7 Leadership Lessons from House of Cards’ Claire Underwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers pertaining to the hit Netflix series, House of Cards.*

With all of the interesting election news coverage taking place lately, I got to thinking about what if there was a white knight(ress) that could swoop in and save us from all the unpredictability of today’s political landscape? What if there was someone like, oh, I don’t know, say Claire Underwood from House of Cards (HOC) to save us all?!

Now I just jumped on the HOC bandwagon earlier this year, but ever since my mind has been blown at the sheer wit and strategic manipulation the show portrays so effortlessly, most especially by the character Claire Underwood. In my humble opinion, she is the smartest and most critical character in the series. So much can be learned from her. With that in mind, I’m sharing seven Claire Underwood leadership lessons that we can all learn from:

  1. Timing is Everything

Throughout the course of the series, Claire consistently plays her cards right, waiting for the right time to show her hand. This is most evident in this past season as Claire went from originally pursuing the congresswoman ticket for her hometown district to securing the democratic VP ticket.

In the workplace, it’s crucial to understand when the time is right to pursue your goals. Whether it’s organizing a team happy hour or approaching your boss about that promotion, patience, perceptiveness and timing are critical factors in determining your success.

  1. Respect the Deflect

Claire Underwood has to be the queen of deflection. In House of Cards, Claire tactically avoids answering questions she doesn’t want to answer by responding with a question or stating a fact that tip-toes around the truth. “What, aren’t you in Iowa with your husband?” “I’m flying out there tomorrow.”

While not always the most virtuous skill to use at work, at times deflection can help us be more prepared in providing a complete response or aid us in not revealing information one is not in the best position to share.

  1. Dress the Part

Even if you don’t like the politics theme of House of Cards, one thing I think most people can appreciate is the on-point fashion and presentation of the show, more specifically Claire’s character. This lady can dress. When you think First Lady or VP candidate, Claire’s image definitely fits the bill as she is always dressed to the nines.

The concept also applies to the workplace. If you want to be taken seriously and exude reputability, then make sure you present yourself that way. When someone is well-dressed and groomed, most people’s first impressions are this person is someone important. Make it easy for people to think that by dressing the part.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

In the latest season of HOC, we see Claire and Francis show how they prepare for speeches and important conversations. They practice and prep with each other beforehand to ensure they have the right answers to questions and that they’re talking points and poise are presidential.

In the workplace, anticipating questions that will be asked and having answers ready in your back pocket will help you complete the task at hand more efficiently and with confidence. Additionally, when it comes to public speaking: practice, practice, practice. You want people to focus on your message and make it worthwhile to listen to you.

  1. Negotiate & Persuade

While Claire doesn’t have the most traditional CV for a VP candidate, she does know how to convince others to side with her goals. Her negotiation techniques start off with a soft light-touch approach appealing to rational reasoning, then switches to more offensive tactics as a last resort.

Now going to her extreme measures isn’t advisable in the office, but a modified approach can be utilized when advocating for one’s cause in completing projects or discussions.

  1. “If you don’t like the way the table is set…”

Then turn over the table. Opponents often try to prevent Ms. Underwood from achieving her goals and present her with limited options. It’s one or the other. But that doesn’t stop her; she finds alternate solutions to get the job done. This was evident in her under-the-table assistance she provided to Donald Blythe when negotiating diplomatic affairs with Russia during Season 4.

So if you don’t like how the table is set in a project, reset it to your liking by going above and beyond to find a way to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.

  1. Keep Calm and Carry On

In HOC, there are occasional scenes where Claire is blindsided by her rivals and caught off guard. But you never really know what’s going on inside her head when it happens (versus Francis who gives the occasional aside). She remains calm, poised and regal.

The same kind of demeanor should be exemplified in the office as well. Always maintain your composure to maintain your professional image. Losing your cool tips your hand towards your true emotions and may cause others to question whether your judgment is based on emotions rather than sound reasoning.


If you’re also a Claire Underwood fan or want to share a comment or other Claire-isms, please leave a comment below.

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