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Leadership Lessons from the Election

After months (years?) of round-the-clock coverage, America has finally gone to the polls and chosen its next president. Whatever you think of the outcome, we can all learn valuable leadership lessons from this historic race.

  1. Own your mistakes. One of the biggest issues to plague Hillary Clinton and her campaign was her use of a private email server and her lack of forthrightness about the incident. Often controversy can be curtailed by directly addressing the matter and taking responsibility for your actions. An apology does not erase wrongdoing, but goes a long way to rebuild trust. Many leaders erroneously believe that admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness; however not acknowledging a situation that everyone knows about—particularly when there are repercussions for others—only communicates that you prioritize yourself over your team. Taking a difficult situation and providing direction to move forward is the sign of a good leader.

  2. Assemble a team you can rely on. Donald Trump went through a number of campaign-staff overhauls throughout his campaign and faced criticism that he did not listen to the input of others. Micromanaging feels much easier than delegating, but is not sustainable. A good leader assembles competent people and then lets them shine. Are you able to cast a vision and allow others to help you implement it?

  3. You can never say anything in private. Both candidates’ campaigns suffered when things they said in private were made public. While your revelations may not be as scandalous as either candidates’, many organizations have fallen prey to reply-all failures. You think you’re venting to a confidant, but the message goes out to the whole team. Barack Obama said recently. “I don't send any email that at some point won't be on the front page of the newspapers.” It is a maxim to live by for all of us.

The motto of the United States is e pluribus unum: “out of many, one.” Strength lies in allowing our differences to make us stronger, not drive us apart. At the end of a contentious election season, we look forward to moving forward as the United States.