Men and women around the world consider Hillary Clinton an exemplary leader. Her leadership style resonates with many, ranging from listening intensely to being diplomatically assertive. She has smart answers to today’s hard questions, and takes the best interest of the community seriously. Highly skilled and intelligent, she has capitalized on her uniqueness in a turbulent political and business world to lead effectively in many important leadership roles, including First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, Senator of New York, and Secretary of State.
A leader cannot accomplish anything alone – a loyal and committed following is conducive to making a meaningful difference. Hillary has a track record of effectively driving change by use of expert and referent power – that is, influencing others to rally beside her by sharing her powerful vision as well as supporting it with facts and evidence.
Hillary’s expert power was developed over many years of hard work in numerous capacities. She realized her passion for public service early in her career during law school, but turned her vision into reality as she dedicated the rest of her life to serving her communities and gaining valuable insight along the way. Her ability to convert pressing issues into impactful initiatives has as contributed largely to her thought leadership in a multitude of areas.
In Peter Drucker’s article, What Makes and Effective Executive, he examines the practices which enable leaders to collect the knowledge needed and formulate action to drive a significant impact. During her 3-year tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary took it upon herself to travel over 956,733 miles to 112 nations to fully understand firsthand the extent of her responsibility and prioritize the issues facing her organization. One of her biggest wins as First Lady was the enactment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, demonstrating her ability to build rapport and trust with both supporting and opposing groups.
Perhaps the most admirable of Hillary’s leadership qualities is her courage and modesty to assume personal responsibility and learn from her setbacks, including her loss in the primary election in 2008. She takes criticism seriously without getting discouraged, and successfully bounces back from every downfall with a more seasoned perspective. People are fallible, including experienced leaders –nothing is more respectable than for someone, like Hillary Clinton, to be unafraid to admit her mistakes, and move forward with persistence and determination.
It is this tremendous humility and professional will that contributes to Hillary’s referent power and makes her a “Level Five Leader,” a concept developed by author and consultant Jim Collins. She conducts herself with compelling modesty, always awarding credit where it is due and celebrating the successes of others. While many emulate her leadership ability when leading their own organizations and teams, she humbly acknowledges that she is just as inspired by her colleagues and supporters as they are by her, saying, “I always believed you could learn something from nearly everybody you meet, if you’re open to it.”
According to Collins, professional will means, “demonstrating an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results—no matter how difficult.” One of the most significant initiatives Hillary spearheaded was the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. She facilitated a shift in attitude among officials who were blocking the legislation, helping them understand how the bill represented core American values they share, while also listening and acknowledging their concerns. She called the effort, “4 years of hard work to strengthen the relationship… getting them to see our point of view, and learning more about theirs.”
In today’s dynamic environment, Hillary demonstrates a stanch resilience to find creative solutions to complex issues and persevere in the face of difficult challenges. It is unreasonable to expect any person to be a “Level Five Leader” 100 percent of the time, but Hillary Clinton embodies “a clear catalyst from good to great” in critical times when her judgment matters most. Even those who disagree with her ideas see her in the highest regard as she has mastered the art of compromise and building productive relationships. She says, “Part of the great challenge of living is defining yourself in your moment, of seizing the opportunities you are given, and of making the very best choices you can.” As she has in each of her past roles, she continues to incorporate this philosophy into her leadership approach, guiding and inspiring others along the way.