Bill Clinton on Leadership

Bill Clinton


Bill Clinton confounded his critics who thought he would be a one-term president. He demonstrated the ability to stay on course despite the ideological sling-shots of his opponents who underestimated his determination, courage, and persistence.

Lesson 1: Be a Risk Taker

President George Herbert Bush had a 90% approval rating in the polls following the Persian Gulf Conflict. Only Bill Clinton, Democratic governor of the small state of Arkansas, was willing to challenge the incumbent Republican president. While other Democrats were rating out the 1992 election, Clinton ran hard to become the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party and then went on to beat a sitting president.

Lesson 2: Be a Great Communicator

Hillary, his wife, became interested in him when Clinton described the wonders of Arkansas watermelons in the Yale University Library where they were both studying to become lawyers. When he ran for president he communicated his concerns to the American people, "It's the economy, stupid". His opponents discovered that he had a reputation better than Reagan's Teflon. The personal l attacks of his opponents proved to be counter-productive and damaged them.

Lesson 3: Inspire others to Believe in You

Bill Clinton became active in Boys Nation. He and his friends would get up early to campaign for him to become an ASenator at the 1962 state-wide convention. His wife has always stood at his side to give him shrewd political advice on how to overcome adversities and take advantage of opportunities.

Lesson 4: Stand up for Yourself and Others

Clinton's alcoholic stepfather was physically abusive to his wife and his stepchildren when he would drink too much. One day, the teenage Bill Clinton stood up to his stepfather and told him if he lifted another finger at anyone, he would suffer the physical consequences. After that, his self-destructive stepfather left everyone else alone.

Lesson 5: Show Compassion

While attending George Washington University in Washington, DC Bill Clinton's stepfather lay dying of cancer in a hospital hundreds of miles away. Clinton spends his weekends driving to visit his stepfather in the hospital.

Lesson 6: Be a Life-Long Learner

Bill Clinton may have been born to a family that suffered many economic hard knocks. However, his mother and his teachers encouraged him to achieve his full potential. As a result, he attended George Washington University, graduated from Yale University Law School, and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He returned to his native state of Arkansas to teach law before becoming governor of Arkansas.

Lesson 7: Prepare for Opportunity

Bill Clinton visited the White House as part of a Boys Nation delegation He put himself in a position so that if President John F. Kennedy decided to shake hands, he would be among the first to get that handshake. Clinton had created a photo opportunity that he could proudly show his mother.

Lesson 8: Learn From Failures and Mistakes

Bill Clinton had a difficult time getting legislation passed by a Congress dominated by his political party at the start of his presidency. He failed to focus on one issue at a time and as a result, suffered defeats on passing the proposals and the health care issue. By the end of his administration, Clinton got legislation passed by a Congress dominated by the Republican opposition and personally hostile to him. The Republicans self-destructed over trying to close down the government over the budget and unsuccessfully impeached him.

Lesson 9: If you Do the Big Things, the Little Things Will Take Care of Themselves

Bill Clinton gave the American people what they wanted: peace and prosperity. They were willing to forgive him on personal peccadilloes as irrelevant to his performance as president. Despite the bimbo eruptions, Clinton was chosen the Most admired man by Americans questioned in a 1998 Gallup poll. Pope John Paul II came in second.

Lesson 10: Leave a Great Legacy Behind

Bill Clinton left a legacy of peace and prosperity that few presidents can match.


Clinton knew how to inspire people to do their best. He knew how to learn from his mistakes so that he could go on. Clinton had an inner vision of himself that could not be shaken by the naysaying of his critics. Time will tell if his leadership and his goals remain timeless.

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