CEOs Who Inspire

When you think of leaders who inspire you, what qualities do you most admire? What’s the difference between good leadership and great leadership? The kind that moves people to action in ways they never thought possible. Recently, I attended the WTIA Fast Pitch Forum where Tim Draper was the keynote speaker. His previous successes include Skype, Hotmail and Parametric Technologies, just to name a few. He’s founded or co-founded ten venture capital funds and sits on the board of directors for eight technology companies. The guy obviously knows his stuff. It’s probably safe to say he is at least a good leader, but is he great?

My gut says yes. Tim did something during his keynote that I rarely ever see in an executive. He made himself vulnerable to the audience and asked the audience, in turn, to do the same. Tim was able to get a room full of venture capitalists, investment bankers, attorneys and high tech executives to, get this, sing at the end of his speech. Not just a couple of lines, but the entire chorus several times over. We all looked around at each other…singing…pretending that we weren’t really enjoying this trip into unchartered waters but we all kept singing. Why is that?

I think for the 70% of us that sang, it’s because we felt connected and at least a little bit inspired. In the HR work we do, we often encounter executives and managers who struggle with the question of how much of themselves should be shared with staff. Some executives say it’s fear of blurring the line between personal and professional. Others say it’s fear of being “found out”. They don’t want to chance others knowing they don’t have all the answers and aren’t experts in every aspect of the business. But employees don’t leave jobs, they leave people. The more they feel their management team will go out on a limb for them, the more commitment and hard work they demonstrate to the organization. Personal connection is a big piece of the equation. This is what I kept coming back to at the end of Tim’s speech.

Think about the leaders that inspire you. What qualities do they demonstrate? Break this down into specific actions those leaders consistently take. Maybe getting a room full of high powered money makers to support you in a chorus isn’t your cup of tea, but then again maybe it is? Someone recently told me, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. Survival in this economy is all about fresh perspectives and stepping away from the familiar. Are you ready to stray from your comfort zone?

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"My professional passion stems from a fascination with how the individual needs of employees, managers, and the business converge to produce an outcome. I’m driven by a desire to help leaders and employees find the balance between competing needs so they can work together to address the challenges they face."