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Leadership Lessons from Secretary Clinton’s Email Decisions

| March 24, 2015

by Jim Bruce

I suspect that we all have heard enough about Secretary Clinton’s decisions, first to use a non-government email server for both her government-related email as well as her personal email, and subsequently about the processes followed to preserve or delete emails.  And, that you like me want to be done with it. 
Even with that as the case, I was drawn to a short piece by Patrick Leddin that appeared on LinkedIn, 5 Leadership Lessons from Hillary Clinton’s Email Dilemma.  I want to share that essay with you as this week’s Tuesday Reading.  Leddin is Director of Strategic Partnerships at FranklinCovey where he works with organizations to define and execute their most important priorities.  He also is a lecturer in the managerial studies program at Vanderbilt University and at the University of Kentucky.
I believe that these lessons are important for all leaders:

  1. Be an example:  don’t opt for convenience.  Ms Clinton chose to use one email account since carrying multiple devices to segregate official secure and personal communication would have been inconvenient.  Her doing this, which may or may not have been permitted by regulations, does suggest a double standard.  As a leader, do you hold yourself to a higher standard?  Have you used your position as an excuse to take a more convenient path?
  2. Be transparent:  tell the whole story.  When your actions are called into question, step up and own the issue/decision and tell the whole story.  Are you transparent about your actions?  Or, do you sometimes tell only part of the story and make it seem as if you are telling it all?  What checks and balances do you have in place to help you here?
  3. Be aware of your behaviors:  don’t just assume intent.  As leaders we are always on stage, someone is always watching us.  People see our actions and judge us based on them, not on our intent (which they don’t see).  Declare, be transparent about your intent up front, to provide context for your actions.
  4. Be responsible:  don’t avoid ownership.  When, not if because we all do, we fail, it’s important that we step up and own the issue rather than point fingers, trying to shift blame.
  5. Be aware that trust has a long tail:  don’t assume that all is forgotten.  One poor choice today can have a long-term impact on whether you are seen as a trustworthy person.  When you are seen as untrustworthy on a contemporary issue, past issues where you were seen as untrustworthy are dragged to the present suggesting that there is a pattern in your behavior.  Therefore, our daily behaviors should build trust and we should work to repair any relationships that have been damaged by our behaviors.

Today’s Tuesday Reading is all about being transparent and behaving in a manner that demonstrates trustworthiness.  Take some time to reflect on how you stand in this regard and then address any issues you discover.


Have a wonderful week.  .  .  .    jim