Leadership Lessons from Hillary Clinton

I’m in Chicago attending the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference.  Recently former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to an audience of roughly 15,000 HR professionals about the ties between the field of HR and the ability for our nation to succeed.  She talked about investing in education and training of workers, and drew parallels between the skills needed for international diplomacy and the diplomacy needed to be successful in HR.  TFH

Clinton also outlined 5 lessons she’s learned, the hard way, from her various roles and responsibilities:

  1. Good decisions are based on evidence, not ideology.  This speaks to the importance of data.  Whether you’re trying to convince your CEO to invest money in a certain program or you’re trying to pass a law that could change the world – evidence, data, research is key to no only making a good decision, but to convincing others that the decision is the right course of action to take.
  2. Leadership is a team sport.  No one leader has ever been successful without inspiring others to work with and help him/her implement their vision.  She referred to the transition of her relationship, with President Obama, post 2008 election, as moving from a team of rivals to an unrivaled team.  An effective leader is not afraid to bring other opinions, even contrary ones, into the conversation and to integrate the best ideas, no matter who came up with them.
  3. You can’t win if you don’t show up.  Clinton used an example of traveling to the tiny African nation of Togo in her role as secretary of state to back up this example.  While Togo may be tiny, Togo holds a rotating seat on the UN Security Council.  Being there, listening to Togo’s concerns, looking their leaders in eye and making those personal connections can help influence Togo’s decisions moving forward.  In HR, we need to be in the “room”, build relationships with leaders in other functions and with employees, and get out from behind our computers.
  4. A whisper can be louder than shout.  Making demands, yelling, screaming, and threatening hardly ever delivers the results you’d want.  Speaking to others calmly and rationally, listening, I mean really listening, to what people are saying, and being empathetic can create much better results.
  5. Follow the trendlines, not the headlines.  Another call for data and research.  Look for trends in your data to help decide what to do next.  Don’t be persuaded by national headlines or popular opinion if it’s contrary to what data is telling you.  Sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions.  If we’re using analysis that identifies trends, rather than whimsy, it will be easier to convince others that our decisions were necessary.

Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, this talk was one worth listening to.  Her experience as a First Lady, a Senator, and as Secretary of State have taught Mrs. Clinton many important lessons on leadership and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to learn a little from her.

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