Posts Tagged ‘Benghazi’

Listed below is a selection of quintessential leadership articles that caught my attention this week. As I said in my last post of recommended articles, quintessential leaders read widely, but they also read selectively through the criteria that makes them quintessential leaders. Not the least of that criteria is unimpeachable character – who they are.

The difference between quintessential leaders and everyone else is internal authenticity and commitment to what is true and right. Quintessential leaders stand up under the test of time and circumstances, unwavering, undaunted, unwilling to compromise with truth or the right things.

As I’ve read extensively about Benghazi, the IRS, Bloomberg, and the Department of Justice, as well as the continuing “too-big-to-fail-banks” stories this week, it is overwhelmingly evident that there is no shortage of unquintessential leadership everywhere we look.

Being in a leadership position does not make a person a leader, nor does it make a person a quintessential leader. At the core of quintessential leadership – and what makes a person, whether he or she has an official leadership title, a quintessential leader – is unassailable integrity. That is one of the fundamental components of building trust and being trustworthy.

We, as quintessential leaders, make huge mistakes sometimes. We have colossal failures at times. We have serious Integrity Must Be Our Compasslapses in judgment sometimes. We’re very wrong about things at times. That is part of being human. However, the difference between quintessential leaders and everyone else is that quintessential leaders:

  1. Admit mistakes, failures, lapses in judgments, and being wrong quickly
  2. Take full responsibility quickly
  3. Take aggressive action to correct quickly
  4. Apologize to everyone affected quickly
  5. Make amends everywhere they need to be made quickly
  6. Simultaneously, conduct a deep and fearless internal review to see what happened to lead to the outcomes
  7. Commit to and undertake diligently better self-governance and change

That’s what is missing is all the news stories I mentioned above and that is why all the people involved on all sides of the stories are unquintessential leaders. Blaming, justification, excuses, twisting, spinning, angling, and lying are unquintessential leadership traits.

I urge each of us to always look at everything through the quintessential leader lens. Get all the superficial and extraneous stuff out of the picture – emotions are one extraneous  thing – and use the quintessential leader criteria outlined in building trust and being trustworthy to test everything.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how we feel. What matters is what is right. What is true. What is honest. Emotions, as I discussed in “The Quintessential Leadership Balance Between Facts and Feelings,” can obscure right, truth, and honesty.

A sampling of what else I’ve been reading this week:

In Mike Hyatt’s article, “Why You’re Not a Leader,” some of the characteristics of unquintessential leadership are highlighted, including the one of getting results, but doing it through dishonesty and deception, which no matter how “big” the win in the short term, erodes and destroys trust and trustworthiness in the long term. If we are dishonest in how we do things, we cannot be trusted in the what, the why, the when, and the where of any part of our lives either.

6 Categories of Bosses” by Dan McCarthy is an interesting – and one I agree with – graphic breakdown and short description of the six types of people who end up in leadership positions. It’s important, from a quintessential leadership perspective, to remember that the words “boss” (which implies a heavy-handed “do-as-I-say-or-else” role) and “manager” (we manage things and we lead people) are not leadership words, titles, or roles. They are dysfunctional functions created by dysfunctional organizations (all organizations have developed dysfunctionally, because as humans, we’re all dysfunctional to one extent or another, and humans create organizations). As quintessential leaders, we must be vigilant to ensure that we are not bosses or managers, but instead leaders.

In David Peck’s article, “10 Essentials of Great Leadership, many of the facets of quintessential leadership are covered. Two areas that stand out to me – and are integral to the way I lead – are knowing the difference between being “informed” and being “involved” and delegating the “what” and not the “how” to team members.

This second point is one I follow faithfully. Team members cannot grow, nor can they reach their full potential as quintessential leaders – that is the point, after all, of our leadership legacies – if they are forced to operate in somebody else’s box of “how” to do things. Each person on this planet, while having many traits in common, is also unique in approach, perspective, temperament, personality, and gifts.

When people in a leadership positions force their teams to work in their box of “how,” creativity, innovation, progress, change, and success are stifled and, eventually, extinguished. Look at morale problems in organizations and you’ll find that this is one of the root causes.

Glenn Llopis provides a quintessential leadership integral and automatic – this is who we are – to-do list in “Great Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically Every Day.”

TrustIn Tristan Wenmer’s “5 Qualities of a Successful Leader,” a big-picture view of quintessential leadership traits is summarized. As this blog continually reiterates, the first trait on the list is trust.

The final article, “When Leadership Fails,” by Jeremy Statton discusses some of the things that quintessential leaders need to do when they fall short – as discussed earlier – of being quintessential leaders.

I hope our weeks have been productive and I hope that we’ve moved forward in becoming more quintessential leaders than we were last week. As I’ve said before, this is a marathon and not a sprint, and it requires constant, diligent, and courageous work and effort. But never forget, no matter what the ups and downs we encounter along the way – because we do and we will – the final result is absolutely worth it. 

