Where are the future business leaders coming from?

A real gap in leadership capabilities at most companies currently exists in this country. The lack of leadership in business today is real, not just perceived.

Consider recent public statements by executives during the banking and real estate crises, the Gulf oil spill and throughout general politicization; many of them made us cringe. We wondered, “Who are these people leading these companies? Where did they come from? How did they get these positions of power?”

It’s no wonder that more than ever, we are focused on the “next round,” but with a hope that true leaders will emerge. Fortunately, there are many young, strong leaders entering the work force today, and they are primarily coming from two places:

• The military: Recent military veterans have received the best and most recent leadership training one can receive in this country. These men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are an excellent example of where leadership skills are tested early and often.

• Entrepreneurs: Risk-taking entrepreneurs, some of whom are not college graduates, often carry the true marks of leadership. They wanted to “try something.” They likely have been failures, but those who recognize and have learned from their mistakes often have the skills to lead. What about those currently in management and executive positions who are trying to improve the leadership within their team, their department or their company?

• Know what you stand for. This cannot be stressed enough. Consumers are young workers seeking principled companies with values. If you stand for being the cheapest in price, then say so. If being highest in product quality is it, then market that mission clearly. If creating an atmosphere or “feel” is what you are after, make decisions that support it. If you do not know what you stand for, or you betray those values with how you run your business, you will lose workers and clients. Yet, it is surprising how few companies truly have and support a strategic plan of value-based principles and goals that gets fully implemented.

• Walk your talk. We know this in life: We trust and respect the person who does what they say they will do. This area has taken a huge hit in business since the recession. Executives receiving massive payouts after short stints that drove their companies into the red has caused our society to question the rationale of boards of directors. Within the organization, staff hear what the leadership team is doing and/or getting, and if they believe them to be just “talking,” they lose respect and, ultimately, morale dissipates.

Sincerely,

Bill Fournet
President and CEO

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