Smart, Candid Power

Over the past few weeks, there have been front cover articles on two of the world’s most powerful women: Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. (At both Time and Newsweek.) These leaders serve from opposite sides of the political arena, yet, I believe that they possess several of the same leadership qualities which have no doubt served them well. What can we learn from them?

1. Know your stuff. They are both smart, enterprising, studied leaders. Neither stopped learning when they assumed each new position; in fact, I believe they studied even harder.

2. Talk straight. Though many many may disagree with their positions, giving the “straight and skinny” is  imperative in their roles. There is no room for watered-down diplomacy; there has to be diplomacy anchored in facts. Candor can indeed be a powerful approach in negotiations.

3. Be brave. Popularity is not the end game. Being brave – to stand tall in the face of controversy from all sides, including their own – is a requirement. Can you even imagine going into the various situations they faced – from 9/11/01 to today’s tumultuous unrest – all around the world?

4. Take nothing personally.  This gets easier as we move up the ladder of success. Regardless, we are all part of the “human condition”, and have feelings. Despite the many lives lost, hard decisions made, and sharp criticism of these respective leaders, they both stayed the course against formidable odds.

5. Always do your best. It cannot be disputed that these women, as different as they are in approach, style and values, work like Trojan horses. They continually put their best foot forward; again, it matters not whether we agree with their individual stances on issues. Their work ethics are undeniable.

Of course, neither of these leaders are perfect. They have faults, have made mistakes, and certainly are still learning. Yet I, for one, admire both of them for their contributions and what we can learn from their examples.