Community & Government

Emotional Intelligence

Bill Clinton

Lesson time 09:34 min

President Clinton reveals how a lesson he learned in his eighth-grade science class shaped his philosophy on leadership—and how that lesson can help you cultivate authentic relationships with those around you.

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Topics include: Strive to Be Understood, Not to Be Liked · Learn by Listening


[MUSIC PLAYING] - A lot of people ask me, still after all these years, whether leaders are born or made. I'm not sure I know all the answer to that question, but I am sure of this, that are a lot of the skills you need can be learned. I mean, I learned a lot from my family about what is now commonly called emotional intelligence. And they never would have had any idea what that term meant, but they had it. And I remember so many examples of being able to respond because I knew the back story. I could sort of understand why this or that person behaved the way he or she did, was big in the way they were or small in the way they were. I think a lot of was just paying attention, being still and listening and observing and knowing about the things that shaped people. I'm going to tell you a story, because to me, it really demonstrates the power of recognizing the worth of other people and the entitlement they should have to basic respect, even where there are severe disagreements, even when you can't imagine you had anything in common with them. My high school-- my junior high school eighth-grade science teacher, Vernon Dokey, a highly intelligent former coach, taught me something that I've never forgotten. He was not an attractive man. Vernon Dokey wore Coke-bottle glasses, was overweight, was in tight clothes because the teachers didn't make any money and couldn't buy new clothes. And he smoked cheap cigars out of a plastic cigar holder, which aggravated his pitch. And he knew he wasn't. And his wife and sister-in-law were lovely women and great teachers, too. So he knew he was a stark contrast in his family. But at the end of the year, he said, after this-- this is the last class in eighth-grade science. In a few years, you won't remember anything you learned in eighth-grade science. So if you don't remember anything, remember this. Every morning when I get up, I go into the bathroom, throw water in my face, wipe it off, put shaving cream on, shave, wipe the shaving cream off, and I look in that mirror and I say, Vernon, you're beautiful. And he said, you remember that, kids. He said, if you just remember that everyone wants to believe they're beautiful, it'll take you a long way. Everyone wants to believe that in some way they're beautiful and that their life has significance and they want a chance to demonstrate it, that we're all struggling mortals with fleeting lives who are trying to be right as often as we can and trying to live a life that amounts to something. So if you want to be a leader, you have to get the best out of other people. Yeah, you can tell them that your adversaries are the devil and you want them to march into war and smite them down. But it's better if you tell them that they're beautiful, they deserve a chance to live to the fullest of life and to use their powers in turn to give those gifts to others. And I learned that from Vernon Dokey 62 years ago. [MUSIC PLAYING] ...

About the Instructor

Commander in chief from 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime navigating complex challenges and bridging deep divides. Now the 42nd president of the United States teaches you how to be an effective, empathetic leader. Learn how to assemble, inspire, and empower diverse teams, mediate conflict, manage criticism—and create a personal framework to guide you and your team toward a shared vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Clinton

Drawing from his career in politics, President Bill Clinton teaches you how to inspire diverse teams, manage criticism, and mediate conflict.

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