Former president Bill Clinton spoke to Fortune magazine about leadership for their April 7, 2014 issue. In it, Clinton detailed what leadership meant to him, the great attributes of a leader, and what you can do to become a leader yourself.
To Clinton, leadership means bringing people together for a common purpose. He sees the role of a leader as organizing those people to make a plan to achieve their goals and assisting them until they do. Sometimes leadership takes the place of a public position. In these cases you have clearly defined responsibilities to accept and handle problems as they come up. Overall, leadership is about articulating a vision, developing a plan, and taking that plan to its conclusion. Clinton states, “In the modern world, I believe lasting positive results are more likely to occur when leaders practice inclusion and cooperation rather than authoritarian unilateralism. Even those who lead the way don’t have all the answers.”
Clinton had similar things to say about attributes that great leaders share. They are committed to pursuing goals, have determinations, courage, and confidence to stick with their decisions. He also noted that great leaders have enough strength to admit when they are wrong or made a mistake.
Of Clinton’s own path to leadership he said that he learned when he “was very young to respect the human dignity of everyone I met, to observe them closely and listen to them carefully.” Clinton also learned that you are usually the only thing that holds your back and that it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. Of his childhood he said he grew up “in the civil rights years, then during Vietnam, I came to see politics as a way to help other people make their own life stories better.” He also pointed to other leaders like Yitzhak Rabin and Nelson Mandela who taught him what it means to lead people in a meaningful way.
Other leaders help inspire and remind what it means to be great. In addition to Rabin and Mandel, Clinton admires Helmut Kohl, Bill and Melinda Gates, Muhammad Yunus, Fazle Abed, and Aung San Suu Kyi.