The Good News About Leadership Good News About Leadership
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“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”

-Winston Churchill


With all the leadership scandals and breakdowns in virtually every

segment of society bombarding us day-in and day-out, it is easy to

become cynical about our leaders today. Yet we’re cautiously optimistic

despite the massive challenges we face.


Leaders acknowledge reality, and we don’t avoid the disheartening,

even outrageous, leadership failures we come across. (You don’t need

another list of them, do you?)


“You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the

end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the

discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality,”


-Jim Collins, in Good to Great, describing the “Stockdale Paradox”

(referring to U.S. Navy vice admiral James Stockdale1 who was shot

down and held captive for eight years—and tortured

repeatedly—during the Vietnam War)


So, why are we cautiously optimistic even while recognizing the scale of

the challenges? It turns out that there is a lot of good news too,

emerging trends that bode well for a robust response to the challenges

whatever they might be.”


? Transparency: With instant smartphone photos, videos, and

tweets racing around the world at hyper speed, it is becoming

increasingly difficult to hide things. In bygone days, leaders’

actions were hidden from public view. In the age of WikiLeaks,

whistleblowers, and crowd-sourced scrutiny, those days are over.

Good riddance.


? Consciousness: So many young people today are much more

socially and environmentally conscious. Now many people have

taken up the causes of the triple bottom line2 (planet, people,

profit), fair trade, human rights, and more. Businesses and

governments are waking up too.


? Ratings: Now there is growing interest in ratings and rankings.

We have annual publications of the world’s most ethical, trusted,

admired, sustainable, and more. We have consumer ratings on

everything. Leaders ignore these ratings at their peril, as today’s

consumers and workers choose their products and workplaces

increasingly through the filter of their values.


? Regulations: Governments are passing legislation and imposing

rules that curb abusive behavior. These laws won’t ever be

perfect, and many people will continue to look for loopholes or

push the envelope to see what they can get away with. We can’t

change human nature (there will always be greedy and evil

people), but we can influence human behavior (and that’s what

better leadership is all about).


? New Models: New models of leadership are emerging and being

implemented that go beyond the command-and-control models of

the past: transformational, values-based, authentic, level 5,

servant, triple crown leadership, and more.


? Evolution of Capitalism: More enlightened versions of capitalism

are emerging that go beyond the “maximize shareholder value”

mantra that is becoming increasingly obsolete and discredited. In

the 1980s, Ed Freeman articulated his “stakeholder theory”3 (an

alternative to shareholder theory). More recently, “conscious

capitalism”4 has been gaining traction and adherents, and other

models are emerging (such as Michael Porter’s notion of “shared

value”). See “Redefining Capitalism”5 from McKinsey.


These are powerful trends. Of course, our leaders and leadership

models will never be perfect. We’re all human and subject to the frailties

of human judgment, especially when under pressure from multiple

directions, as many leaders are today. But we now have many allies in

our quest to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—the

hallmark of triple crown leadership.


So, we shall continue fighting the good fight, hoping to make our own

contributions to improving leadership in a world that needs it badly.

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or

actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities—always see them, for

they’re always there.”

-Norman Vincent Peale


Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of and speakers on Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, winner of the 2013 International Book Award (Business: General).


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5 Good News About Leadership
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