What People Teach Us: Nancy Pelosi, Part II – Where Do You Focus Your Competitive Drive?

It seems Nancy Pelosi will be competitive with anyone, including her own side.

The blog post “What People Teach Us: Nancy Pelosi, Part I” covers why she was in the spotlight recently with many people, including some in her own party, questioning her leadership. The basis for the swell of doubt was the loss the Democratic Party endured in the special election for a vacant seat in the House of Representatives in Georgia’s 6th congressional district.

The post goes through various reasons why a leader might not feel they should resign or step aside from their leadership position, even when dissension seems to be evidently growing among the rank-and-file.

An overly egregious reason on that list, which deserves its own post, is when someone is overly competitive, especially when they explicitly state that they are competitive even with their own team, as Nancy Pelosi did.

In response to questions by the press about some Democrats stating that, in the face of recent setbacks, it was time for her to step down, Pelosi responded, “When it comes to personal ambition and having fun on TV, have your fun.” She went on to say, “I love the arena. I thrive on competition.”

There are various things about her actions that would serve as lessons to others and which we should consider here:

First, you’re saying this about your own side. In the world of politics, people are always looking for mud to sling at the other side. You’ve just handed them buckets of it. And it doesn’t even have to be in politics where intra-group divisiveness weakens a group’s appeal; it can happen in any industry or field.

Instead, don’t say these things about your own side. You’re on the same team. That’s it. That’s all there is for this one. Yes, it’s that simple — and obvious.

Second, you’re saying this about your own side during one of the most contentious and divisive periods between the political parties in recent history. Now you’ve introduced divisiveness into your own group at the worst possible time.

Instead, pick and choose when you express such opinions. Don’t do it at the time your side is most vulnerable and in which it needs to be a 100% cohesive unit.

Third, you’re telling your colleagues to “have your fun,” which belittles their serious concerns. This suggests you don’t take them seriously, and instead are patronizing them in front of the public. There’s disagreement and then there’s absolute condescension. Pelosi achieved the latter.

Instead, don’t talk to anyone like they’re a child whom you don’t take seriously. How do you think they’re going to repay that favor?

Fourth, building off of the previous point of belittlement, by mentioning that you believe the concerns are due to ambition, you’re now attacking the person’s character from the get-go. And you’re doing this in an industry where the work is based on a foundation of service to others.

Instead, don’t question anyone’s character or intentions in a public manner. Actions are one thing which you can judge whether they’re right or wrong, generally, but talking about where you think someone’s coming from in a negative manner gets you no brownie points.

Fifth, you don’t even consider how (a) your opponents in the other party will see this fracture – yes, it is a fracture at this point – and (b) you don’t consider how the public will view you and your credibility at this time. You do it in a public forum. Not that it’s any better to do it in private. (God only knows what’s being said in private.)

Instead, don’t do it in public. Have these discussions behind closed doors with those people. It might get heated. That’s normal. No one is going to maintain an even keel, regardless of how much we know we could get farther if we did. It will get emotional. But the issue is with particular people so don’t air your dirty laundry to others. There’s being honest and then there’s being…way…too…open.

Sixth, you don’t consider the rest of your colleagues who still support you. What are they supposed to do, now that you’ve insulted their peers? You don’t make it any easier to support you.

Instead, consider the way you look to the colleagues that either still support you or whom you could convince to support you. Truly, you only have so much capital with others you can waste. You don’t want your stock value to go down when you need it most.


Nancy Pelosi managed to cross all these lines in a matter of seconds, and in the course of three or four sentences.

Related Post: Are You Their Leader Or Are You Their Leader…For Today?

Don’t take your leadership for granted, especially in such a public manner. It doesn’t look good on you.

Either work to keep your team and strategy together, or fracture your base of support.

Thanks for Sharing! Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Google+Email this to someone

Leave a Reply

Share CiO
Hide Buttons