shift in focus -- from the theme of general leadership to the specific theme of leadership in turbulent times. And attendees are looking for best practices and solutions that will help them lead through these tenuous times.

Both men and women are looking for guidance from those leaders who have successfully navigated through difficult circumstances before and have learned what works and what doesn't work. They appreciate that even great leaders make mistakes, but they value the idea of continuous learning and respect leaders who are able to make mid-course corrections, to move in a different direction, or even to amend a belief that has become an obstacle. They appreciate leaders who can rise above the doom and gloom and succeed in the face of some insurmountable circumstances in a timely way. This is what Hillary Clinton has done for years.

Hillary Clinton's leadership style resonates because it is very different from the leadership approaches that have been successful in the past. She is intellectual, very studied and a serious thinker. The new business context in which we are operating today requires an innovative approach and a new way of thinking. It needs a leader with the ability to break old patterns of thinking, someone who is willing to take on an unconventional and even risky role in order to be the catalyst for the right change to lead to future success.

Hillary's style of leadership studies the facts, articulates a significant view, and demonstrates the ability to build support for specific ideas by "reaching across the aisle." She also has demonstrated the ability to use the right communications style at the right time with the right people in the right way -- particularly during difficult and challenging times.

Her style ranges from listening intensely and empathizing with others to being diplomatically blunt, and this range has served her well in dealing with the political and relational dynamics involved in all of her roles. Hillary's approach, which she often learned the hard way, has helped her both to achieve her professional goals and to become more widely appreciated over the course of her career.

Whether you have been a follower or even a fan of Hillary's in the past is not the issue for this book. This book is meant to illustrate how someone can come through a long, difficult and sometimes even weary journey and evolve into one of the most powerful and influential positions in the United States and around the world.

You might say that it was pure luck or just hard work. However, based on my 30 years of working with and coaching business leaders, both men and women, I can share with you that, in terms of leadership success, it is not always luck or hard work that gets you there. It is more both an art and a science that good leaders learn and apply to become great. And the good news is that it can be learned by leaders at all levels in an organization if they recognize the key attributes and skills that are most successful in any given circumstances and have a road map for how to learn, adapt, and transform themselves based on the changing environment and the situations at hand.

What Leadership Lessons Can We Learn From Her?

Hillary has demonstrated the same attributes and skills that I hear being addressed now in businesses around the world, such as being a resilient leader and reinventing yourself and your organization. In order to make it easy for the reader to find and learn from the wealth of experiences that Hillary has had as a leader and to link them to the current conversations that I have with businesspeople every day, I have broken the "lessons learned" into three parts.

First, Hillary provides us with examples of several unique attributes that are required of leaders at any level in any organization in the world today, such as being a continuous learner, being resilient, and being "adaptively" authentic.

Second, she provides us with examples of key leadership skills that are essential in today's turbulent business environment. These include being focused, being "connected" to people, and being a great communicator.

And, finally, she provides us with a great example of the heart of a great leader, which involves leading with purpose and being of service to others.

The above is an excerpt from the book "Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton" by Rebecca Shambaugh. Copyright 2010, Rebecca Shambaugh.