Open Journal of Social Sciences
Vol.04 No.02(2016), Article ID:63933,13 pages

Effective Leadership in the 21st Century: Bill Clinton and the New Way to Philanthropy

Ezeakukwu E. Nsoedo

School of Management Sciences, Abuja, Nigeria

Copyright © 2016 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

Received 23 December 2015; accepted 26 February 2016; published 29 February 2016


This paper looked into the effective leadership of 21st century leader through the life of former President Bill Clinton with respect to his background, political career, and how he transformed the way philanthropy was conceptualized and promoted to measurable result. Clinton’s success cut across various sectors, health, business, and agriculture. Through the CGI, Clinton was able to bring world leaders from the public, private, and non-governmental sectors to brainstorm on strategy and tactics to address the 21st century problems around the world. A new phenomenon to philanthropy was born through the Clinton Foundation that enabled Bill Clinton exemplified leadership through transformational leadership, understanding of his memes and the followers’ memes that enabled him to create a forum where actors from various sectors use as a vehicle to make commitments that are measurable. The success of the Clinton Foundation stemmed from Clinton’s ability to show a Level Three Leadership skill that encompasses understanding VABEs, congruency, empathy, faith, trust, and nonjudgmental demeanor towards subordinates and colleagues.


Inspiration, Leadership, Memes, Philanthropy, VABEs

1. Introduction

The success of organizations in various sectors namely, private, public, and nongovernmental organization, often is touted through the prism of leadership. The success of organizations cannot be possible if the individuals within the organizations cannot enmesh their various talents and temperament to work as a team. Several definitions of leadership have been proffered, and the key characteristics of all are the ability of a leader to inspire others to follow and accomplish a vision laid out for the success of an enterprise. Kruse (2013) [1] writes that “leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal” (Para. 11). Success in business or other endeavors does not necessarily translate to one possessing exceptional leadership quality, or a transformative personality that can mobilize the world into action.

Iconic figures such as the late Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King Jr. are leaders that possess the rare exceptional transformative leadership quality. In the same category of these iconic personalities is Pope Francis, who has moved into the uncharted route that none of his predecessors or other religious leaders have invested such enormous effort in. Pope Francis risks the ire of many powerful countries, and politicians opposed to the issue of climate change have begun attacking him. For example, significant members of the Republican Party in the United States oppose the Pope’s high profile attention to the environmental issue. Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican accuses the Pope of being leftist who must devote his personal time to climate change (Schwab, 2015) [2] . According to Schwab (2015) [2] , representative Gosar writes, “If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous” (Para. 3) [2] .

Notwithstanding the fierce opposition from many politicians and interest groups, the Pope pushes on with the climate agenda beyond his visit to the United States. In fact, the success recorded at the Paris Climate Conference has been credited to his sterling leadership on the environmental issue. Stein (2015) [3] :

The Pope is in a unique position. As head of the smallest country in the world, his ability to legislate on climate change may have limited impact. But his religious authority speaks to 1.2 billion Catholics around the globe, and to even more people who look to him as moral leader. He has imbued the climate change debate with an ethical element that ties environmental issues to his vision of a just and equal society. His leadership on climate change has therefore had enormous impact (Para. 2).

Those that exhibit leadership qualities as Mandela did, or as Pope Francis continues to do are characterized as having the Level Three Leadership quality. The individual with Level Three Leadership quality possesses certain leadership skill sets called VABEs: values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations (Clawson, 2006) [4] . “These values and beliefs have developed over time and have become so much a part of the person that one may be only partially aware or conscious of them” (Clawson, 2008, p. 1) [5] .

It is within the category of those with exceptional leadership quality that the former President William Jefferson Clinton, otherwise, known as Bill Clinton belongs. Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America from January 1993 to January 2001. He was the first Democratic Party president to win a second term since President Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms in office was cut short by his death ( Editors, 2016) [6] . Clinton was the first to lead the country after the cold war, and “Mr. Clinton will be the only elected President put on trial” (Mitchell, 1998, Para. 11) [7] , following his impeachment by the House of Representative over the affair with Monica Lewinsky. With his presidency being consequential, considering the serial events that conspired to overshadow his brilliance as a visionary leader, in what otherwise was very successful terms in office. No one anticipated that Bill Clinton would, later on, change the way the business of philanthropy is done through his leadership skill.

This paper will look into the various variables that justify the theme of this document such as: the background, influential political figures, professional career, contributions to domestic/international order, foreign policy/ trade agreements, non-defense of human rights, Rwandan policy debacle, scandals, life’s philosophy, Clinton Foundation: a global force, HIV/AIDS, malaria, farming, cataract surgeries, and obesity. Also, to be considered are the analysis of Clinton’s leadership behavior, level three leadership, introspection/observation of others, the role of memes, in touch with one’s memes, empathy, philanthropy―the new way, empowerment, specific recommendations, and summary and conclusion.

