Hillary Clinton is leading the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary with 1,712 of the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination.
She has overcome some incredible obstacles to become the frontrunner -- from an FBI Investigation into misconduct during her term as Secretary of State to allegations against the Clinton Foundation (her family’s non-profit), as well as a stinging loss to President Obama eight years ago. Her persistence and disciplined campaign strategy could lead her to the White House, or this latest saga could end with yet another disappointment in her political career.
These three key psychological traits that Secretary Clinton has mastered on the campaign trail could come in handy in your personal pursuit of success!
1. Secretary Clinton understands when less is more.
There’s something to be said for the fact that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Secretary Clinton has been under siege since her time as Secretary of State came to a close in 2013. After her entrance into the 2016 presidential race, the former First Lady became the target of a vicious onslaught of attacks from all sides.
Recognizing that the FBI’s announcement that she was officially under investigation for the mishandling of classified information during her time as Secretary of State could spell disaster for her campaign, Secretary Clinton pumped the brakes on her campaign appearances. As a feeding frenzy started on all the major talk shows, she refused to take questions from the media at her campaign stops.
Takeaway: Resist the urge to respond to outside criticisms and turn a PR frustration into a two-way PR nightmare. Perform a disciplined calculation of the pros / cons of answering questions and attacks. Oftentimes, it makes sense to wait out the storm and only respond once you have a thoroughly defined, calculated response to the strongest attacks.
2. Clinton stays focused on her message instead of reacting to attacks.
Carly Fiorina, a nominee for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination stated, “Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, she lied about emails, she is still defending Planned Parenthood, and she is still her party's frontrunner.” This singular jab summed up the biggest controversies Hillary faced while refusing to take questions from the media for more than 20 days according to the Washington Post.
Secretary Clinton understood that taking questions about the attacks and spending time responding to those attacks would yield little fruit. Her political message is well-crafted to appeal to a majority of American, and breaking away from that platform to acknowledge the negative attacks would draw attention from her winning, positive platform.
Takeaway: Understand what your audience wants to hear, and limit straying away from those talking points. Veering off into tangents that take away from your message only helps opponents and causes an audience to lose focus on your winning points.
3. Secretary Clinton has transformed her body language on camera.
The first seven seconds are just about all the time you have to make an amazing impression that will form the basis of how others perceive you.
Hillary Clinton knows this from her many years in the public eye. This knowledge has manifested itself most recently in the way Clinton has “softened” her body language. According to CNN, Hillary has “…had a tendency to smirk and mug while others talk… [but in more recent debates] her body language has increasingly shown a confidence that she won't let her buttons be pushed but will remain master of her emotions.”
She knows that a camera is trained on her every move, and her micro-expressions convey a message to the viewing audience that needs to be just right in order to gain the maximum amount of support. In many ways, body language is equally important to the substance of what you’re communicating.
Takeaway: Leaders and entrepreneurs need to focus on how their body language represents their intent. Is it warm, open and inviting, or cold, closed and aloof? Stand in the mirror and practice presenting or discussing ideas with yourself, focusing on the placement of hands, shoulders and facial expressions.
There’s value in playing the long-game from a position of strength while honing your public appearance.
Senator Clinton started out in the race for the White House with a massive lead over her primary challengers (45 percent favorability). While she was bloodied by attacks from all sides, she stood strong and minimized exposure. By biting her tongue, she resisted the urge to squander her lead by engaging in a mud-slinging contest and shifting the early focus of her campaign from the issues to the headlines. She still appeared at campaign rallies, appearing presidential and speaking to her platform, but strategically avoided taking unplanned questions.
She also utilized her time in front of the camera to slowly tweak her body language and oratory style. She’s a campaign veteran, and her ability to tweak even the smallest detail may make her one of the most manufactured presidential candidates in recent memory.
Her style reminds me of a quote from Orison Sett Marden, an inspirational writer from the 1800’s: “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great!”
She has absorbed attacks, maximized every opportunity available and formed a powerful political coalition. Taking the time to only address the attacks she knew she needed to take on, and constantly working to tweak her delivery style has given her the lead. Those two simple takeaways could have a major impact on your personal success in a leadership, marketing or sales role. It’s always wise to take notes from one of the most skilled politicians of our time.