Dana Perino

Leadership lessons from the White House

Stories, not statistics, show your difference, says Dana Perino.

March 13, 2019

Prior to beginning their Hill hikes, Dana Perino offered a key piece of advice to attendees at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference Wednesday.

Remember that stories are powerful.

“Who are the members you represent and their stories?” Perino asked. “Statistics don’t stick. The stories you tell are what really make a difference.”

Perino, a political commentator and co-host of “The Five” on Fox News Channel, gave a keynote address Wednesday at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference that touched on leadership and the 2020 election.

Perino says she learned many lessons in leadership while serving as the press secretary at the White House under President George W. Bush from 2007 to 2009.

“Leadership sometimes looks like it’s so sterile,” says Perino, who joined her first credit union—Congressional Federal Credit Union—while working as a Capitol Hill staffer.

However, Perino says she learned from President Bush that even though a leader is in a position of power, they can still add a personal touch to their interactions with those they lead. This will not only increase that person’s loyalty to the leader, but also make them feel better about themselves.

She saw this firsthand when she brought her father with her to a state dinner with a foreign dignitary and watched as President Bush made her father feel like a VIP by talking with him, introducing him to others, and generally making him feel special.

For up-and-coming leaders, Perino says it’s important to realize that there will be instances where they’ll have to deliver bad news.

After Press Secretary Scott McClellan resigned in 2006 and wrote a controversial book about the Bush administration, Perino knew she had to let the president know about the content of the book. While she was hesitant, President Bush reinforced the importance of forgiveness.

“Let people know it’s OK to bring you bad news,” Perino says. “Leaders don’t have all the answers. You need people around you to help you.”

People also need to be true to themselves and the organization they work for, regardless of their position. This means following your gut instincts and bringing it to another person in the organization if your direct supervisor dismisses an idea or thought that you believe is critical.

While Perino says Americans “won’t be bored” during the 2020 election, many questions still remain, including who the players will be and what the outcome will be, but that the current polarized political climate is “something we can get through.”

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