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Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman is on the faculty of at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author, most recently, of Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, and Why It Matters and Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders.

Hillary Leads -- and Follows -- As She Takes Over at State

Hillary Clinton's first day at the office was nothing short of a triumph. Greeted by cheering throngs - many of them old hands at the State Department convinced that under her leadership at new day dawned for diplomacy - she did not let them down. Not only did she bring with her the polish and panache of seasoned celebrity, she delivered the message they wanted to hear.

First, she assured everyone that with her at the helm, diplomacy and also development would be front and center. "I will do all that I can," she told her rapt audience, "to make it abundantly clear that robust diplomacy and effective development are the best long-term tools for securing America's future."

Second, at every turn she acknowledged the contributions of the subordinates who stood before her. Third, she told her audience that, far more than before, they would be part of the process. "This is a team," she insisted, "and you are members of that team." And while she could not promise that "everybody's ideas will make it into policy, we will be the better because we have heard from you."

But Hillary Clinton's debut at the State Department was not all about her being a good leader - it was also about her being a good follower. To the delight of those present for the occasion, she produced for the occasion President Barack Obama (and Vice President Joseph Biden). For the assembled to witness, she testified to her fealty.

"I am honored," Clinton said, to help the president fulfill his promise of "robust diplomacy." She went on to tell him what a "high standard" he had set in his inaugural address, and she pledged to him that everyone at State "will give you our best efforts." It is an honor, she repeated, "to be working to fulfill the goals that you have set for us and the country."

Obviously, the new Secretary of State has her work cut out for her. She faces great challenges abroad. And she faces great challenges at home - not least of which is managing her outsized team, including men like Richard Holbrooke, who is himself outsized, and used to having wide latitude and direct access to the president himself. Still her presentation of self at State gave evidence yet again of Hillary's Clinton's strengths and smarts. Even the big boys would be foolish to underestimate her.

By Barbara Kellerman

 |  January 24, 2009; 7:15 AM ET
Category:  Followership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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CharleneW222: Many opinions. Fine, but please answer my question below. You said:
"Let's call the field what it was -- it was even with racism and sexism cancelling and making that aspect of the starting gate even."

Then why did Obama win the first nine primaries (after which Wright hit the news) and it was absolutely nip and tuck after that?


Posted by: Billw3 | January 25, 2009 7:49 PM
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Me: "She would have won had the public known of Obama's support for Wright at the outset."

And John McCain would be President, and the VP would be............ !!!!

I disagree. Clinton would have beat McCain.
With respect, McCain was simply too old and not really "sharp" enough.

Posted by: Billw3 | January 25, 2009 7:42 PM
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Hillary Clinton is seasoned to deal with people in high levels of government; but if the way ahead is a dead end, where does that power lead?

The world problems we have were produced by choosing a faulty system. The goal in life is not employment. In reality, the goal and solution is a retirement lifestyle creating a garden paradise with trees, plants, and animals that give fresh food around us. With this one strategy, world problems are solved quickly, fairly, inexpensively and will be sustainable through eternity. That includes pollution to air, land, water and food, global warming fears, energy crisis, war, poverty, immigration, reoccurring financial crises, disease and high health care costs and social security inadequacies.

Wars are fought with people fighting for resources or fighting to keep a simple God centered agricultural way of life instead of commercialism. Until we decide to choose God's ways, we will continue in war and no amount of intelligent, impressive personalities will end the wars. It is the promise of God. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28

See Barack Obama prophecies at prophecies.org .

Posted by: MarieDevine | January 25, 2009 3:10 PM
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Let's hope that the president's 143 days of experience in the Senate will indeed prove as a useful adjunct to his charismatic ethereal abilities, well documented by Chris ("she's here only cause her husband messed around")Matthews, Keith ("take her out on the shed and finish her off") Olbermann and all other media leg-thrilling frat-boys who managed to push off the ring the more competent candidate who also received over three hundred thousand more popular votes! PUMA is just a silly name for those idiotically believing that the "democratic" party behaved in the least democratic fashion in the primaries to allow a half-baked sexist candidate to bully his way and outspend by 4:1 his opponent.

"Periodically, [Barack] will feel down and start launching attacks to boost h[is] appeal"...

Posted by: MSakel | January 25, 2009 12:40 PM
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"She would have won had the public known of Obama's support for Wright at the outset."

And John McCain would be President, and the VP would be............ !!!!

