“Which corporate leaders do you admire?” was a question
posed to me during a break during a leadership workshop I was conducting.
In years past I would have rattled off a list of the “usual suspects” of familiar
names with folks like Anne Mulcahy, Alan Mulally, Shelly Lazarus, and Larry
Bossidy. Not this time! With respect to all of these fine leaders, who except
for Mulally, are retired, I continue to be impressed by every day leaders, the men and
women I have the privilege of knowing either as a coach, consultant, or
To me the level of “leadership literacy” has risen
dramatically. That means managers really know how to lead. I think this comes
from a few factors. One, the teaching of leadership by virtue of corporate and
executive education has never been more prevalent. Two, managers have received
coaching and mentoring from more senior leaders who have set a fine example.
Three, critical mass is taking hold, that is, good leaders beget good followers
who in turn become good leaders. It is a virtuous circle of leadership
Toward that end, here some examples of “leadership literacy,”
along with sound management practices, I’ve observed.
- A senior vice president whose span of control increased exponentially
from thirty to over 300 globally made time to travel to distant locations to
introduce himself and to find ways so that local managers would have more
autonomy including localized decision-making.
- A senior director whose responsibility is business
development is transforming the culture of his traditionally minded
organization by hiring bright, capable people whose backgrounds and education
is different from their predecessors.
- A senior director split his job into three so that he could
promote three people and increase their areas of responsibility as well as
- A senior leader in health care reinforced the values of
trust and integrity by enabling his direct reports to assume greater levels of
responsibility so they will become more accomplished problem-solvers, managers,
and of course leaders of others.
- An up and coming manager who was getting hammered in “turf
wars” between departments reversed tactics. He became more accommodating by
sharing information and providing insights that would help his former
adversaries do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
But just because these folks are showing us the way does not
mean everyone is. After all the great recession was worsened by failures of
leadership in the corporate sectors as we saw greed trump fiscal
What’s more, when a CEO recently asked me how much leadership
teaching I could do with senior leaders who were already experienced, I told
him that knowing about leadership is not the same as performing as a leader.
Many senior leaders whom I coach are adept leaders but they are savvy to know
their limitations and want to improve. They are seeking to gain further
insights into how they can become better communicators, delegators, enablers,
supervisors, and ultimately leaders.
That said, I continue to be amazed at the fine example that
so many leaders with whom I interact. Again and again I have been impressed
with men and women who put their teams first at the expense of themselves.
These folks hold themselves accountable, and show the rest us the way by being
trustworthy and accountable for their actions. None are saints, but I would
consider each of them a role model from which the rest of us can learn.
John Baldoni is an
internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach,
author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s
top 25 leadership experts. John’s newest book is 12
Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead.(Amacom 2010). Readers are welcome to visit John’s Web site, www.johnbaldoni.com