Method Approach

This paper utilized narrative method approach to look into the variables that justify the theme of this work. Narrative approach allows the researcher to address a real life problem or phenomenon in such a way that the audience could follow the process and the study’s justifications. The paper examined the background, influential political figures, professional career, contributions to domestic/international order, foreign policy/trade agreements, non-defense of human rights, Rwandan policy debacle, scandals, life’s philosophy, Clinton Foundation: a global force, HIV/AIDS, malaria, farming, cataract surgeries, and obesity. Also, to be considered are the analysis of Clinton’s leadership behavior, level three leadership, introspection/observation of others, the role of memes, in touch with one’s memes, empathy, philanthropy―the new way, empowerment, specific recommendations, and summary and conclusion.

2. Background

William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III in Hope Arkansas, August 19th, 1946. His natural father had died few months before his birth in automobile accident, and he later on adopted the step father’s surname that he bears today. His mother’s name was Virginia Dell Cassidy―a woman considered to be a great influence on the life of Bill Clinton. She married Roger Clinton (a car dealer) when Bill was four years, and the marriage was marred by a lot of violence, alcoholism, and some degree of dysfunctionalities.

He is married to former senator representing New York in the United States Congress, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and now, the leading Democratic Party presidential candidate. His only child, Chelsea, is married to Marc Mezvinsky. Bill Clinton met his wife at Yale University; fell in love, married; and thus, begun one of the most riveting partnership in the modern political history by a couple; who share the same worldview, and virtually, the same level of intellectual sagacity (Crowley, 2008) [8] . Together, they shared many highs and lows that politics is associated with, but in all, they triumphed as a team (Crowley, 2008) [8] .

Bill Clinton attended Georgetown University in Washington DC. He was fervent in opposition to the Vietnam War and at the same time, knew that avoidance of military service will impact negatively on his political life. “He signed a letter of intent to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps, but he reneged when it became likely that his draft number would not be called” (Ifill, 1992, Para. 39) [9] . Clinton was also a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in Britain from there he transferred to Yale University where he received a degree in law (Clinton, 2004) [10] .

2.1. Influential Political Figures

Two remarkable events and individuals impacted his life, and probably, helped nurtured him for public service, as well as his ideological foundation he adopted throughout his life. According to Editors (2016) [6] , “As a delegate to Boys Nation while in high school, he met President John Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. The encounter inspired him to choose a life of public service”. He watched Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give the “I have a Dream speech”, and it captivated him so much that he memorized the speech (The White House, 2007) [11] . The White House reported that “he admired Dr. King’s gift for communicating a clear vision and his ability to pull people together to work toward a common goal. Dr. King became one of Bill Clinton’s heroes” (The White House, 2007) [11] .

2.2. Professional Career

In the course of his professional career, Clinton had served in several capacities, and in most cases had distinguished himself. In 1973, he taught law at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; in 1974, he ran for Congress against the Republican incumbent, John Paul Hammerschmidt, and failed; in 1976, he ran and was elected Attorney General of the state; and two years later, he was elected the governor of Arkansas. Following the birth of his daughter in 1980, he lost the office of the governor to a Republican, Frank White (The White House, 2007) [11] . He will later reclaim the seat in 1982, where he served until he became the president of the United States.

Bill was elected on a three-way-race in 1992, between him, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot. According to Clinton (2004) [10] , “When all 104,600,366 votes were counted, the final margin of victory was about 5.5 percent”. (p. 444) [10] . Ross Perot had 19 percent of all the votes (best performance for a third party since Teddy Roosevelt’s 27 percent with his Bull Moose Party in 1912); George H.W. Bush with 37.4 percent and Bill Clinton with 43 percent (p. 444) [10] . He was the third youngest elected president of United States; the first baby boomer candidate to be so elected.

2.3. Contributions to Domestic/International Order

Bill Clinton went on to record impressive achievement as a president. He made use of the e-mail in the White House the order of business and supported the fast tracking of internet technology as an everyday phenomenon. He presided over a period in United States history when the country enjoyed peaceful and economic growth; and He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country’s history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus. As part of a plan to celebrate the millennium in 2000, Clinton called for a great national initiative to end racial discrimination (The White House, 2007) [11] .

He streamlined the government operations by reducing bureaucracy, and thus, makes it more responsive to clients’ needs being proactive.

