It’s not easy to find greatness in business leaders. Most of the time they’re pretty predictable. For example, leaders have numbers they want to “hit”, and that for them is evidence of their ultimate success.
But every once in a while, I’ve observed individual greatness despite the numbers. Here are three such examples.
1. Making things right:
In the course of everyday living sometimes unfair acts happen to people in business. Most corporate leaders will let an unfair moment pass by saying, ” life isn’t fair, better the person learn to buck up.”
On the other hand, occasionally you’ll find a leader who takes note, and in time (not necessarily at the moment) will follow through and try to make things right for the victim. For example, on one occasion, a newspaper publisher told the owner of the newspaper that I had criticized him. I hadn’t. Nevertheless my consulting contract was canceled.
During the ensuing twelve months, the owner found out that indeed I had not made the criticism. The owner called me, renewed my contract, and compensated me for time lost. The owner didn’t have to do that. He just did it, because it was the right thing to do.
What I’ve observed is that if done consistently over time this kind of leader enjoys intense loyalty from subordinates. Additionally, when that leader has to make a tough decision that affects a worker, that worker is much more inclined to accept the decision.
These are the people who keep a corporate environment from becoming cynical. If a corporation retains any kind of legitimate moral fiber, it’s because of this kind of leader.
2. Speaks truth to power:
Corporate environments are by design very political structures. High ranking executives usually arrive at the highest position, because they have learned how to successfully manage their relationships with those above them.
Over time, word filters down to workers about just how political their boss is. If the executive has a reputation of being too highly political, subordinates will also become political. In fact, they will become more political than they are effective in their work.
Every once in a while, in my capacity as a management consultant, I will run across an executive who will, for the sake of the work at hand, go against trend and speak frankly and plainly to those above This quickly gets around to the workers. In turn those workers are very often the most effective workers in the corporation.
Yes, the leader who speaks truth to power runs the risk of being fired, but in each case I’ve observed, workers try to protect their outspoken boss by being the best workers in the organization.
These type of leaders are usually the smartest, most successful achievers in the corporation. They make lots of money for the corporation, because It’s the work that matters. This in turn inspires great feats of work from those under them.
In business, it has to be the work that matters most, not how successfully you manage your relationship with those above you.
Every once in a while, a corporation will inherit a gunslinger. Confident beyond measure, willing to take unusual risks, it’s as though this type of person is wearing a holster full of bullets ready to be fired.
Most workers, managers, and executives don’t want to have any association with this kind of person, because they want careers, not gunfights.
Gunslingers are those rare people who don’t think twice about shooting every single bullet. They’re not afraid of being fired. Their thinking is, no risk, no reward. Their fellow workers and superiors are stunned by their verve. Deep down, they wish they could be so daring, but are scared to get close to such a person for fear of getting into trouble.
These gunslingers are not suited for corporate life. They’re mavericks They’re the ones who are going to leave and start their own businesses. I’m pretty good at spotting this kind of person. They have no respect for lines of authority. And, come hell or high water, they’re determined to do work their way.
Eventually, they leave the corporate environment, one way or the other, and become the entrepreneurs. They create new worlds. I have to look no further than at my immediate family to find mavericks and gunslingers.