When Fortune published its 2019 list of the greatest leaders, they curated a list of people who are making an impact in business, government, philanthropy, and the arts. These leaders come from countries all over the globe. They are men and women who are transforming the world. Their vision is inspiring others to do the same.
Leadership is a subject that fascinates everyone. We often wonder what makes the leader so very different from us. Do they really march to a beat different from what we hear?
Being a leader needs courage. It means making bold choices and take big risks. It often means having the courage to pursue the idea despite naysayers. Is it easier to take a bold bet when you are successful or is it easier if the stakes are low? If the decision needs an extraordinary amount of courage, it is a test of leadership.
- Take bets on people
When Ed Catmull of Pixar made “Incredibles” he took a bold bet. Disney was already successful. Yet he decided to move from 2D animation to creating 3D animation through code. He took a bet on a director whose last movie was a giant failure.
- Reimagine the business
In more recent times, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is steering the $900 billion behemoths away from slowing iPhone sales and toward a business model based on services and subscription revenue.
- Experience design
Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe did the same when he turned the software-on-CD seller to a cloud-based subscription service. Adobe is once again reinventing the business by bringing in Artificial Intelligence to the business of designing customer experiences. They blend technology with creativity, design, and storytelling to create magic.
Leaders help others see the world through the way they make choices. Their priorities, advice, and personal example makes people hopeful
Being able to create a movement is one of the most powerful ways in which leaders drive change. They do this by being role models. They do this by their day to day actions. This is not about using hierarchy and power to get others to follow. It is about creating a pull for their vision and values. Leaders help others see the world through the way they make choices. Their priorities, advice, and personal example makes people hopeful.
- Hope for the world
At the top of Fortune’s list for 2019 is Bill and Melinda Gates who have donated more than $45 billion to build some of the most successful international, private-public partnerships ever formed: They helped developing countries immunize 700 million children against preventable diseases. Besides they are leading the fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
- Leading during a crisis
Jacinda Ardern, the 38-year old Prime Minister of New Zealand had already broken new ground as a pregnant woman—and then a new mother who was leading a nation. Her ability to empathize with the victims and then drive support for the ban of the semi-automatic weapon was a case study in leadership during a crisis.
- Never too young
The most inspiring name on the 2019 list of leaders is Greta Thunberg. She is a 16-year-old student activist who is campaigning for climate change. On the Twitter page, she describes herself as "a 16-year-old climate activist with Asperger [syndrome]". Her work on climate change earned her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Making her a year younger than Malala who won it at the age of seventeen.
These leaders have all shown courage because many of their decisions put themselves at extreme risk of failure. The greater the vision, the bigger is the scale of impact but it also means that the possibility of personal failure is very high. Shouldn’t we be holding our leaders inside organizations to these new standards?