2.4. Foreign Policy/Trade Agreements

Even though he was against militarism in foreign policy, he nevertheless used force when it was necessary, as his intervention in Bosnia to stop the Serbia’s instigated genocide (Mitchell 1998) [7] . Clinton galvanized the international community and the United Nations to action to reach the Dayton Accord that separated the warring ethnic groups and mandated a peaceful coexistence (U.S. Department of State, 1995) [12] . He facilitated the Good Friday Peace Accord between the Irish Republican Army and the Protestant militants that ushered in successful democratic development and peace. The Good Friday Agreement is considered as one of the finest moment of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy initiatives, at least from the perspective of the Irish Americans (Hazleton, 2000) [13] .

FP Editors (2009) [14] argued that Clinton had a vision for America’s post-cold war policy that included advancement of democracy, a free market system to create wealth beyond the United States, and protection of human rights. Clinton consummated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) supported by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush (Rosenbaum, 1993) [15] . In securing the agreement through Congress, Clinton aligned with the opposition party, the Republicans, while his party, the Democrats opposed the agreement (Rosenbaum, 1993) [15] . Bill Clinton concluded the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), urged Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) [FP Editors, 2009] [14] .

3. Short-Comings

3.1. Non-Defense of Human Rights

One thing that has been observed to be a key trait of those with exceptional leadership quality and capability is their capacity to absorb shock, and failures. The leader demonstrates this trait in staying disciplined and focused in pursuit of the stated objectives and goal (Wink, 2012) [16] . Mandela had his setbacks, as well as Martin Luther, but those failings did not deter them from pursuing the broader objectives. FB Editors (2009) [14] noted that during his campaign for the president, Clinton made a defense of human rights a priority agenda that he would pursue if he became the President. FB Editors (2009) [14] noted that while the Clinton administration invited about 100 countries to pursue agreement through a conference held in Poland that will ensure the protection of universal human rights. While the effort was going on, the Clinton administration forcibly deported Haitians back to the country by bowing to the domestic pressure (FB Editors, 2009) [14] . On the African scene, the nonintervention of the United States under Clinton administration contributed to the massacre of Rwandans.

3.2. Rwanda Policy Debacle

The Clinton administration policy on Rwanda was adjudged a disaster because of the astronomical number of lives lost to genocide. Carroll (2004) [17] reported that the classified document obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act stated that Clinton and his cabinet knew in April of 1994 that genocide against the Tutsi was imminent. President Clinton had acknowledged that the non-intervention in Rwandan was a colossal mistake. In an interview with CNBC MEETS (2013) it was reported that “Former U.S. president Bill Clinton admitted that if the U.S. had gone into Rwanda sooner following the start of the 1994 genocide, at least a third or roughly 300,000 lives could have been saved” (Para. 1) [18] . Considering the preceding statements, there appeared to be a lack of will from the President to commit the American troops to a hostile environment that may lead to a possible loss of lives of the American service personnel. The Clinton administration had the failure of the recent American military intervention in Somalia that was deemed a colossal fiasco as one of the reasons not to engage militarily (Carrol, 2004) [17] . His cabinet worked hard to avoid the use of the word ‘genocide’ in public comments to avoid generating sympathy for the Rwandans. Carrol also reported that the United States under Clinton administration felt that there was not sufficient American interest that justified getting involved in the war. Clinton acknowledged that one of the reasons he created the Clinton Foundation was because of about one million Rwandans lost to the genocide (CNBC MEETS, 2013) [18] . Clinton had since apologized to the Rwandans for the lack of effective engagement by his administration while the Country was subjected to severe genocide.

3.3. Scandals

While Clinton recorded a lot of successes in office, his presidency was however dogged by quite an avalanche of scandals such as the numerous sexual allegations with various women; the prominent being the one with Monica Lewinsky (White House intern) that nearly cost him his presidency (Mitchell, 1998) [7] . There was the Travel-gate, which involved his friend Vince Foster, who ultimately committed suicide while serving the presidency (Johnston, 1996) [19] . The Whitewater investigation into the past business activity of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton friends back in Arkansas; harassed by a partisan lengthy investigation by Independent Counsel, Kenneth Starr (NPR, 2011) [20] . Bill Clinton was censured for lying under oath and subsequently, impeached by the House of Representatives (Mitchell, 1998) [7] , though, he was acquitted by the Senate (Baker and Dewar, 1999) [21] .

4. Life’s Philosophy

The story of Bill Clinton had shown that he did not rely on his ability alone as a transformational leader. His life’s story shows a man who realizes that there is a limitation to how far charms alone could get him to achieve his stated objectives, especially, when he is never given a chance in most cases to succeed. Ifill (1992) wrote that “Persistence is a theme of Bill Clinton’s life, and it may be the reason why, only four years after one of the worst-regarded speeches in recent convention history, he was nominated for the presidency last night” (Para. 6) [9] . It is never accepting failure as an option, or even, when it does occur, to find alternative ways to make it right, that gives his life a meaning, and that constitutes Clinton’s leadership meme he shares with associates.

