When I was in the tenth grade, I wanted to be an engineer. I was good at math and science, so I figured it was the best course of action. Then I watched the movie The Internship, and everything changed. For those of you who haven’t seen that movie, firstly I sincerely recommend it. Secondly, it’s about two middle aged men who take on an internship at Google, played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Although it is a movie, it gave me the first look at the affect that innovation has on a business, and when the workers are motivated to constantly improve themselves and the world around them, how easy success seems. That movie inspired me to go into business, and to hopefully one day be the kind of change driven leaders that can inspire engineers to go into business. So I guess you could say that Larry Page’s ideas changed my life. Considering Owen Wilson is the main character in the movie, you could also say that he changed my life equally, but we’ll stick with Larry Page.
Over this past year we’ve seen how strong the desire for change is. From the Brexit to Trump’s election to presidential office, people want to see change in leadership positions. This isn’t a purely political trend. Today, a successful business needs to manage the constant overlap between innovation, responsibility and desire to drive change. Traditional leadership styles favoured by many organizations and companies are constantly being challenged by innovators such as Google, Zappos and Facebook. At the head of these innovative companies are leaders that prioritize their employees and fostering a positive and inclusive culture.
Behind every innovative and creative business is a leader who values change above most things. The style of leadership employed by the leaders of these trailblazing companies can best be described as change leadership. The ideas behind change leadership are simple. These leaders value their employees’ individuality and ideas.
It is often said that a business’s largest asset is their talent, the people that work for them. Change leaders strive to inspire the people that they are leading, and to create a culture where their employees enjoy going to work. There’s a reason why Google is ranked as Fortune’s best company to work at. Google’s management is receptive to every employees’ personal needs, whether that be working from home or exercising in the middle of the day.
Not only do change leaders care about their people, they also care about the environment. Social corporate responsibility is becoming increasingly popular, and a company’s image is largely drawn from its level of environmental responsibility. An excellent example of this is Facebook, a company I’m sure you’re all very familiar with. As reported in Forbes, Facebook is going to great lengths to implement renewable energy sources into its data centers, which use massive amounts of energy. I believe Mark Zuckerberg, who is almost synonymous with innovation, genuinely believes in the importance of green energy. That makes him an excellent example of a change leader.
While doing all of this, change leaders aim to inspire. They aim to inspire others around them, whether that be the people working for them or the community. These leaders are transformational, meaning they have a vision for their company. They want to transform and grow the company, not to make a profit, but because they care. Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos embodies this philosophy. Employees are hired largely on one thing, Yes, they look at their qualifications and experience, but the main thing they look for is shared vision. Hsieh’s vision for Zappos is providing an unique customer experience, and connecting with the consumer on a more personal level. In the past, Zappos has sent flowers to a customer whose mother had recently passed away. I can’t think of more personalized customer service if I tried.
Yes, I did just write an entire piece inspired by a movie that I watched three year ago, but there is an important message here. The new generation of business leaders are going to demand change even more so than in the year we just saw. They want to be seen as different and valued and important. I went into business because I believe that I would be more than just an employee. I wanted to have the chance to make a positive impact on the world. There won’t be a way for people like me to do that unless leaders start adapting to the changing business landscape by changing their leadership style. 21st century leaders care about more than the bottom line. They care about sustainability, creativity, and inspiring the people that work for them.