Posted by: caribootroutfitters | January 25, 2009 12:20 PM
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Hillary will have her hands full!
May I suggest she start first by muzzling
Timothy F. Geithner’s assertion that China manipulates its currency?
That is a lie not worthy of the
United States! Stinking posture guaranteed to cause problems and a very big insult to China!

Posted by: USDefender | January 25, 2009 8:42 AM
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BillW:"Obama won all first 9 primaries due to sexism before the Wright baggage hit the news." Again, this is laughable. I'm a woman who has broken barriers in the most male of worlds -- on a construction site -- so I think I know little about sexism. And funnily enough, I voted for Obama, not Hillary, because I felt that Obama was the better choice. Isn't it just possible that there were many others like me who saw something in Obama that trumped Hillary, that gave him such incredible success?? To write off 9 primaries to sexism, and give no credit to the winning candidate, who faced incredible odds because of his color and because he did not have the chits to redeem for past favors or the money machine with corporations and the wealthy connections, means you are putting your head in the sand. How do you explain the junior candidate's success in soundly beating all the other seasoned male candidates who were running ?? Sexism ?? This is hilarious. Obama's message and character and the tone of his campaign are what got him elected. Hillary surely faced hurdles of sexism and Obama surely hurdles of racism. Let's call the field what it was -- it was even with racism and sexism cancelling and making that aspect of the starting gate even. You cannot write off all of Hillary's losses to sexism. I can't tell you how many people I spokee to who said Obama absolutely would not win because he was black - because it was too big of a barrier. But he did. A woman was not able to trump a black man not because of sexism, but because she didn't have a consistent message, because she ran an extremely negative campaign, because many of us had had enough of the Clintons already, and many of us knew a lot more about the Clintons than the soundbites and the speeches. You do all of us a great disservice asserting such a simplistic reason for Hillary's failure to win. Do some analysis. Hillary thought the election was hers. She did not have a plan to win "the little states". She thought she would be "done" after super Tuesday and didn't have a plan after that - either for her campaign or her finances. Obama's had a strategy from day one, and Plouffe did a brilliant job of analysis. So stop making excuses. Hubris and poor strategy and planning, and (for me) Hillary's history and record lost her the race.

Posted by: CharleneW222 | January 25, 2009 7:48 AM
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I find it hard to believe that some people are still lying to themselves and others as well,when they say Hillary was beaten unfairly in the primaries.
These people should admit the truth to themselves and accept it.
If you can not do that,then you should check yourself into a mental institution,as this is clearly a sign that you have a problem dealing with and accepting REALITY.
Hillary has moved on,and put this behind her,and you should do the same.

Posted by: rlinc2u | January 25, 2009 1:46 AM
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CharleneW222 said:
"The "junior" candidate simply out maneuvered her. He ran a much better campaign."

I disagree. Obama won all first 9 primaries due to sexism before the Wright baggage hit the news. After that it was nip and tuck and Clinton almost won anyway. She would have won had the public known of Obama's support for Wright at the outset.

Posted by: Billw3 | January 25, 2009 12:36 AM
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Mr. Cleland --
Betrayed? That is laughable. One can support a candidate, but if someone else comes along that you think would clearly make a better candidate, are you saying you cannot change your mind and choose what you feel would be a better candidate?
Hillary sank her own ship. It wasn't sinking because it was deserted. She impugned Obama's character - that hurt her. She lied about being under sniper fire - that hurt her. She ran an extremely negative campaign -- that hurt her. It said a lot about her personal character, that a lot of people may have felt was not at all desireable in a president. In such circumstances, I cannot imagine that you can call that changing one's mind to vote for another candidate as betrayal. If anything, Hillary betrayed her own self in choosing to go the low road and win at any cost.
What it cost her in the long run was electoral votes. The "junior" candidate simply out maneuvered her. He ran a much better campaign. If that doesn't show savvy and experience I don't know what does. And that is what brought me to vote for Obama and not Hillary.

Posted by: CharleneW222 | January 24, 2009 11:45 PM
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I'm not American, but I love America for many reasons, but your politics and the way you conduct yourselves in regards to politics is not one of the things I admire about your country or your culture.

The politics of America has such an enormous influence on my country and many other countries, that sometimes I wonder whether we shouldn't get a vote as well.

I'm happy that Obama won, I would have been happy to Have Clinton as president, but I'm not happy with the democratic party. They showed just how willing they are to fly by the seat of their pants when they think they have things sown up. If I was Clinton I would be feeling some negative emotions because she was betrayed on a number of levels....that is clear..... to argue other wise is an insult to one's intelligence. The process runs on betrayal and Obama won because rats jumped from the sinking ship of Clinton, including black delegates, or one that I remember, to the Obama ship, which is what is supposed to happen, but I don't like it.

