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Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Transformational Leadership | 1 comment

10 Leadership Traits from House of Cards’ Francis Underwood

10 Leadership Traits from House of Cards’ Francis Underwood

For all you House of Cards fans out there, tomorrow, February 14, Netflix releases Season 2. For those who haven’t watched the first season, Francis Underwood, played by one of my favorite actors Kevin Spacey is the patient, cunning and ruthless majority whip of the Democratic party in the American Congress.  He’s a power hungry politician who knows how to get what he wants and has the skills and resources to match his ambitions.

In anticipation of the new season and Frank’s promotion to Vice President, I’ve collected some of his 10 most notorious statements and what we learn from them. They highlight his brand of leadership and could be used by anybody who’s scheming their way to the top.

1. Leaders Don’t Lose Faith

“I must not lose my resolve. I will march forward, even if I have to do so alone”

All is rosy when people are on board with your ideas and walk with you to achieve a common goal. But we all know it’s not always like that. As a leader, there will be times when you find yourself deserted – your followers’ confidence and faith in your decisions may falter. This is exactly when you have to have faith in yourself and your goals. You must keep marching ahead without losing resolve.

2. Leaders are Relentless

“We’ll have many nights like this, making plans, very little sleep”

As a leader you need to be prepared for limitless, hard workdays, one after the other. Rather than be intimidated by hard work, a good leader welcomes it. Dedication and commitment to achieve a goal renders all else less important until what needs to be done is completed.

3. Leaders Use Great Power Responsibly

“It only takes ten seconds to crush a man’s ambition”

A leader remembers to step slowly and cautiously to prevent treading on someone’s dreams and ambitions. The significance and impact of your decisions strengthens with increasing power and position. Remember one unfair performance appraisal and wrong career advice can take away someone’s opportunity to grow and may demotivate them enough to stop pursuing a dream.

4. Leaders Help Everyone Win

“I don’t like for anybody to lose if everybody can win”

There are people whose joy is not in winning but in making others lose. Try to look for a situation in which everybody can win. Rather than forcing people to learn under pressure by giving them unrealistic deadlines, team members should have work delegated to them for exposure with guidance on getting tasks done on time. Don’t leave them wading through rough waters just so you can point out they are incompetent!

5. Leaders Earn Trust by Example

“If you want to earn my loyalty then you have to offer yours”

Loyalty is a two way street. Trust upfront and bestow it in abundance, don’t wait for others to prove that you can trust them. Be loyal to your team to gain their trust and vice versa. Back them up when they need you, support their ideas and stand up for them in times of need. A little effort from you will get you loyalty and support throughout your time with the team. 

6. Leaders can Deal With Anything

“I know its pointless to worry until I know what cards I’m holding”

Confident leaders do not worry incessantly and compulsively about what might happen. They prepare for the unforeseen and deal with what comes their way depending on the circumstances. If the odds are already in your favor there’s nothing to worry about and if not, the you just will have to do some homework and tackle the situation.

7. Leaders Make Calculated Moves

“Everything hinges on the next few moments, all the months of planning, every move I’ve made”

There are times when months of meticulous planning and preparing can go down the drain in a split second. A hasty uninformed decision, a sudden outburst of anger or loss of composure can change the course of things. As a good leader you must appreciate how how crucial every step of a plan is and act accordingly.

8. Leaders Know How to Pick the Right Battle

“Sometimes the only way to gain your superior’s respect is to defy him”

Learning to say ‘No’ and putting your foot down is such an important corporate skill that their are training designed around it. At times being able to contradict your superior is what gets you noticed. Whether it is drawing workload related boundaries or insisting on a new fresh way of doing things, defiance can sometimes win you attention that you need. But you must know which battles are important and accept losing the ones that are not.

9. Leaders are Confident

“Insecurity bores me”

One thing that a leader does not exhibit is insecurity. A sign of a good leader is complete confidence in himself and his people. Do not be afraid of your subordinates learning and knowing as much as you do, rendering you less important. Develop others and remember that no matter how good you are, no one is indispensable.

And finally, for the beginning of Season 2:

10. Leaders Sometimes have to be the Bad Guy

“For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted”

In Frank Underwood’s cynical world you have to decide whether you want to be the hunter or the hunted. You need to make alliances with people that might help you on the way and jump ships if you feel that someone else can offer you the next jump up the ladder. The Frank’s of this world always look over their shoulder and are aware of who’s trying to over throw them and make sure they beat them to it. Always make sure you’re aware of whats going on around you.

Bookmark the following slideshow to keep reminding you of these awesome quotes whenever you need some motivation:

I can’t wait to watch the second season and discover how Frank Underwood will continue to be ‘Bad for the Greater Good’. And if you enjoyed this take on an awesome show, why not sign up for free leadership and talent management updates from me delivered straight to your inbox?

Image Credit: HDPaperWall