The L-word. Who doesn't get a little tingly when the subject comes up? Wait, not that L-word--the other one: leadership. Yes, leadership is one of the most hotly discussed, debated and proselytized words in the lexicon of business. And there's good reason to keep tumbling the topic around: Great companies have great leaders--but a bad leader can tank a great company.
Scroll through the leadership section of any online bookstore and it's easy to see that theories on the subject come and go faster than location-based social sites. And those theories tend to mimic the zeitgeist.
In the 1980s, a leader was defined by power and control. An absolute must for all great leaders was immersion in--and subsequent quoting of--Sun Tzu's The Art of War. This was not optional. If you hadn't read Art, if you didn't spew forth the lines of wisdom regarding battle, you couldn't be considered a great leader. You were thought weak, powerless and untrustworthy. Greed was good then.
"If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split and re-evaluate," Sun Tzu wrote (a sentiment mirrored in the movie Wall Street--the other leading business voice of the times).
That was the Age of Wall Street, long before it was occupied and way before its virtual collapse. Now we're in the leadership Zen zone, a place of peace and social consciousness where innovation, trust and entrepreneurial thinking are rewarded and championed. Far from the pages of The Art of War, today's great leaders have shed the battle-minded mentality that Gordon Gekko impersonators donned for business armor. Credit for the change goes to the Steve Jobs leadership ripple effect. This is the time of less blood, more trust.
What makes a great leader? Many things separate the good leaders from the great leaders. Transparency and trust are key indicators. According to Mark Leslie, chairman and CEO of Veritas Software (featured in our leadership package on page 54), great leadership "is not about command and control. You attract the best and the brightest people and create an environment where they can use their intelligence and judgment to act autonomously."
This month, in an effort to more fully understand the science and art of leadership, we decided to dissect the philosophies of some of this country's brightest and most successful leaders (and one not-so-successful leader). We wondered about the economic impact of good leadership vs. bad leadership (those results are on page 63). And what kind of leader are you? Take the (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) leadership quiz on page 124.
The lesson that rose to the top? Great leaders never need to announce how good they are at the job. Effective leadership bubbles up through the mood of a company's employees and the vibe of the brand. What we uncovered is far from the Age of Wall Street. Today's great leaders understand that they don't own their company's success (and bragging rights). Great leaders know that success belongs to the collective.
Creating a memorable experience and memorable moments is something great companies do. As we often cover in the magazine, it's important to critically analyze your product consistently (not every so often) to make sure you're delivering the best possible experience to your customers. So this month, we are proud to unveil our redesigned, refreshed pages. To kick off this redesign, we bring you a full-on, no B.S. look at the role of design in business (see the story on page 28). We look at everything from website design to design-related innovations in manufacturing and the role design plays in the critical relationship between you and your customer.
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy