Management lessons from Hillary Clinton

22 August 2016 -


From persistence to having the guts to evolve and change, there is a lot managers can learn from the former US First Lady and presidential hopeful

Jermaine Haughton

Colourfully transitioning from Yale Law Graduate to First Lady to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is now just one step away from achieving her dream of becoming the first female President of the United States of America.

With nearest challengers Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, respectively, out of the way, the animosity and battle between Clinton and Donald Trump is certainly peaking, with accusations flying left and right from both parties regarding the others unsuitability to lead the US.

But with Clinton so close to achieving her dream, what can managers learn from Democratic Party nominee?


Very few politicians have suffered such an intense global spotlight as Clintonover the past 20 years, and even fewer have experienced personal and career humiliation as often under that pressure: from standing by her husband, then-President Bill Clinton for his marital indiscretions to losing the Presidential nomination she was overwhelming favourite to win to a self-described “skinny kid with a funny name,” former Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Yet during the 2016 presidential elections, she has shown her resilience to come back stronger to achieve her ambition.

And managers can learn from this strong mental resilience.

Regardless of whether there has been an employee dispute, difficulties initiating a new policy or a hitch on a big project, managers must recognise and accept their mistakes, but maintain their determination and will to achieve their objectives, and lead their team effectively.

Embrace Diversity

While her billionaire rival has suggested building walls to divide Americans and Mexicans, and banning Muslims from entering the US, Clinton has seemingly tried to be more united in her approach.

On several occasions she has urged the nation with all its colours, creeds and ethnicities to come together, to work together so that they can all rise together.

She has made targeting minority groups for support a key part of her campaign, particularly African American women, as well as campaigning heavily in areas with large Hispanic and African-American populations. This is a far cry from the 2008 primaries, when the former New York senator boasted "Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again," for which she was roundly panned for being divisive.

Being inclusive is an essential tool for managers, as recruiting, rewarding and encouraging individuals to be themselves and contribute their differing ideas and experiences to the team can be motivating and produce better outcomes.

Research shows that companies that are diverse and inclusive of staff from all backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, sexuality and disability, tend to perform better, be more innovative and attract the best employees.

Refuse to be bound by tradition

Throughout Clinton’s many roles in politics, she has never allowed herself to be tied down by her core duties.

As the Huffington Post’s business commentator Sanjay Sanghoee detailed: “While Clinton adopted a lower profile during her husband’s second term, she nevertheless continued to fight for health and welfare related issues, and never wilted in the face of narrow-minded opposition to her stepping outside her prescribed role.

“Her work led to the expansion of health insurance for children in lower income families, legislation to aid the removal of children from abusive environments, and the creation of a division to address violence against women in the Justice Department.”

With many managers reporting overwhelming pressures, from tackling red tape to working long hours, Clinton has shown that one must never allow expectations of your role to hold them back from contributing to their passion and talents.

Have the guts to evolve

Managers often have to work, collaborate and communicate across different departments, projects and industries, and should be flexible enough to adapt their skills, and style to the challenges they are faced with.

Also, managers should be willing to move with the times.

While it has been well-documented that Presidential rival Donald Trump has previously supported the Democrats, at least according to his donation history, Hillary’s political origins have also changed.

Democratic Presidential nominee Clinton worked on the 1964 Presidential campaign of Republican Barry Goldwater, who against the 1964 Civil Rights act, headed the Young Republicans club at Wellesley college and worked for the House Republican Conference.

By the late 1960s, following the death of civil rights leader Martin Luther King jr, Clinton claims her social and political opinions changed, whereby she became increasingly passionate about liberal causes ever since.

Limit Dysfunction

All great managers learn from their failures, and Clinton has shown that quality by limiting the disruption within her campaign team during this Presidential race compared to the battle eight years ago.

In 2008, the Clinton operation was rife with public clashes between top aides, staff shake-ups and a series of embarrassing leaks. Barring the ongoing email controversy, the Clinton team has looked much more united and content, with no such stories filtering into the press this time around.

Even after a heavy loss in the Democratic nominee race with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton showed loyalty and trust by sticking with her officials when a staff shake-up was heavily rumoured.

With this foundation, Clinton has been able to present her policy plans, including making the Wall Street, corporations and the super rich pay their fair share of taxes, without many unwanted distractions.

Powered by Professional Manager