5. Clinton Foundation: A Global Force

Bill Clinton has quite an impressive résumé as a former teacher, Attorney General, governor, and a president of United States―the most important country in the world regarding many critical indices. His achievement as a private citizen has been magnified in terms of effectiveness and appreciation by the international community as special envoy (Ban Ki-moon, 2010) [22] . All these happened as a result of the leadership he brought to bear as an international envoy, and through the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), that have become synonymous with action-packed results.

Clinton was able to reach out to the various parts of the world that are afflicted with one disease or the other through his Foundation, or to advice on economic initiatives to the farmers developing country on how to work their lands to get a better result in terms of output (Clinton Foundation, 2015) [23] . The Foundation also advises the start-up business owners in the United States on how to harness and maximize their talents to help them succeed. In practical terms, Clinton has through the Foundation’s health initiatives worked to reduce death and infection of HIV/AIDS, malaria prevention, and treatment in many of the developing countries; eye treatment, and childhood obesity program in the United States (Clinton J. Foundation, 2010) [24] . His organization has extended assistance to those who are affected by natural disasters, climate change issues, and the Foundation has begun a campaign against global warming through selected cities (Clinton J. Foundation, 2010) [24] .

It is quite ironic that The New York Times reported that Bill Clinton did not know how to proceed as a private citizen. Baker (2009) of the New York Times Magazine wrote, “When Mr. Clinton left office, he was lost at first. But then the former president established an organization with ambition to match his own, the William J. Clinton Foundation” (Para. 46) [25] . Further to that, Baker [25] claimed that Clinton tapped resources from rich friends and rich countries like Norway and Australia that enabled him to assemble a 1400 paid workforce, and volunteers operating from 40 countries to fight poverty, disease, and climate change resulting from global warming.


Through the Clinton Health Initiative, the Foundation has done tremendous work in the area of control and remedial treatment of HIV/AIDS treatment. President Clinton as the commencement speaker at the 45th commencement ceremony of Walden University used the occasion to share how the Clinton Foundation has impacted in practical ways to save lives. Prime Minister Denzel Douglas of St Kitts who was concerned about the proliferation of HIV/AIDS invited Bill Clinton to help his country. Clinton renegotiated the cost of HIV/AIDS drugs from $3500 to $500 for those receiving the drug in St Kitts; and later on, through Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) got the price for the antiretroviral drugs to be reduced further to $150 per person (Clinton, 2011) [26] . About four million people benefit from CHAI-negotiated significantly reduced prices ARVs (William J. Clinton Foundation, 2011) [27] . Furthermore, CHAI in the past three years “collaborated with UNITAID, DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce the price of several key ARVs by 60 - 70 percent” (William J. Clinton Foundation, 2011, p. 27) [27] .

5.2. Malaria

Malaria is the single biggest killer of children in Africa. Granted that the cost of medicine to treat malaria may be considered insignificant, but when a lot of these families are desperately poor, access to the drugs to treat their loved ones become impossible (Europe Foundation, 2015) [28] . The poverty issue is compounded by the fact that the malaria parasite has become resistance to many of the drugs available to these people. Europe Foundation (2015) [28] noted that “the majority of African families are not benefitting from the tools necessary to stop malaria, such as bed nets and effective medicines, because of lack of access or efficient use” [28] . The CHAI adopted a system where it got factory-gate price subsidy on high quality “artemisinin-based combination treatment (ACTs)” (Clinton Foundation, 2011) [29] . There is a price reduction for up to 80 percent for ACTs through the private outlet for eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia that CHAI supports. Over 150 million doses of the drug have been made available private and public sectors as of May, 2011 (Clinton Foundation, 2011) [29] .

5.3. Farming

The farmers in many developing countries have benefited from the practical coaching they receive from the experts through the William J. Clinton Foundation. In Malawi and Rwanda, the farmers were granted access to farming inputs, training, and markets―all through Clinton Development Initiative (CDI). In Malawi, CDI partners with Salida Capital Foundation that supports the program financially, whereas, in Rwanda, CDI is a partnership between Clinton Foundation and Hunter Foundation (William J. Clinton Foundation, 2012) [30] . The program has been a huge success for both countries. Both countries’ output are competing favorably in the international market, ensuring sustainable better life for those employed in the sector, besides, the replanting of trees program that will help to reduce global warming (William J. Clinton Foundation, 2012) [30] .

