A lot of folks today in business, government, entertainment -- you name it -- claim to be bold leaders. Some are truly living examples of this special type of leader, but most are just perpetuating a smelly sack of moldy myths.
I want to share some of these myths and name my "Top 5 Bold Business Leaders of 2008." You may be chuckling to yourself right now (but not in a good way), since the past year seemed to yield more failed chiefs than true robust leaders who know how what it takes to energize themselves and the world around them.
Bold leaders adapt to emerging risks instead of putting their heads in the sand. They don't rest on their laurels, and they don't revel in today's prosperity without a thought for the future and lasting effects on others. They think and act strategically, embracing the big ideas that lead their organizations up the hill and inspiring the people around them to do the same.
Bold leaders put aside fear and make the tough changes and decisions that often clash with the status quo. Take cost reduction, for instance. Bold leaders see right through the easy solutions of cutting valuable staff and services just for the sake of cutting to reduce expenses. And as I've said in earlier posts, cut, cut, cut is not a strategy!
Of course, life is all about compromises, and bold leaders certainly know how to best get what they want while bringing "foes" into the fold -- or at least gaining their respect, and understanding how to use everyone's skills and talents.
So here's my "Top 5 Bold Business Leaders of 2008"
1.) Steve Jobs, Apple
2.) Anne Mulcahy, Xerox
3.) Jeff Bezos, Amazon
4.) Indra Nooyi, Pepsi
5.) The Successful Entrepreneurs
Here's exactly why they are bold leaders:
Leaders don't wait. They focus on quick wins, immediate action, and gaining momentum.
Character counts. True leaders are honest, forward looking, inspiring, and competent. They have creditability and values, and you can believe what they say.
Leaders have their head in the clouds and their feet on the ground. In other words, they not only have a vision for the future, but they have a sense of direction that will get them to that vision.
Shared values make a difference. True leaders present values that are consistent with those of their constituents.
Leaders can't do it alone. Personal best means our personal best, not my personal best.
The legacy that leaders leave behind is the life they lead. You lead by deeds that make you a role model and set the pace. The best way to do this is to do what you say you will do.
Leadership is everyone's business. Everyone is a leader in some circumstance.
Myths about Leadership
Now back to that rotten sack of myths. Unfortunately, we have formed bad ideas of what leaders are like based only on their publicity (good or bad). Over time, these images get sharper and sharper as more people discuss and write about some of these high-profile leaders, and suddenly they are accepted as truths. With this concept in mind, here are the main myths associated with leadership in these times:
Leaders create organizations that run like clockwork.
Leaders are renegades who do things differently from the rest of us.
Leaders are interested in immediate results and not the long term.
Leaders can predict the future.
Leaders are machines that process and analyze spreadsheets.
Leaders are compelling and fascinating people who can charm just about anyone into doing just about anything.
Leaders are into command and control.
It's lonely at the top.
Leaders must lead from ivory towers.
Only a few can lead.
I call B.S. on these myths and challenge you in 2009 to turn away from them and become a bold leader. Who knows? Maybe I'll be writing about you this time next year and in a good way.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about what makes a bold leader: