Former Presidents Bush, Clinton Cite the Importance of Learning To Be Humble in Leadership

Former President George W. Bush, left, his wife Laura, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former President Bill Clinton wait for the 58th Presidential Inauguration for President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

More civility, to take the edge off of some of the news shaping today’s political landscape.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were joint speakers at a forum on leadership, recently, and for whatever your opinions are about either, the advice given is in stark contrast to what passes as legitimate political discourse, these days.


Speaking at the Presidential Leadership Scholars graduation, both Bush and Clinton were relaxed, often self-deprecating, and pushed the novel idea of leaders valuing the quality of being “humble in victory.”

WOW. What a concept.

“He (Clinton) was humble in victory, which is very important in dealing with other people,” Bush told the crowd of his predecessor.

Clinton joined in, adding that humility is an important characteristic for good presidents.

“If you want to be president, realize it’s about the people, not about you,” Clinton said.

“You want to be able to say ‘things were better off when I quit, kid’s had a better future, things were coming together.’ You don’t want to say, ‘God, look at all the people I beat.'”

I’m absolutely positive that they weren’t talking about anybody, in particular.

So what other arrows should a leader have in his quiver?

Well, learn to expect the unexpected.

“The decisions you make have a monumental effect on people,” Bush told the crowd. “Presidency is often defined by the unexpected. It makes the job interesting.”

And President George W. Bush may have had more experience with the unexpected than most any other president in recent history.

President Clinton had his own thoughts on that.

“If you don’t deal with the incoming fire, it will undermine your ability to do anything else. If all you deal with is incoming fire, you can’t keep the promises you made when you were running,” he said.

“The best thing that can happen to you when you are in politics is to be consistently underestimated,” he added.

“I was pretty good at that,” Bush responded, to laughs.


I always admired President Bush for his grace under so much pressure, and his ability to laugh at himself.

And while I have very little good to say about Bill Clinton’s time in office, he gets credit for being able to share the stage with his successor and put politics aside, long enough to give a thoughtful and substantive look into what leadership is supposed to be.


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