5.4. Cataract Surgeries

In Peru, the Clinton Foundation partners with Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI) [William J. Clinton Foundation, 2012] [30] . Besides, CGSGI is involved with various programs that address poverty alleviation. By August 2010, CGSGI announced the completion of 5,000 cataract surgeries in the poorest and most underserved communities in Peru (Clinton Foundation, 2010) [24] . Through CGSGI in partnership with Fundación Carlos Slim A.C. and Peruvian Ministry of Health will be completing 50,000 cataract surgeries by 2013. As of 2012, the Clinton Foundation had performed over 47,000 cataract surgeries, an important milestone (William J. Clinton Foundation, 2012) [30] .

6. Post-Presidency Domestic Effort

6.1. Obesity

The former president remembers that he struggled with his weight, and was not particularly disciplined about his diet. Clinton’s childhood lifestyle may have contributed to his bad heart that led to surgery and other heart procedures. William J. Clinton Foundation partnered with American Heart Association and found Alliance for Healthier Generation, which is dedicated to getting American schools in all of the 50 states and District of Columbia to transform their schools by introducing programs that will take better care of their teachers and students to obesity (Clinton Foundation, 2011) [29] . The goal of the alliance was to reduce the obesity among children, hence, be able to forestall some of the chronic diseases associated with obesity (Clinton Foundation, 2011) [29] . The program is now supporting over 12,000 schools, up from 231 schools when it was started. In 2010, The Clinton Foundation and American Heart Foundation recognized 179 schools “the most in any year and Alliance’s history―join the ranks of schools from all over the United States that have shown exemplary commitment to the health of their students and staff” (PR Newswire, 2010) [31] . The goal of the Alliance is to reduce by 2015 the prevalence for Obesity through inculcating a healthy lifestyle as routine for students.

6.2. Entrepreneurial Training for Inner Cities

The Clinton Foundation is also very busy in the domestic arena; “partnering with management consulting firm Booz, and NYU’s Stern School of Business to provide pro bono consulting services to small business owners in the Harlem community” (Clinton Foundation, 2002) [32] . The Foundation recognizes the challenges facing the small business owners in the inner cities, who often lack support on how to sustain their businesses from going under. Through the Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative (CEO) they work with Inc Magazine and work with community organizations around the country to serve the underserved community with highly successful entrepreneurs act as mentors to local mentees (William J. Clinton Foundation, 2013) [33] .

7. Analysis of Clinton’s Leadership Behavior

7.1. Level Three Leadership

Level Three Leadership skill is the alchemy a successful and dynamic leader must possess to be able to influence a broad spectrum of individuals. The conventional wisdom towards the early managerial style which closely aligned with the industrial revolution maintained a system of “the boss knows the best”. The subordinate or an employee is expected to do just as he or she is told without deviating from the instruction. Should certain individuals take the initiative to suggest alternative ways of tackling certain tasks, they are quickly reminded that they are not paid to think, but to do the job as assigned to them. The leaders or managers that operate with that approach is what Clawson (2006) [4] called Level One leadership approach. This primordial approach would work adequately in the past decades; unfortunately, the era of information technology is increasingly forcing leaders and managers to reassess the way their organizations are run, to stay competitive.

A Level Three Leader possesses the skill that allows him or her to understand the psychological make-up or vabes that cause the employee’s visible behavior. The essence of level-three-leader is to go beyond the visible behavior, understand vabes of others, and try to influence it (Clawson, 2006) [4] . On the hand, at Level One Leadership, the visible behavior is indicated, but the vabes that gave effect to the behavior is not known (Clawson, 2006) [4] . A manager with a level one leadership skill makes no effort to understand the vabes that motivate the action of the employee. The manager expects his directives to be obeyed by the subordinates. At Level Two, the individual possesses a conscious thought that may or may not be manifest in the behavior expressed at the level one (Clawson, 2006) [4] . The person who has the thoughts will ultimately decide whether to allow the feeling to show or not. Having said that, a leader should have sufficient understanding of the Levels Three Leadership skills, and practicalized them relative to the human relations in his or her organization.

7.2. Introspection/Observation of Others

To reach the Level Three Leadership capability, a leader needs to observe the activities of the subordinates, or those working in the same team with him or her objectively. Clawson, (2006) wrote that “leadership is about managing energy, first in yourself, and then in those around you” (p. 3) [4] . A leader who knows where he or she wants to go, but lacks the energy to commence the journey would fritter a wonderful opportunity for himself or herself, and the constituency that would have benefited from it. What if the leader has the vision, the energy, but could not seem to get the constituency to move towards the goal that he or she cannot pursue alone? Bill Clinton had the energy, which he managed as he perfected his grand vision, but to do that, he needed to live from the inside out. If he had lived from the outside in, he would have continued down the path that his predecessors had used when they left office. He may have followed the way many successful philanthropic organizations before him had done the business. Clinton aptly responded to the question raised by Clawson (2006) [4] that he will be more than the vehicle for the memes and genes of his forebears on to a new generation. Clinton’s vision and action are consistent with view articulated in Simmons (2006) that “growth is characterized by deviations, not consistency” (p. 251) [34] .

