Transforming How You Grow
Written by Kevin Allen
I caught a piece the other day referring to a high tech executive as “badass”. In gushing terms, it seemed to celebrate a hard-nosed autocracy and by implication it left an impression that a task-oriented ruthlessness was both admirable and a route to business success. I am struck every time I hear this term what a poor role model it implies and how utterly wrongheaded the idea is the first instance. Success in today’s world is based on emotional intelligence, cultural sensitivity, empathy and authenticity…all to the contrary of what the badass notion implies. In the extreme it is a term that provides cultural permission for internal aggression and a host of manifestations that are the ruination of companies.
In a recent study by the globally respected Weber Shandwick, Civility in America, from 2011-2013 showed a 30% increase in American workers reporting that they quit a job because it was an "uncivil" workplace. Badass does not build companies.
I should know, as I cut my teeth at one of the advertising industries most notable badass cultures, McCann Erickson. The currency of McCann was how aggressive you were, opinionated you could be, loud you could argue, and how many swear words you could fit in a sentence. Meetings were contests and debates shouting matches. It was all about who could be the loudest, toughest, scariest, most predatory player, all with a lexicon to go with it. Well, that badass behavior led to its near collapse. In my view a purging of the badass mentality and people who promoted it, was a cornerstone of its renaissance I was a part of and Agency of the Year status that resulted five years later.
Back in the high tech arena following the passing of Steve Jobs, it should not go unnoticed the bravery and authenticity of Tim Cook’s leadership and the propulsion of Apple’s continued success under his emotionally intelligent leadership as well as the addition of Angela Ahrendts, one of the most celebrated CEOs of this era and a person I have had the joy to see at work up close. She is truly the embodiment of 21st century emotionally intelligent leader, who places the careful nurturance of a constructive culture as a centerpiece. Make no mistake: this formidable woman is no shrinking violet. Bold, decisive, creative, of strong opinions and true risk-taker, she is also generous of spirit, inclusive and places a high standard for emotional intelligence in her leadership ranks and leads by uniting people around creating something special. Her mantras are, “We have the power to touch and transform lives,” and “The power of human energy.” It’s a brilliant stroke by Apple, who in my view evidences an urgency that there’s little place for badass in its journey of continued vitality and relevance.
They say pride goeth before the fall. I say badass is the rocket fuel for it.