I am a close observer of people who are in leadership positions. I look for quintessential leadership traits in them, as part of who they are as people. I don’t always agree with their positions on things nor do I wholeheartedly support and approve of everything they are associated with.

I strip all that stuff away however when I’m looking at people to determine whether they have quintessential leadership traits or not. Because quintessential leadership traits are what should be important to all of us who are in leadership positions.

So when I write about someone here, I’m pointing out where they do – or don’t – possess quintessential leadership traits. Period. Because that’s what this blog is about.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has proven over time that she has many quintessential Secretary of State Hillary Clintonleadership traits and that she continues to hone those and grow in maturity in them. We can learn a lot from briefly reviewing them.

One quintessential leadership trait that Hillary Clinton has is resiliency. When she first emerged on the national scene during President Bill Clinton’s first presidential run, she made a lot of comments that made her unpopular with older Americans, it seemed. When she emerged as a working First Lady, Hillary Clinton seemed to lose even more popularity. At that time, it seemed that a lot of the American public despised her.

She resoundingly failed to change national public health care, which was the cause she took on in President Clinton’s first term in office, and that failure brought more condemnation and dismissal from a large segment of the population and elected officials. 

During President Clinton’s second term in office, Hillary Clinton endured personal humiliation and condemnation because of President Clinton’s infidelity.

However, because of the quintessential leadership trait of resiliency, Hillary Clinton never quit, and shortly after the second Clinton presidential term, successfully ran for a senate seat to represent New York in Congress.

In 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. It went badly for a lot of reasons and Senator Barack Obama won the nomination.

Once again, Senator Clinton did not quit, and by this time had, through her work in the Senate, shown her knowledge, skill, and ability to be the obvious choice to lead the State Department and easily won confirmation as Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term in office.

It has been in this role as Secretary of State that the other quintessential leadership traits of Secretary Clinton have really come to light.

One of those quintessential leadership traits that Secretary Clinton has shown is a thorough knowledge of her job. While all quintessential leaders will sometimes let things slip through the cracks, even with thorough knowledge, given the opportunity to explain the circumstances and complexity of their work, it becomes clear that, as much as humanly possible, they are on top of everything.

Such is the case with  the Benghazi attack in Libya on September 11, 2012 that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Secretary Clinton was aware of the danger – generally, not specifically to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ situation in Libya – and was continually and exhaustively dealing with several different countries at the same time in trying to keep everyone out of harm’s way. A cable from Ambassador Stevens requesting more security did not get to Secretary Clinton personally and American lives were lost.

Secretary Clinton’s immediate responses within the State Department and publicly show two other quintessential leadership traits she has.

First, Secretary Clinton took responsibility for the problems that led to the death of four Americans in Libya. She acknowledged, among other things, the procedural problem in the State Department that made this cable from Ambassador Stevens not get bumped up to her attention.

Second, Secretary Clinton took action to right the wrongs that existed by completely accepting and working immediately on making all 24 recommendations for change within the State Department made by an independent report on the Benghazi attack released in December 2012.

Another less-touted and harder-to-accomplish quintessential leadership trait that Secretary Clinton – unlike the majority of her government colleagues – showed was humility. Instead of denying, rejecting, blaming, and refusing to change, Secretary Clinton listened to and took the recommendations of others, even though it meant admitting her own failure. It takes a big person to do that and that is a huge quintessential leadership trait.

After reading through excerpts of the January, 23, 2013 U.S. congressional hearings where Secretary Clinton gave testimony about the Benghazi attacks, it is clear that Secretary Clinton has developed and matured the quintessential leadership traits she has. She was pretty viciously attacked and disrespected by some of those on the congressional side of the hearings, but she didn’t attack back.

Another quintessential leadership trait that came out in the excerpts I read was Secretary Clinton’s ability to stay focused on the big picture – vision. And, perhaps, that is the underlying quintessential leadership trait that has sustained Secretary Clinton during many years on a crazy roller-coaster ride in a very public venue. Secretary Clinton didn’t let all the derailment attempts take over – the “would have, should have, could have” statements that focused on a past she had no control over and couldn’t change. Instead Secretary Clinton focused on the present and the future and how to change and improve things.

And the interesting thing about the congressional attacks of and outright disrespect toward Secretary Clinton and her response was it seems like the only adult – and the only quintessential leader – in the whole bunch that showed up that day was Secretary Clinton.

As not-so-public human beings, it’s very easy to jump in and become part of the peanut gallery and Monday morning quarterbacks. But as quintessential leaders, it’s a good exercise sometimes to put ourselves in the shoes of people like Secretary Clinton and see how many of our quintessential leadership traits would be as obvious and apparent in the same situation and circumstances.

When’s the last time you yelled at an employee in front of someone else? When’s the last time you attacked someone who was pointing out that something you are responsible for needed to change? When’s the last time somebody really made a nasty comment to you and you made a nastier one back to them? When’s the last time you did absolutely everything right with no mistakes?

Being quintessential leaders is a 24/7 job. In fact, it’s not job. It’s who we are and becoming better at being. Everything matters. Let’s never forget that!