Hillary Clinton Revisited

Five months ago (December 5, 2012), I wrote about a leadership mistake by Hillary Clinton. It involved the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya where four Americans died. I wrote that then-Secretary of State Clinton performed poorly as a leader because she side-stepped clear responsibility and ownership of the incident. I was wrong. It was much, much worse than I said. We now know that her mistakes preceded the tragedy.

I’ll leave it to you to do a search and find reports about what happened. Most of the information you’ll find is not flattering to Clinton nor to other leaders in the Obama Administration.

I don’t want to remake these points. I do want to underscore the fundamental aspect of the event, at least in my mind. How could anyone–Democrat or Republican, military or civilian, on the scene or removed in distance–not realize the significant of September 11 as a date? It’s mind-boggling how such an important date was not at the top of everyone’s agenda and task list in making security arrangements for fall 2012.

I’ve discussed with my clients on several occasions the vital role that time plays in their leadership. Your team or organization has key moments where meaningful events have occurred in the past. Those events should be noted as potential occasions for remembrance, celebration, and meaningful honor. They help your followers.

Conversely, there are moments when awful things happened. They, too, in their own ways, should be kept alive as active memories. They contribute to motivation, inspiration, and much more. They also can be times when your followers make special efforts, go to greater lengths, so as to avoid their repetition. In this way history will not repeat itself.

And yet, on the highest levels of our national government, in a realm of national security that most of us agree is a key task of that level of government, history is allowed to repeat itself in a symbolic fashion. Mistakes, at the least, or incompetence, at the worst, resulted in tragedy.

A leader will accept responsibility for failure. A leader will learn from failing. A leader won’t repeat the same error again and again.