Obama would be feeling negative emotions because he won through the support of such delegates and those people cannot be trusted, but somehow need to be rewarded. Good luck with that.

Demonizing Pallin and Mc Cain, who I remind you didn't lose by a landslide, gets us nowhere and it is about time Americans learnt the difference between description and prescription. I wouldn't care if Pallin cannot discuss fine art, so what, no one likes a know it all any way. We like people we can teach about our culture and country when they come calling. In a world we people are more concerned with putting food on the table than art on their walls, especially now, maybe people from Alaska are exactly who we need for some jobs and problems that need solving.

This is a time for all of us to pull together, it's not a time for the snobs to crow. In the words of Wilde...'A snob can tell you the price of everything and the value of nothing.'

All the candidates in your past election were good people and I'd thank them all for running.......

Posted by: scottcleland | January 24, 2009 10:47 PM
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I'm a 59 year old woman who came of age when feminism was taking hold again. I have worked as an architect, construction manager and developer. I have had many occasions where my sex could have been an issue. All this nonsense about the boys taking the nomination from Hillary is absolute garbage. Hillary herself agreed to the Democratic Party's rulings on Michigan and Florida until it looked like she couldn't win without them. So, like a 5 year old who changes the rules of the game midstream, that is precisely what she tried to do. Obama's strategy was that he would need to win without those states. He ran a better campaign, had a better campaign strategy, and better and more consistent campaign message and managed his campaign money and staff more efficiently and skillfuly. The long and short of it was he started out way behind in terms of support network and money, and still beat Hillary fair and square - and all without taking the low road as Hillary eventually chose to do. So please -- fellow women (and men?) -- stop wasting our time whining. Admit the mistakes, learn the lessons, and pick yourselves up and get back on your bicyles. All this whining is an embarassament.

Posted by: CharleneW222 | January 24, 2009 9:42 PM
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I will be happy if Obama and Clinton end our long time policy of supporting, sometimes, arming, undemocratic governments that suppress their own people. This hypocrisy is noted around the world and is a major source of anti-Americanism.

Posted by: bjkalmba | January 24, 2009 4:05 PM
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People ARE getting over the long and bitter primary battle. But it takes time, and although there is no point in lingering on the matter, bottling it up completely won't help either. One of the reasons to remember is to see how much stamina she has, which will come in useful in her new job.

Of course Biden is much, much better than Palin (or maybe you were joking?). He may have the foot-in-mouth disease, but he is grownup and independent and experienced and intelligent. You don't have to brief him on the political basics, or anything else basic, for that matter.

Palin visiting France, for instance, would be a terrible embarrassment. She couldn't partake in a five minute long ordinary conversation on any topic about anything outside of Alaska. Books, art, history, food, wine, film? Forget it! And for for decision-making, she doesn't know enough about the world to even know where to start.

Sorry about the rant - I guess it comes from pure relief - the nightmare is over, and she is not VP. Please, Americans, keep her away from the vicinity of the White House forever!

Posted by: asoders22 | January 24, 2009 1:36 PM
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It will be so much fun to have these democrats lead us out of the darkness. Obama has showed his true colors to the press and soon Hillary will as well. I wish them well.

Posted by: reidt2 | January 24, 2009 11:33 AM
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Mrs Clinton will be a memorable Secretary of State, and our country will be the better for her service. There's one potential problem some people can see already, though; the new VP, Joe Biden, is determined to play a major role in diplomacy and to butt in to situations Secretary Clinton will face. Talk about "disasters" as VP! The man is a windbag of major proportions and cannot keep his tongue in check on any occasion. He's already embarrassed Prresident Obama several times. I am one who's not completely convinced Gov. Palin would have been as calamitious a choice for VP as Mr. Biden almost surely will prove to be--though I'm delighted we will never have to find out. Hillary, be careful!

