Friday, April 10, 2009

Our New World Demands Leadership That is Bigger Than Me

The following is a guest post by Dallas-based entrepreneur and thought leader, Bob Buford. His bestselling book, Halftime, has been re-released along with his musings over the past decade or so about how to move from success to significance, Beyond Halftime. The original book, released 15 years ago, sold more than half a million copies. In some ways, his message seems more timely now than ever.

We’ve seen it all before: Successful leaders being led off in hand cuffs, in disgrace, leaving a legacy of broken promises and wasted resources. We’ve seen in their eyes that their moral compass is broken and their minds confused. With all of the mountains of leadership training and models and education, why does this keep happening?

Today’s employee is looking for a different kind of leader, but they have a hard time describing exactly what that leader looks like. We definitely want leaders who live for something bigger than themselves, who leave a lasting legacy, who provide us a sense of enduring value, whose lives will not crumble even if the market tanks. Do we have such persons and how are leaders like this created?

Peter Drucker was often ahead of us in his ability to be the great observer. At the ripe old age of 93 he mused that when he came to this country early in the last century we had a strong society resting on a sick economy, and sixty years later just before he passed away he observed that “we now have a sick society resting on a strong economy”. Today it appears that we have a sick society mired in a sick economy. Changing this will require leaders who are strong in business principles and economics, but also in the core values and principles that it takes to rebuild a strong society. These transformational leaders may not get a lot of press and attention but I believe that they abound in our country and we can benefit from their leadership.

So how do we become one of these transformational leaders and redirect our second half? I believe there are 4 key components:

1. Understand your core contribution …what are your top two or three strengths, what issues are you most passionate about, how could your strengths and passions converge into a life mission statement that drives how you invest your time, talent and resources?

2. Redefine success – not by what you get but in terms of what you bring …what do you consider to be even more significant than just the next quarter’s earnings?

3. Create a bigger story for your leadership – what difference will your life make … take a minute to answer the questions “if it were two years from now and you were living the perfect second half life, how would you know?”

4. Move beyond just success to significance. So, you’ve accomplished a lot. What will your legacy be? What will you leave behind?

As Peter Drucker said a few years before he died, “we are over-prepared for the first half of life, and under-prepared for the second half … and there’s no university for the second half of life.”

What would transformational leadership look like in your life?

How could your leadership play a contributing part in reforming our country into a strong society resting on a strong economy?


Mary Jo Asmus, President, Aspire Collaborative Services LLC said...

Hi Dan,

Nice, thoughtful post. You might find it surprising that executive coaches often use the questions of "what leadership legacy do you want to leave" to help an exec create goals. Many of the great ones are truly concerned about leaving behind intangibles: they want to be remembered for the values they embrace - integrity, ethics. I believe we are entering an era where followers will only be willing to support these values in our society and businesses.

Dan McCarthy said...

Mary Jo -
Thanks, I love the question!