Some years ago, a mentor of mine made a tongue-in-cheek comment that leadership would be easy if it weren’t for the people. And that is to say, leading humans, tapping into their native genius, creating psychological safety, and taking part in their career development are the most critical elements of being inspiring leaders.
Many organizations give lip service to the importance of what they coin, their most important resource, but their actions don’t support that assertion. If they were the most important resource, then so many would make every effort to maintain their employment, invest in their development, and hold leaders accountable for their part in cultivating this critical resource.
There are inspiring leaders that I follow that emulate a higher standard of leadership and also happen to sync with my company’s core values: they are kind, transparent, accountable, and unconditional.
Here are my top three inspiring leaders.
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Mellody Hobson is President & Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, Chairperson of the Board of the Starbucks Corporation, and may soon become the co-owner of the Denver Broncos. She hit many people’s radars with her Ted Talk, Color Blind or Color Brave.
During my tenure at USAA Wealth Management, I had the pleasure of hearing from and meeting Ms. Hobson speaking on leadership. She has appeared multiple times on podcasts, so you can easily find her. I recently heard her talking on Adam Grant’s podcast with some sage advice. First, she shared wisdom that she was given by a mentor many years ago regarding receiving feedback.
Her tale goes that when one person tells you you’re a horse’s fanny, it’s easy to dismiss it as one person’s opinion. If you hear the same advice from a second person, your ears should perk up. And when a third perceives the same, saddle up, cowboy – you’re a horse’s rear-end.
That ability to acknowledge and humbly accept that you’re a certain way gives a leader the most important power: to change.
Indra Nooyi is the former CEO of PepsiCo, philanthropist, and mom. She is notable for her accomplishments, community involvement, and the sense of preternatural calm she conveys. As a guest on Adam Grant’s podcast, I enjoyed hearing her speak about managing her calendar. The most common refrain I hear from current and past clients is that they don’t have enough time. In reality, we all have the same 168 hours per week. Therefore none of us lack time. We lack focus.
Therefore none of us lack time. We lack focus.
Ms. Nooyi comments, with her classic humor, that as CEO, she realized quickly that, more than ever before, her calendar was not her own. What she spoke about was the fact that there are a base-level of obligations that are required weekly. Added to that are her additional responsibilities for her family, and the result is that having intention about every meeting yielded the outcome of tackling issues in the least amount of time required. This focus, intention, and discipline allowed her to be methodical, purposeful, and calm in the face of any storm.
James Rhee describes himself as an acclaimed impact investor, founder, CEO, goodwill strategist, and educator who empowers people, brands, and organizations by marrying capital with purpose. I first heard him speak in his conversation with Brene Brown on her Dare to Lead podcast. What specifically caught my ear was the headline topic of kindness, one of my core values.
When that word is brought up, I often hear push-back because people confuse kindness for inauthentic niceness, weakness, or passivity. In reality, it’s a mindset, an awareness, and a moral code that challenges us to seek understanding rather than lead with judgment.
Kindness is a mindset, an awareness and a moral code.
Developing the skillset that approaches every conversation or interaction with kindness, curiosity, and non-judgmental takes intentionality. It will also set you apart as a leader who believes in another person’s potential and can tap into it.
As a former Fortune 500 executive leader, I have experienced my fair share of successful and unsuccessful workplace leadership. If you are interested in becoming an influential leader or providing leadership resources for your team, contact me today – no strings attached.