I am talking about the sort of fearless leadership that sets a business assail toward new frontiers, where the journey lasts years, motivates many and delivers a bounty.
The following is a list of inspirational traits I have witnessed among business leaders whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 24 years.
1. Fearless leaders do not try and predict the future. They focus on shaping it. In a fast and ever-changing business environment it is futile to try and predict the future, especially when it comes to consumer trends. Fearless leaders know this. Instead they focus on creating and setting the trend.
2. Fearless Leaders are decisive and act fast. Fearless leaders have a mindset toward making a decision, implementing it quickly, learning, adapting and continuously improving. Fast. It sometimes means accepting risks, forgiving mistakes and learning from everything. Fearless leaders set aggressive deadlines and insist on meeting them. They have no time for protracted analysis, long-winded meetings, and unnecessary reviews and checkpoints. Speed of decision-making. Speed of implementation. They thrive on it.
3. Fearless Leaders are always right – even when they are wrong. I know this is a contentious trait but fearless leaders don’t care if they are wrong sometimes. Conviction is better than tireless collaboration, which inevitably leads to inaction. Sometimes making a mistake and correcting it quickly is much more effective than impotent collaboration – just ask Mr Obama how that’s going.
4. Fearless leaders wear their heart on their sleeve. They are intense, passionate and often the most animated in meetings. They do not try and hide their true personality. What you see is what you get – in the boardroom or at the pub. They do not sugar coat anything. They tell it like it is and spare no one. But they are always constructive and never hysterical to the point of spooking others.
5. Fearless leaders put the business first and ego’s second. Including their own. There is something bigger than all of us in an organisation. And that is the mission. Anyone putting their personal interests ahead of the mission cannot call themselves leaders, let alone fearless ones. Anyone who has seen the movie Braveheart would understand what I mean here.
6. Fearless Leaders build a team of champions around them. Including their suppliers. They do this by recruiting the best, not tolerating mediocrity and demanding innovation, hard work and round the clock intensity. They recognise that nothing great has ever been created with a 9 to 5 mentality.
7. Fearless leaders have one-on-one meetings with the right people to get the ‘real’ picture. People are rarely full and frank in open business meetings. They will NOT say what’s really on their mind. Or worse still, they will not say anything at all. If you want to know what’s going on in people’s hearts and minds, a one-on-one meeting is best. Especially, if you do it out of the office. I usually go for a walk to get some fresh air and gain some perspective.
8. Fearless Leaders zoom in and out of their organisation. This is my personal favourite and one that I try and adhere to. Fearless leaders sweat the small stuff. They know that the smallest of details can sometimes mean the biggest difference in setting you apart from your competitors. They can zoom in on a specific issue and mix it with staff at any level. They can re-engineer, re-design and get technical. They also have the uncanny ability to zoom back out and not miss the big picture.
9. Fearless leaders build a legacy not an exit strategy. Fearless leaders are not satisfied with short-term results. They do not pursue a strategy that grooms their business for sale. They do not distribute dividends and bonuses at the expense of research and development. They stay focused on the future and the positive impact their products and services can make on society.
10. Fearless leaders are fiercely competitive – they hate losing!