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Hillary Clinton's leadership journey

Becky Shambaugh
Rebecca Shambaugh is CEO of Shambaugh Leadership and author, most recently, of the new book, Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton.

What stands out about Hillary Clinton is her enormous capacity for resilience that has allowed her to effectively navigate through highs and lows in her life. Yet how we perceive this resilience is a study in extreme contrasts. During the presidential primary, some saw her personality as unyielding and focused on her polarizing style, while many who know her well focused on her strong value system, work ethic, and warm heart, which she shared offline with dear friends and family. The core of a great leader is not always truly projected on TV, at speaking events or in public forums. Yet Hillary needed to bring out her true, authentic self to realize her aspirations as a leader.

I can't say that Hillary's true self, particularly her emotional side, showed up in the earlier days of her career. From the 1960s through the early 1990s, women often had to adopt the more decisive, direct, and confrontational style, known as the masculine style of leadership if they were to be taken seriously. Perhaps that explains why Hillary was known for her hard veneer, strong will, calculated action, and great perseverance rather than for her warm personality.

One of the most public expressions of Hillary's true self happened just before the New Hampshire primary in January, 2008. While she was answering questions from the audience, she had a personal moment when she almost shed a few tears--to everyone's surprise. No one, with the exception of Hillary's close friends and family, had really seen Hillary's deeper emotions before. What the public was used to seeing was HIllary behind a podium, speaking to large crowds or being drilled by the media. Although she had that driven, strong-willed, focused side, she also had a human side, a capacity to be vulnerable with others. In New Hampshire, this other expression of Hillary enabled her to truly connect with the audience, which was made up primarily of women.

Whether this emotional moment was due to extreme fatigue from the grueling campaign schedule as some have suggested, or whether Hillary simply revealed her heartfelt feelings about her commitment to making this country a better place, her personal reaction created a new perception of her among women throughout the country. Suddenly, they saw that inside this tough-as-nails political candidate was a real person with the same vulnerabilities that they had. Soon after the New Hampshire incident, polls indicated that Hillary had gained a majority of the women's vote, primarily because women could now identify with her more than they could with the other candidates.

When Hillary allowed herself to be vulnerable and express her true emotions, people could connect with her, which led to her increased popularity in the polls. This is a big lesson for leaders. This positive response enabled Hillary to become even more confident in and accepting of her true self, which she began to reveal more as time went on . She headed into the presidential campaign where she won nearly 18 million votes and earned a place in history for receiving more votes for a nominee in a major political campaign than any other woman in history.

When people began to see Hillary as the whole person that she was, they responded positively to her because people generally like and support a person who feels comfortable in her own skin and is confident enough to show her more personal or "human" side. While you and I may not want to shed tears in public, being able to connect with others by sharing our authentic thoughts and feelings, as well as our personal stories, improves and deepens our relationships, enabling us to gain the respect and trust of others. When, as a leader, you show your true feelings and emotions, you are also more likely to gain the discretionary effort of others, meaning people will be drawn to you and will go the extra mile for your cause.

When I coach leaders on ways to engage with their employees, particularly during challenging times, I always recommend that they express their personal feelings, vulnerabilities, and fears. Once people know this part of you, they are more willing and able to connect with you, see you as a real person, and have a greater level of respect and support for you. It creates a level of transparency that people appreciate and can connect with. It is necessary to balance intellect and logic with emotion and empathy. It's all about letting people know that you are confident enough to share your true self with them. That's life, that's being human, and that's being authentic.

Finally, being authentic often calls for speaking the truth. In politics or business today, we sometimes feel pressured to say things in order to please others or to look good in front of our colleagues. Authentic leaders are different: they consistently speak the truth. They would never betray themselves by using words that are not aligned with their values and actions. The sooner you understand the core of who you are as a leader and show yourself that way, the more successful you will be and the more you will enable others to connect with you, see the leader within you and support you in your goals and dreams.

By Becky Shambaugh

 |  May 4, 2010; 3:56 PM ET |  Category:  Leadership Behavior Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This article is nonsense. The fact is that if she had remained Hillary Rodham or become Hillary Rodham Smith or whatever, we never would have heard of her. She failed the bar exam twice before passing. She failed miserably when her husband mistakenly gave her responsibility for health care reform (Obama didn't fail, for those who want to prefer her to Obama.) She ran a divisive and incompetent campaign for the nomination. She steamrollered a well-qualified woman out of the Senate seat from NY - Nita Lowey - when she decided to use that seat as a stepping stone for her ego-driven try for the Presidency.

