I look forward to our leadership issue every year. It’s generally a time when I can give you my perspective about leadership in general or reflect on something positive that happened over the summer, like the impressive work of our 14 college interns who recently completed their time with us (and who may be knocking on your door in the near future).
But this time was different. Leadership is being tested around the world both in public and private places, online and in communities, and I was torn about whether to comment on what is happening around us. It took nine drafts of this column before I finally surrendered to the printer.
Leadership is about responsibility. It’s about passion and motivation. It’s about making change happen and being genuinely concerned for those you lead. Every day, you are faced with mounting pressures—rapidly changing technology, globalization, a 24-hour news cycle, changing client expectations and other business challenges specific to our industry. But you thrive because of your leadership skills. You surround yourself with the best talent, listen and seek your teams’ advice, create a positive and supportive culture, take risks, overcome generational stereotypes, embrace diversity, understand industry shifts and work to attract more great people. There are probably a whole host of other things you’d add to this list, but at the end of the day, your leadership yields both present and future success.
It seems like a straightforward formula.
But something is amiss in today’s culture. I understand the diverse nature of leadership in this day and age. I realize there are different definitions, different expectations and non-traditional approaches. But chaos is not an approach. Bullying is not governing. Creating an atmosphere of uncomfortable angst and indecision is not vision.
When did gamesmanship replace statesmanship?
I have admired and respected many business leaders over the last 25 years. Those who come to mind for me were men and women of principle. They understood the value of communication and compromise. They listened to and deliberated different points of view because it was the right thing to do. From them and through my personal experience with mentors and peers throughout the years, I’ve learned how rewarding pragmatic leadership can be. Being open, clear and authentic leads to better results and greater morale. When I challenge my team, I do it to bring out the best in them, to help them realize that they are capable of something greater. At the same time, I make sure they know that I care about them and their values. Doing these things isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a measure of respect.
I recently returned from a trip to Italy. When we told people we were from Washington, D.C., they looked at us worried and offered unsolicited observations. After it happened a few times, it caused me to pause and really think hard about how the world has changed.
This month’s issue highlights how trust, communicating your ideas, listening to others’ ideas, and recognizing your own weaknesses can make you a better leader. Ups and downs are part of the job; we all know that. But it is the responsibility of the leader to navigate the noise, build trust, be accountable and put people first.
Thank you for your leadership.