Lessons in Leadership from House of Cards


Ambition is a good quality in a leader, right? As Frank Underwood, the ruthless protagonist of Netflix’s House of Cards said: “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.”

But ambition is one thing – blatant disregard for who you step on as you climb to the top is another. When you gain a reputation for being ruthless and unforgiving, people you work with won’t trust you.

And this is where it gets tricky. Without trust, your followers won’t respect you. They might fear you, sure. But fear doesn’t earn you loyalty. It just earns you a group of people who would do anything to be away from your leadership.

So enjoy your time at the top while you can, President Underwood, because our research on leadership suggests that your reign might not last forever.

Leaders must be authentic and trustworthy

We found that leaders must walk the talk – it’s simply not enough to make grand speeches and expect your team to be inspired. With 36% of all respondents indicating that authenticity and trustworthiness are essential characteristics for leaders to have (rising to 40% for respondents from Generation X), being a figurehead isn’t an option.

And if you give them reason not to trust you? Well you may be in for a bad time, because those are people who are less likely to work hard for you, they’re less likely to promote the organisation to others, and they are more likely to report you to superiors or just quit outright.

Failing to be authentic can cost you more than your job

While you might step on the wrong people and end up in a bad position, being ruthless and untrustworthy can get you in trouble in more ways than that.

When people are unhappy, or when they have to deal with high levels of politics in their work environment, their productivity and morale often drop. This impacts their performance and the performance of people in the team. Add this to higher turnover rates, and you’ve got yourself one high-cost workplace there.

Don’t be like Frank

Given the chance, it might be tempting to seize the opportunity to throw a colleague under the bus (or in front of a train) if it means you get ahead in the game. But while it may be a path to power, that power might be short-lived once those skeletons start to come out of the closet.

Authority and respect earned by being the best possible candidate isn’t always a guaranteed recipe for success, but at least then you don’t have any dirt on you that can come out and ruin your career!

Or, you can crush anyone and everyone in your path – just don’t plan for a lengthy career in your new role!

Whitepaper: Leadership in the Age of Disruption

As a Human Resources and Recruitment leader, we here at Chandler Macleod understand that people are our business. We wanted to better understand the evolving demands of business leaders, and gain a better understanding of what employees want from their leaders in the modern workplace.

So we surveyed 970 leaders, managers, and supervisors; and 1,084 employees to ask what they believed to be the most critical factors for successful leadership, and conversely, what were the outcomes of poor leadership.

This report doesn’t just give you the outcomes of our research, but we provide some tips and strategies to successfully adapt management skills and leadership in this age of disruption.

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