Her performance as SoS is totally undistinguished.

Posted by: dicka1 | May 9, 2010 10:18 PM

Journey toward authenticity? Some jokes just write themselves!

Posted by: carlbatey | May 9, 2010 12:12 PM

She faked those tears in New Hampshire, in response to her advisers telling her to be more likable.

Unless you find it normal to tear up when saying "some of us are ready on day 1 and some of us are not."

Granholm, Sebelius, Napolitano: all qualified women.

Clinton: not so much.

Posted by: dc_attorney | May 9, 2010 11:35 AM

Hillary is hard to like, but I have to admit I am of the firm opinion, she is more qualified for the big office, than is in experienced Barack. Besides she would have here estranged husband, for political savvy to rely on.

Posted by: dangreen3 | May 9, 2010 9:25 AM

Such pettiness coming from the peanut gallery - just how do you critics of Hillary Clinton know anything? I suppose you're the same folks who think Condoleeza Rice was "successful" at doing that job (or any job). She was an utter failure. Hillary could eat her and you critics alive. Obama was brilliant in his choice of her as our Secretary of State. P.S. George Bush was the biggest opportunist we've seen in modern times - he used his father's name to get into Yale, Harvard, the National Guard, losing oil businesses, ownership of the Rangers, the Presidency, and he used his father's name to get out of being thrown in the brig for being a coke addict and being AWOL from the Guard. America did great during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Then disaster hit for eight years with George. We at least now have a chance with Obama, Biden, Hillary Clinton, in the leadership of our nation.

Posted by: qrsi | May 9, 2010 6:14 AM

I voted Democrat in 08, and would have held my nose to vote for Hillary over McCain. But I find it hard to take seriously a leadership coach who, like the author of this commentary piece, was so thoroughly duped by Hillary's fake "crying" moment before the New Hampshire primary. Anybody with a modicum of instinct about human behavior could read that lie from a mile away, particularly as Hillary kept her manipulative and transparent political commentary running all the way through her case of crocodile tears.

Hillary's cynical political instincts are rooted in the 1980s and early 1990s, when a ridiculously stupid and opportunistic lie about, say, sniper fire wasn't so easily debunked by nearly-instantaneous news cycles and Internet-savvy technophiles with basic research skills. She's probably a halfway decent SoS and competent behind-the-scenes worker -- time will tell -- but for personality politics she's simply out of date. Her initial supreme arrogance on the campaign trail and overall incompetence in the face of a real primary challenge put the lie to the idea that she was the best (wo)man for the nation's top job. She fell apart and showed her worst side when it mattered most.

An in that one regard, she actually does have something in common with Sarah Palin. Talk about terrible company!

Posted by: mrjah | May 5, 2010 12:11 AM

Sorry but I feel both Clintons are opportunists albeit very successful ones. I probably would feel different if I thought they actually earned any of the acclaim they have received as opposed to mainly being set up for it. Starting with them both being given jobs as professors even though right out of college themselves, at the U of A up until they bargained with Obama for Secretary of State. They never give up.

Posted by: LuckyGrad68 | May 4, 2010 11:37 PM

What leadership?

The two candidates I picked were Obama and McCain. I couldn't stand either Hillary or Romney. Eight years of the Clintons were enough. To my ears her voice always sounded shrill and strident. Her smile always looked forced and phony.

As a Secretary of State I feel she is doing plenty of damage to our national interests. Confronting Arab leaders - she lectures them on women's rights. She lectures China and India on climate change. Other leaders really hate to be lectured to.

Some people are born diplomats. Hillary is definitely not in this category. It is one thing to have a frank discussion, but nobody likes to be preached to.

Posted by: alance | May 4, 2010 10:32 PM

Dang if Hillary had won the Election ...

... I would have sold more than 3 books.



Posted by: highkey11 | May 4, 2010 10:28 PM

Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton ..

... who, what ... where

Iran is building nukes ...

Chavez calls Obama Bush II ...

Russia thinks Obama is a wiener ...

This is success in Democrat land?

... article co-authored by:

Hillary Clinton

Posted by: highkey11 | May 4, 2010 10:27 PM

This is the Hillary we would like her to be. The Hillary that we get, however, is a more pedestrian, calculating sort. Both are admirable and useful, but let's keep them separate. There will be a woman whose time will come, just as there was an African American. That's not the Hillary we've seen to this day.

