Leadership Traits: How Hillary Clinton Effectuates Change

The best organizers are strong leaders. The best leaders are strong organizers. No one exemplifies this more clearly than Hillary Clinton.

As Hillary Clinton continues to lead her campaign with dignity, urgency, and determination despite the circus around her, it becomes more and more evident how fit she is to serve as president. Throughout her entire career, she has demonstrated her ability to lead others with compassion and commitment.

The leadership skills she employs so gracefully are the very skills organizers gain while working with volunteers. These skills transform an organizer from someone who mobilizes people to someone who creates lasting and impactful change through empowerment and relationship building.

Let’s look at the ways Hillary embodies leadership to see how you can use these same traits to be a better organizer.

A leader is committed to the work.

“Hillary is a great leader because she has spent her entire life fighting for kids and families. I want someone in the White House who wakes up every day wanting to fight to make others’ lives better. And that’s exactly the type of person, the type of leader, she is.”

Marlon Marshall, director of state campaigns and political engagement, Hillary for America

Leaders are made when they show up for the work. Hillary has worked her whole life for the causes and beliefs she cares about. Just like her, organizers come to work every day willing to do all sorts of unpleasant tasks in the name of building a community that takes action together.

The work you do as an organizer is far from glamorous. (Despite what your occasional pictures with celebrities might suggest.) Your ability to stay committed to the work, and to help others do the same, makes you a leader.

“Hillary is a leader to me because she never gives up and never loses sight of who we’re all fighting for. I think a strong leader is someone who brings people together and keeps the whole team focused on our common goal, and there’s pretty much no one I can think of who better embodies that spirit. I’m so proud to work for her every day and I get excited every time I think about how much she’ll accomplish as president. She’s a workhorse and just a tireless fighter and I can’t wait to see what the next four years hold. (We just have to get her elected first!)”

Janice Rottenberg, organizing director, Ohio Together

A leader is tough.

“I admire Hillary Clinton’s toughness, tenacity, and her commitment and seriousness of her work. I remember vividly in 2008 how every time we thought we [the Obama campaign] had won, she would come right back. Hillary is a fighter and a champion and I am proud to stand behind her.”

Tripp Wellde, founder and principal, Intellectus Coaching and Consulting

Organizers face challenges constantly. Just when you think you have everything figured out, something goes horribly wrong. But a leader expects these obstacles, knows what is necessary to move beyond them, and is committed to persevering through the ups and downs—working just as hard when everything runs smoothly as when everything falls apart.

Be honest with yourself and with your volunteers about the challenges of the work—vulnerability helps you connect. Endurance through difficulties is what inspires us in our leaders, in Hillary especially. Help those you organize find that endurance by demonstrating your own.

A leader listens.

“Strength. Respect. Substance. Steady. Empathy. Commitment. Resilience. Action. Those are the words that I think of when I think of Hillary Clinton.  Those are also the words that define the type of leader I want to have for our country, for my family, for my little girls. Hillary Clinton listens. She empathizes and understands. Then she gets up every day, like she has her entire adult life, and does something to try to make it better. That is leadership. That is the thick, muddy, day-in-day-out, not for the cameras, values-driven leadership of Hillary Clinton.”

Jen O’Malley Dillon, founding partner, Precision Strategies

Leaders know that strength comes from listening first, not from talking the loudest. Your strength as an organizer rests on your ability to empower others. Empowerment does not come from talking over people—it comes from listening.

When you listen to your volunteers and take what they say seriously, you are being a great organizer. When you take what you hear and turn it into a way to make them successful, you are being a great leader.

A leader finds common ground.

“I see Hillary Clinton as a leader because she is a problem solver, committed to overcoming challenges to get things done.  As a leader she has the ability to bring people together on opposing sides of the same issue, talk through the issue and find common ground.  That’s why I believe she will be an amazing president of the United States that will get things done for working families.”

Nikki Budzinski, labor outreach director, Hillary for America

Hillary realizes that despite all of our differences, we all share common hopes and dreams. Just like Hillary works to bring people together, you work to organize individuals with vastly different backgrounds and beliefs around a common goal.

Just because someone shows up with a crazy idea, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a place for them in your organization. Organizers seek out diversity because they know that diversity makes their team strong.

A leader empathizes.

“Hillary is the embodiment of leadership for me, because of her… capacity for love, sensitivity, and understanding.”
Please play video below for Anatole’s full comments.

Anatole Jenkins, organizing director, Minnesota DFL Party



Leaders see love and compassion as a strength, not a weakness. Caring about the happiness of those around you—being heartbroken when they fail and being overjoyed when they succeed—makes you a strong leader. Don’t get so caught up in being a badass that you forget to be human.