7.3. Role of Memes

Memes play a very significant role to how a leader relates to the subordinates, colleagues, and general outlook on life. With memes, individuals are given to ethnocentric jingoism or certain superstitious beliefs that are not necessarily supported by science, and yet, they influence the way both the leader and follower relate. A leader needs to understand his or her memes so that they can be able to understand other peoples’ memes. Clinton, who was from the southern part of the United States, was fully aware while growing up, that people of color, especially, blacks do not share equal access, opportunities, or use of public facilities like toilets, schools, and restaurants (Clinton, 2004) [10] . Clinton noticed that his grandfather bucked the De facto culture of segregation designed to humiliate African-Americans. He recalls his grandfather’s generosity and respect for Blacks and Whites alike. The Clinton Childhood Home Museums (2011) reports: “At a time when segregation and racism were strong in this area, Billy witnessed his grandfather’s genial welcome to both the black and white communities” (Para. 2) [35] . His store front set the tone for diversity and tolerance, as Clinton himself had the privilege of playing with all children who came by, black, white, rich, and poor. This tolerance exhibited by his grandfather was the kind of memes that motivated his attitude towards people throughout his life. One can say that Bill Clinton understands his memes, and that has allowed him to see people without a preconceived notion that they may be inferior to him.

7.4. In Touch with One’s Memes

Once a leader is in touch with his or her memes, they can influence their group’s VABEs, a major component of Level Three Leadership skill. The leaders, subordinates, and thousands of volunteers working with Clinton Foundation must have come to the organization with disparate perspectives that over time blend with the goals of the organization. Other objective observers could influence the organization’s VABEs, such as the plea for action from the Prime Minister of St Kitts to Clinton to help with AIDS crisis in his country. That plea for help presented an opportunity for the Clinton Foundation to engage manufacturers directly, eliminating brokers, thereby, led to drastic reduction in the price of HIV/AIDS drug. This approach eventually became the modus operandus for the Foundation’s many other projects such as the malaria project, the farm project, and the obesity project, etc. The critical members of the Clinton’s team would have to be persuaded to agree to participate in this manner of engagement, which may not have been the idea they had in mind for the Foundation at inception. A leader that is in touch with his or her memes has enough confidence to welcome and adapt positive suggestions or ideas.

7.5. Empathy

One of the important strategies that a Level Three Leader must have is the ability to understand the stories of his or her team, empathize with them, and share their own stories. Bill Clinton used his book My Life to tell many stories of his own failure both in his professional aspirations and the personal humiliating stories about himself and families. This makes him come across as a leader whom anyone can associate himself or herself to. Having people around him understand so much about his story, it taught them lessons in perseverance that Clinton may not tell effectively. Simmons (2006) wrote that “the most valuable skill in developing influence is perseverance… your personal story should be inspiring enough to help, but ultimately the secret of lasting influence will require a connection with others who believe in you and believe in your ideals” (p. 154) [34] . This is where Bill Clinton excels head and shoulder above other former or present heads of government, or leaders from nongovernmental or business sectors. His popularity and ability to influence was reflected in the polls by Wall Street Journal and NBC (Washington Wire, 2010) [36] , where he beat out all the major political leaders with significant margin.

8. Philanthropy-The New Way

One may think that the question of the former president finding himself on the present stage by accident could be a little bit of the conventional wisdom of how Bill Clinton is perceived. His charismatic and transformational leadership quality has drawn the international body (United Nations) [Ban, 2010] [22] as well as the United States to use him as a goodwill ambassador to rally support in times of crises, such as the 2004 tsunami (Annan, 2005) [37] , the Haitian earthquake, Katrina hurricane, etc. (Baker, 2009) [25] . He has become a crisis manager extraordinaire coordinating between these assignments and the activities of his Foundation, which incidentally was involved in its capacity in all of these crises doing what they do best. Equally important to mention is winning the release of United States’ journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were arrested by the North Korean government (Powell, 2009, Time Magazine) [38] . Additionally, he uses his status to encourage developing nations to pay close attention to health and poverty issues ravaging their countries, including the incidents of corruption to which measurable results are recorded.

