What Makes a Great Leader?

What Makes a Great Leader?

If it's hard for you to find and retain talent, maybe it's because your company is focused on the wrong things.

To me, a great business leader is someone who creates or runs a company that empowers society in some form, while simultaneously providing a product or service.

So why am I taking the time to define great leadership? There's been an ongoing debate in my house, and in the house of my friends, about our children, especially those who recently graduated from college. One question our children are constantly asking, in their search for a job, is, "What is this company doing to make this a better world?"

This is part of the criteria this group of graduates is using to determine which companies they choose to start their careers at.

In my time we asked about pay and benefits, but our children have far loftier goals than we did at that age. They pore over the corporate responsibility reports to determine if the company supports programs both at home and globally in areas of environmental and social concerns.

I distinctly remember trying to convince a child of this generation that manufacturing companies were valuable and only received agreement when I pointed out that for every shoe TOMS Shoes sells to a consumer, the company gives away another pair to those without.

If employers are to attract these future workers, they must make sure to communicate to this generation that the leaders of their companies understand the importance of contributing to the greater good.

Here are a few leaders that already heed that message.
 
"If you're changing the world, you're working on important things. You're excited to get up in the morning."—Larry Page, CEO of Google

"Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success."—William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman, Ford Motor Co.

"We know that the profitable growth of our company depends on the economic, environmental and social sustainability of our communities across the world. And we know it is in our best interests to contribute to the sustainability of those communities."—Travis Engen, CEO, Alcan

"The business of business should not be about money. It should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed."—Anita Roddick, founder, Body Shop

"Public companies can't solve the world's problems on their own. But they do have considerable talent and resources that they can and should use to build bridges between communities and governments in order to effect positive global change."—Hector Ruiz, chairman, Advanced Micro Devices

"Not only do public companies have the opportunity to play a key role in changing the world, at Cisco, we feel it is our corporate social responsibility to do so. Companies have access to capital, resources and organizational expertise and can serve as catalysts to help drive change."—John Chambers, chairman, Cisco

 "We believe the long-term success of Whirlpool is tied in part to the health and well-being of society in general."—Jeff Fettig, CEO, Whirlpool

"No single group can solve the world's problems, but public companies can move the collective needle by using their human and financial resources to innovate in ways that benefit both private interests and the public good."—Ronald A. Williams, CEO, Aetna

While it's heartening to know that so many CEOs understand that to do well is to do good, they along with leaders of companies large and small will need to show tangible results in order to convince this generation, which is not easily fooled. This group knows where to look and is quick to communicate with each other about what companies are doing. In addition to sites such as Glassdoor, which includes comments from employees, this group will survey each other and their LinkedIn networks to see if what the company purports is in fact true.

Good leaders must communicate and demonstrate that they understand that this new generation of workers are indeed determined to make the world better and are counting on working with you to achieve that goal.

 

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