Growing up, I thought successful leaders were supposed to figure out all the answers on their own. Being smart — and making sure everyone else knew it — seemed to be their most striking attribute. The best schools were supposed to lead to the best jobs, which produced the best leaders. Power, fame, glory, and money were the measure of professional success. Early in my career, prominent business leaders like GE’s Jack Welch were revered for their intellect, strategic sense, and hard-charging style. They were considered infallible geniuses, inspiring a quasi-cult following.
This traditional model of the leader-hero who saves the day, knows it all, is the smartest person in the room, and is too often driven by power, fame, glory, or money is not appropriate in today’s environment. This is true for several reasons:
- Today’s fast-changing, complex, and unpredictable environment necessitates a different kind of leadership. Nobody can claim to have all the answers to solve the complex crises we’re facing, and the most adaptable organizations are those in which decisions are being decentralized.
- With the idea that a company’s purpose is about far more than making money gaining ground, the hard-charging, profit-optimizing hero-leader model has lost much of its appeal.
- An increasing number of employees now value authenticity and connection over a facade of strength and infallibility.
- The nature of work has changed from the more mechanical, repetitive type to jobs that require ingenuity and creativity.
- Successful hero-leaders can easily start believing that they’re untouchable and, ultimately, indispensable. It’s easy to be seduced by power, fame, glory, and money. It’s easy to become disconnected from reality and from colleagues, surrounded by sycophants and yay-sayers.
Unsurprisingly, people today expect a different kind of leader. While each company needs to define its own leadership point of view, here’s the philosophy we deployed at Best Buy as part of our surprising turnaround and resurgence. It’s based on five attributes — five “Be’s” — of what I believe characterizes leaders who are able to unleash the kind of human magic you see at work at some of the most high-performing companies. This philosophy underpins the leadership principles that I believe are at The Heart of Business today.
Be clear about your purpose.
That is, your purpose, the purpose of those around you, and how that connects to your company’s purpose.
The staggering number of employees leaving their jobs or seriously thinking about it over the last several months has shed renewed light on the pre-Covid realization that purpose, both individual and collective, is at the heart of business. I’ve written about several aspects of corporate purpose, from …….