The former President inspires to action all classes of people and organizations to cooperate by sharing information on strategy and tactics (William J. Clinton, 2011) [27] . Clinton had made the annual event organized by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) of world leaders, business leaders, nongovernmental organizations, etc., as an opportunity to share and find solutions to world’s myriad problems (William J. Clinton, 2011) [27] . The CGI asks participants to make a commitment to action to new initiatives they will pursue, that are measurable. These commitments from participants have impacted positively on the lives of millions of people worldwide (William J. Clinton, 2011) [27] .

Clinton’s move to reinvent a new approach to philanthropy requires not only intellectual intelligence but a good aptitude of emotional intelligence. According to Pascale, Millemann, and Gioja (2000), “Nothing is more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle”, “observed Machiavelli”, than achieving a new order of things’ (p. 156) [39] . Clinton went beyond establishing a new order in this arena but has created a forum where world leaders from every walk of life can come together to exchange ideas on issues affecting the world, including learning how Clinton Foundation has become such a phenomenon. The CGI attracts virtually all the leading heads of states, world leaders in business and nongovernmental organizations. In addition to CGI, Clinton Foundation established at the University of Arkansas, Clinton School of Public Service that offered the first master’s degree in public service in the United States (Clinton Foundation, 2005) [40] . The school is based on the grounds of Clinton Presidential Center, and students are invited from all over the world to have practical experience on service projects in U.S. and abroad, equipping them for careers in corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors (Clinton Foundation, 2005) [40] .

Another quality a Level Three Leader should have at all time is to lead by example. A great leader is accessible physically, emotionally, and his actions speak volume about him. Clinton demonstrated congruency when his first action regarding where to site his office was speculated about after he left the White House. He surprised everybody when he opened his office in Harlem, New York (Carey, 2001) [41] . This is a part of the state where the population of the minorities are in high number; economic hardship was on their side; a place that has lost its glory of the famed “Harlem Renaissance” in the early part of the 20th century (Sadovi, 2010) [42] . His influence in the neighborhood has brought a new face to Harlem, where important dignitaries come to conduct their affairs with the former president (Sadovi, 2010) [42] , including, for example, the meeting on childhood obesity.

8.1. Communication

Communication is very important to a Level Three Leader like Clinton, and he is a master at using proper nuances to convey his message. He uses personal story and the story of others to reach out to people, always striking the right tone without appearing to be condescending to his audience. For example, this is how Clinton began his message in the annual report for 2008: “intelligence, ability, and aspiration are evenly distributed across societies―organization, investment, and opportunity are not” (Clinton Foundation, 2009) [43] . The argument Clinton advances is that everybody just want the opportunity to work hard and pursue a good life for their children. At Walden University in July 2011, he warned that the problem of other countries will become the problem of the United States because the world has become so interdependent. According to Clinton (2011), [26] somebody else’s instability can be the America’s today; see how the financial problem in another country affects America, or (Islamic terrorism germinated to the United States [Emphasis, mine]). At the end of his speech, Clinton called for promotion of positive social change as against negative action. As Clawson (2006) put it “one reason people don’t do what we’d like them to do is that we don’t ask them in powerful ways” (p. 225) [4] . Effective leaders like Clinton know how to frame the message.

8.2. Empowerment

Clinton as a leader understands that his collaborators at all levels must be empowered to exercise leadership considering that this is the age of infocracy where events are happening simultaneously at astonishing speed. He understands that he alone and those at the top echelon of the Foundation’s leadership cannot micromanage their entire operations. He embraced what Kotter (1996) wrote about leadership in today’s organizations thus: “the twenty-first century employee will need to know more about both leadership and management than did his or her twentieth-century counterpart. The twenty-first century manager will need to know much about leadership” (p. 175) [44] . The Foundation empowers their people at the local level to execute the projects while oversight is ensured. To assure that the Foundation’s projects are done as planned, the leadership, employees, and volunteers are all pursuing the same goals and objectives, William J. Clinton Foundation subjects itself to independent assessment, and the annual financial report is published utilizing General Acceptable Accounting Practice standard (GAAP).

9. Specific Recommendations

The William J. Foundation is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, even if it is a philanthropic organization. Its operations are bigger than what some major multinational corporations do, and they exercise influence far more than a lot of countries in the world today. The 2009 annual report of Clinton Foundation showed: “CGI members have made more than 1700 commitments valued at $57 billion, which have already improved the lives of more than 220 million people in more than 170 countries” (Clinton Foundation, p. 8) [45] . The 2013 consolidated financials indicated that CGI America has total estimated of 13.6 billion dollars commitment towards various projects and that the CGI community has a total of 3,400 commitments to action that has improved the lives of over 430 million people in over 180 countries (Clinton Foundation, 2013) [46] . This massive growth of the Foundation regarding results indicated a huge capacity that shows that Clinton’s influence is indispensable for the success.