Posted by: donald169 | January 24, 2009 11:12 AM
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If anybody can not look good after the last 8yrs something is wrong. This talking to other nations can go just so far.This giving other nations building money has to stop!Obama AND Clinton, we are broke.Most americans I talk to are tired of working 2 jobs to put food on the table and support 2 families down the block plus 3 over sea's.Americans do not have time to spend with their families as they should.I think The 3 people,Obama,Biden,and Clinton got off to a good start.At least they have the right attitude.Got to watch the nickles and dimes O,B,C.Sounds like the people at state were tired of the this is they way it is run and if you do not like it go somewhere.The O,B,C team is going to have to keep defense money in the US also!!!! No $$$$$$140 million dollar forts in the middle of Bagdad, Obama!Something you more than likely all know,according to all your campaigns?,we the people do not want our money spent on defense for other countries while they steal and bank money at our expense! We do not have to rebuild stuff after someone loses a war,in this case Israel should rebuild what they bombed.They did not take advice to flatten the place like most people advised so they are back where they started. Do we have to pay for all this again? Good Luck O,B,and C.

Posted by: m-walters | January 24, 2009 10:36 AM
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seems to me she did a nice job and certainly used more two syllable words than did the former president. i look forward to her taking over and rebuilding state to what it should be after the last eight years. lets face it the previous administration had such a terrible relationship with foreigh countries it is going to take a lot of time, patience and fundamental policy plus attitude changes.

Posted by: beaver1 | January 24, 2009 9:59 AM
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You people just can't stop with the Hillary got cheated by the Boys remarks. She didn't win the election. People are allowed to vote for whoever they want and they made their choice. If anyone got cheated it was Obama. Where does she get off trying to take votes from states that were disqualified and telling Obama he can't do the same thing. What is this a 50 state election for Hillary and 48 for Obama? You people got some nerve.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | January 24, 2009 9:48 AM
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Mrs. Clinton's joyous arrival at State showed her leadership and commitment to public service. I would do anything to work for State--she clearly brings leadership in a womanly way to employees who were clearly demoralized and adrift. For all of those who look back to the campaign, please move on. Sometimes, people end up where they can do the best service.

Posted by: blessinggirl | January 24, 2009 9:48 AM
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Sorry for the omission of a word, it should be: "And bringing not ONLY his odd self into the White House, but Sarah Palin."

I agree with Xplanes. Clinton was manouvered out of the nomination by the boys. It was very ugly to witness and it took away much of the appeal for Obama. It will be a world of difference with him as president instead or McCain, but I can no longer warm to him as a person and I am not to keen on the Party. Unfortunately, there is not much else out there.

Posted by: asoders22 | January 24, 2009 9:11 AM
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I think she has grown tremendously.

The person greeting her said, not very politely: "So far, we are thrilled to have you here", or something to that effect. Would he have said that to a male SOS?

But most importantly: Be happy about the outcome of the election, once it came to Obama and McCain. Just imagine the horror of McCain being there, taking the oath. And bringing not his odd self into the White House, but Sarah Palin.

She would have been a complete disaster. Undoubtedly the GOP had a plan B on how to harness and direct her, and she wouldn't know since her tactics is finding an ally to do the work for her anyway. (This in not about liking or disliking her, this is about her absolute lack of ability to do the job.)

I am sure Clinton will do well.

Posted by: asoders22 | January 24, 2009 9:05 AM
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The fact that Hillary Clinton accepted the consolation prize of SOS with grace and dignity does not take away from the fact that the fix was in for Obama by the Democratic political machine and she was denied the nomination even though she won the primaries. The fact that the machine found a way to deny her victories in Florida and Michigan that she deserved and rigged the remote caucuses that were the source of Obama's so-called victory, the bottom line was she ran a bad campaign and made bad decisions that did not help her. Having said that, she is not one to wallow in self pity. Accepting defeat is not an easy thing to do (ask Obama), but to her credit she did it, and accepted the consolation prize with the intelligence and insight that would have made her a far superior President than Obama could ever hope to be. The dream may not end for those of us who supported her, but it has been deferred. Suffice it to say, she will be a great SOS and her intelligence and personal qualities (the ability to work very hard, to master details and personalities, to share the stage gracefully) will be necessary if she is to succeed. But, those of us who watched the political show over the last year know she was stabbed in the back by Dean and the boys and this is one PUMA that will never forget or forgive. Leaving the Party was the best decision I ever made. Hopefully, Hillary's experience and success and Obama's 143 days of Senate experience will show after four years. I think it will. Let's enjoy the second act with anticipation.

Posted by: xplanes | January 24, 2009 8:57 AM
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Yes, after all she's done for NY... she even had the finger lakes created in the likeness of her own fingers... let get a grip. K-thnks.

It took her two years of campaigning to speak effectively in public, and your lauding a staged rally for her? Pl-ease.

Posted by: citizenchick | January 24, 2009 8:30 AM
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