Where can Millennials look for role model leaders in business?
Last week CNBC released yet another list of top business influentials. Their list, the “First 25,” includes many Chiefs judged to have had the most profound impact on business and finance in the last 25 years. The top three positions on the list were held by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the executive team at Google. You might think this list would be a great place to look for role model Chiefs.
Ironically, at the very same time last week, many media outlets reported on a settlement between employees and Apple, Google, and two other Silicon Valley technology firms for the illegal restriction of movement of engineers between the firms. Emails directly linked Jobs and then Google CEO Eric Schmidt to the case. Clearly, the settlement will lessen the publicity that Apple, Google, and the two other firms would have received had the litigation gone to trial. Reports of ethics violations among companies viewed as today’s most admired are not the type of visibility that these companies want, but they can teach us something.
It strikes me how much the media influences our collective view of “good” and “bad” Chiefs and how very little we really know about the people who make headlines. We rely on others for information to build impressions and views about people based on what little we read. At a time when confidence in business to do the right thing is low, particularly on Wall Street, we need to Millennials to help reestablish the trust that has been lost. Business schools are increasing their focus on ethics, but Millennials still need role models to follow.
For example, while I do not know Bill Gates personally, there is no doubt his success at Microsoft and his subsequent philanthropic focus with his foundation cause me to believe he is a true role model. But his life and choices may be difficult to follow for most people.
The question remains: where can Millennials look for role model leaders in business? The answer is closer than you may think.
In my experience, the best role models are people I live and work with on a daily basis. They are the people I encounter who are disciplined, supportive, creative, and insightful. Their values shine through their actions and words. These real Chiefs teach me to act with honesty and integrity, and to work hard to connect what I do to who I am. They teach me to serve others and create fully while always using my values as my best compass. They may not have Chief titles, but they are every bit Chiefs by my definition.
Millennials need not look too far for the right role models. Often, the most influential people in our lives are the ones we truly know and not the ones we think we know based on what we’ve read or what we’ve heard.
Lists are fun, but when it comes down to it, there is so much we don’t know about the people we find in these lists. Given this limitation, we must be thoughtful about whom we choose to emulate. Admiration might best be saved for those we truly know. Perhaps we can turn our focus to the real Chiefs among us common folk. Who are the Chiefs in your life, and when was the last time you let them know it?