Probably the Only Leadership Lesson Worth Learning From House of Cards

Far be it from Inc. to recommend most of Frank Underwood's power-grabbing tactics. But there is one thing he does very well.

Frank Underwood, the antihero of the Netflix political thriller House of Cards, has used some pretty underhanded tactics in his rise to power. Without spoiling anything from the show's first two seasons--the second debuted last Friday--let's just say Frank's not afraid to get his hands dirty.

One of the defining characteristics of House of Cards is Underwood's nonchalent manner of addressing the audience head on, like how stage actors deliver soliloquies, to detail his thought process and announce his small victories. In doing so, Underwood does what other politicians before him have. He communicates and broadcasts his success to his stakeholders (in this case, a legion of Netflix bingers). So should you.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Such a strategy was endorsed by Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel during President Barack Obama's first campaign.

"Put points on the board," Emanuel told Obama. "Show people you can govern. Deliver on what you said you were going to deliver on." The implication: Establishing goals, meeting them, and letting people know about doing so is one way to gain support for your overall agenda.

If this sounds a little politique-and-TV-character, consider that the same basic strategy is employed by leaders of public companies when they write their annual stakeholder letters. By noting success to investors, they are able to show what he's doing is working.

But counting the notches on your belt isn't just about showing off to others. Research shows that doing so also has personal productivity benefits. In a video on productivity blog 99U, Harvard professor Teresa Amabile explains that tracking progress, challenges, and successes in a diary leads to greater motivation at work.

So, you might not be a politician and you might not play one on TV, but there are real, tangible benefits to making use of this one Frank Underwood tactic. Just don't follow most of his other, more harrowing leadership strategies.

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