Posted by: sarah_krones | May 4, 2010 10:17 PM

Burt Reynolds et al- I also live in NYC and am a policy wonk/political junkie and a leftist. Hillary certainly did a hell of a lot more than Barack while she was in Senate- he just tried to link his name to other senators bills, mostly at the last minute, or proposed no-lose type legislation, like making nuclear weapons safe during the 2 years he actually attended his job there. He also had no particular record for 6/8 years in the state senate until he needed a record to run for senator, since he had been exposed as having none in his congressional run. But keep on hating on her- did you read policy statements during the campaign- she came out with solutions for the housing crisis in 9/07- a year before the crash and 8 months before Barack- that were bottom up- aimed at rescuing the homeowners before the bankers- which he dismissed during the campaign- she knew the ins and outs of policy better than he did.

This doesn't really matter any more since she is doing amazingly at State and he is president. However- you can drop the mysogynistic hatred already.

Posted by: NYClefty | May 4, 2010 10:13 PM

I believe she has served our country well as Secretary of State, which is an extremely difficult job. It's wrong to discredit her for some illusive failures to act or provide when she has been on top of everything that has come up and is effectively continuing forward with in-progress items. Not every Secretary of State, or President even, that we have had has been 100% smooth all the time. The art of diplomacy is fluid and takes years if experience and the personal attributes to pull it all together. She would have been a great president and likewise has proven herself to be a great Secretary of State.

Posted by: allaire | May 4, 2010 9:33 PM

Leader? The woman is nothing of the sort. She is a figurehead who constantly gets undercut by her boss and left with nothing but ceremonial duties. Everyone knows that the real Secretary of State is the Vice President. He's the one who is constantly sent to do the tough tasks.

Posted by: egrib | May 4, 2010 9:26 PM

Has it occurred to anyone as sectary of state Clinton is a failure? What has she done so far to warrant any praise?
Agree. I lived in NY while Hillary was Senator. No one could ever explain to me what exactly made her a "good" Senator. She didn't champion any particularly meaningful legislation. She didn't really deliver any "pork". She was just "there". Based on being what appeared to be a do-nothing Senator, she was apparently a favorite to run for President.

Now she is basically a Secretary of State who makes "statements" and shows up for photo ops at conferences. She hasn't negotiated any landmark agreements. Yet blogs like this hail her as such a "great leader". For what? For simply being "there"?

Posted by: BurtReynolds | May 4, 2010 8:55 PM

With the election long settled and events at a more normal pace, she has regained control. Yet before she did and for the entire election she seemed more to be trying out for mud-wrestler than to appear presidential material. The Obama-Clinton contrast could not have been sharper. The memories of some can be so short

Posted by: fritzr1950max | May 4, 2010 8:17 PM

Has it occurred to anyone as sectary of state Clinton is a failure? What has she done so far to warrant any praise?

Posted by: SSTK34 | May 4, 2010 8:02 PM

I admire Secretary Clinton. She is a much larger woman than many of us have read about in the "news." The whole thing about cried, tears is and was baloney...her voice "stumbled" a bit...but News folks went for cried and tears...cheap shots. Although, it is ok to get choked up and to have tears...if more men would show this emotion...they would live longer! Go Secretary Hillary!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | May 4, 2010 7:27 PM

Well, she has "won" as far as I am concerned because she is being an absolutely fabulous Sec. of State. But, why wouldn't she? She has been successful at everything she has done.
I love her "straight-talking" ways with foreign leaders and her ability to tell everyone "the way it is". Boy, Obama did the right thing when he asked her to become Sec. of State. She can say things that he cannot, because of the "restrictions" of the Presidency. And, there is no doubt about it, they are on the same page.

Posted by: cms1 | May 4, 2010 6:40 PM

She is the one that deserves to break the glass ceiling in my opinion.

Posted by: janecolby | May 4, 2010 6:24 PM

Indeed, and that's coming from one of her harshest critics during the primaries, but it was business and not personal; moreover, at least she was the more authentically American of the two. She would be the Democrats better choice in a rematch, a slam dunk even.

Posted by: hared | May 4, 2010 6:19 PM

Looking in the mirror - wish she had won

Posted by: onthejourney | May 4, 2010 5:58 PM

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