In spite of the size of the operations of William J. Clinton Foundation, the organization from all indication remains a one man colossus in real measure, regardless of the involvement of other members of the family, which is not to diminish the effectiveness of Chelsea Clinton. The Foundation, in reality, has taken a life of its own when one considers that various activities are ongoing through its many affiliates and partners around the world. The financial muscle being exercised by the Foundation happens on the strength of President Clinton. The experience of Apple Computer, which suffered losses each time their former late dynamic chief executive officer, Steve Job took sick leave to care for his health. That should serve as a reminder to President Bill Clinton to find a way to restructure the CGI against unforeseen circumstances that may affect his ability to discharge the indispensable leadership he exercises. The key anchor for the Foundation remains Bill Clinton, the key messenger for the organization remains Bill on important information they wish to convey to the public.

This omnipresent status of Bill Clinton is what you get with transformational leaders who also possess exceptional skills, but had failed to build a widely known potential successor with the same level of charisma. At this point, President Clinton shares the spotlight with Chelsea. It is good that she is getting groomed to inherit absolute position and the commensurate power as the father did, but there is a need to slow down on outright installation yet. Hence, the William J. Clinton Foundation needs to work on a succession plan that will decentralize responsibility while oversight is strengthened.

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) forum attracts “who’s who” from all sectors of life, the foundation from time to time; invite external moderators, and also, some members of the Board like Chelsea dominate the events as well. The Foundation gives people a sense of belonging, and the service they offer is noble. That notwithstanding, the events will greatly be diminished both in attendance and enthusiasm if President Clinton failed to show up. His star power is invaluable to the continued success of the Foundation; he needs to give personal attention to the donors to keep them engaged and happy. The President must find other ways to engage the key donors without necessarily dominating events at the level that he does now.

The strength of the CGI at some point will begin to suffer if the president could not sustain his level of vigor. Moreover state of equilibrium in an organization does not encourage rejuvenation, rather it leads to stagnation. According to Pascale et al. (2000) “The Law of Requisite Variety, an obscure but important law of cybernetics, states that the survival of any system depends on its capacity to cultivate (not just tolerate) variety in its internal structure” (p. 20) [39] . Two former leaders in their respective fields, IBM, and Sears lost their dominance to competitors when leadership could not remove their organizations from equilibrium mode. For example, Bill Gates was synonymous with Microsoft, but he was able to remove himself from personalizing the organization to himself in terms of leadership, and Paul Ballmer succeeded him. Paul Ballmer has since been succeeded by another person, Satya Nadella as CEO, and John Thompson succeeded Bill Gates as chairman (Reuters, 2014) [47] . The succession plan for the Clinton Foundation has to be announced way ahead of time, and people should not be left to speculating on it.

Another reason at some point leadership direction will be better to change the opportunity the new leader will have to rebrand the vision of the organization, and rejuvenate the vigor to chase it. Kotter (1996) argues that transformations can be stalled because “smart people make mistakes here all the time, and outright failure is not uncommon, even in well―known firms” (p. 85) [44] . A new leader will have the opportunity to advance a new vision, which Kotter (1996) argued “that shared sense of desirable future can help motivate and coordinate the kinds of actions that create transformations” (p. 85) [44] . The opportunity to apply this could yet advance the possibility of how far wider the potential for William J. Clinton Foundation.

Summary and Conclusion

The talent of President Clinton manifested early in his life as a quick study of people and events. He was influenced by the type of life he witnessed and lived, especially, the permanent impression meeting President John F. Kennedy in person left in him to aspire to public service. The “I have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left him so inspired about his ability to bring people together to work for a common purpose. In all these, what set Clinton apart was his ability to inspire, empathize, understand, nonjudgmental, a can-do attitude, trust, and faith in the people. These were the hallmark skill that cut across all the positive ingredients a Level Three Leader ought to possess to impact positively on the subordinates and peers so that the whole organization can achieve a joint resonance. The William J. Clinton Foundation through the charismatic and transformational leadership of Bill Clinton has taken the business of philanthropy to a whole new level that has never been witnessed before, with so many activities and events have impacted positively on millions of people around the world that are most in need. Bill Clinton through his foundation has proven himself an apostle of the positive social change imbued with a Level Three Leadership quality.

Cite this paper

Ezeakukwu E.Nsoedo, (2016) Effective Leadership in the 21st Century: Bill Clinton and the New Way to Philanthropy. Open Journal of Social Sciences,04,186-198. doi: 10.4236/jss.2016.42024


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