As the age old saying goes, behind every great man there’s a great woman. There’s no doubting that your partner, spouse or significant other plays a pivotal role in driving you towards success. They are your anchor holding you grounded. They’re your greatest motivators and confidence builders. They believe in you like no one else does. They pacify you and pump you up for challenges. And they’ll always be there for you. But, Claire Underwood from House of Cards is more than just the lady behind Francis’s success. She’s truly an equal.
For most of the first three seasons of House of Cards, Claire Underwood has shown us just how much Francis (Frank) has prospered with her support. But all that changed in season 4 where we saw a new side of Claire. She emerged as a leader who was equally competent as Frank. She stepped up and showed everyone she’s not just a sidekick.
If you were to describe Claire Underwood you’d say she’s smart, shrewd, cut-throat and successful. She seldom has emotional breaks down and is usually well composed, calm and collected. She’s bold, confident and well aware of what she wants, how she’ll achieve her goals and how to channelize her strengths to exploit her potential. In other words, though she may have spent most of her time under the limelight of her husband, she truly is a leader in her own right.
Season 5 has much promise riding on Claire’s shoulders. Like other House of Cards fans out there, I’m keenly eager to see what she’ll do next considering she’s clearly stepped away from Frank’s shadow and is now much more in control of her future. What’s interesting is that I’ve extracted some leadership traits from Claire, much like I did for Francis Underwood. These traits are different from Frank’s as they not only highlight her as a leader on her own, but a leader who’s supporting another leader towards success. It’s an interesting situation she’s in and I’m quite positive a lot of you can relate to her as well.
1. Leaders Remain Calm
No matter how many times she’s been under the firing line, be it by her opponents or her husband, Claire has yet to shed a drop of sweat. She’s always cool, well composed and rational. Unlike her husband who we’ve seen quite often lose his cool and let out a few outbursts, Claire has yet to show us that side of her. Don’t think that she’s a pushover, though. Claire is intelligent and crafts her responses perfectly to ensure she’s heard. Leaders need to be seen as strong-headed individuals who can calmly sail through any storm. And Claire does it effortlessly.
2. Leaders Time Well
Claire is a pro at steering situations to ensure they favor her. She knows when to push back or wait and watch things find their own way around. She observes silently, and plays her cards at the right time to make sure she’s in command of situations. Testament to that fact is how she switched gears from pursuing a congresswoman seat to a VP. Similarly, for you it’s very important to know when to pursue your personal goals and when to let the company’s goals supersede your ambitions. Being patient is necessary otherwise you may ruin your chances of success. Time your moves correctly and you’ll keep getting closer to your goals.
3. Leaders are Courageous
I don’t know about you but when Claire said “you don’t want to make an enemy out of me” I certainly felt a chill down my spine. Sure it was an intimidation tactic, which I’m not suggesting you use, but what’s more is how Claire displayed confidence, boldness and complete courage. That’s what every leader needs. Conviction and self-belief should be at the core of every leader. Believe in yourself, your company and your products or services. Believe that you will succeed. Though Claire stood by Francis most of her life, she herself was always confident of her own capabilities.
4. Leaders Support Other Leaders
For most of House of Cards we see Francis overcome obstacles to land himself in the hottest seat possible – becoming President. And while he may want us to believe he did himself, Claire has no shame in making him realize that he couldn’t have done it without her. That moment when she told Francis “I should’ve never made you president” was Claire validating that her support and role as his partner was instrumental for his success. At work you’re usually concerned with your own goals, success and accomplishments. You nurture your teams and protect them from external pressure and harm. But sometimes, your goals need to be put on hold for a while for the betterment of the overall objective. Sometimes another leader (maybe your peer) needs to be supported to rise up. Of course, your partnership is valuable for this growth so be sure to continuously support them.
5. Leaders Follow Their Dreams
Claire once said “you can’t worry about what other people think”. That’s the foundation of the Underwood’s. They’ve never let anyone get in their way. They’ve deflected competitors, critics and opposition to ensure they achieve what they dreamed for themselves. Nothing and no one gets in their way. To them, the only person or people who are important is each other (well later on that changes as well). And they’ll go to lengths to make sure they help each other achieve their goals without paying too much attention to what people say, think or believe. In fact, Claire has great evasive technique. She’s able to deflect criticism and difficult situations so skillfully that she always ends up winning. As a leader you need tougher skin to deflect attacks from external forces. Forces that’ll hold you back and prevent you from excelling.
I’m excited to see what Claire has up her smart sleeve in season five. I’m sure we can expect more shrewdness, cunningness and witty talk from her that’ll keep us guessing what she’ll do next and how she’ll ruffle Francis’s feathers. Let’s see what more leadership traits we can extract and learn from Claire this season.