Can a hairstyle change the world?
I just read in The New York Times that an icon, Vidal Sassoon, a hairdresser by trade, died at age 84. Of course, last October, the world paused when we learned that Steve Jobs, a computer genius by trade, died.
When we think about these men, while each was an expert at his craft – each was a visionary. The headline on Sassoon called him a “trendsetter.” Jobs too was a trendsetter.
Two people, one in fashion and one in technology, changed the way we look at the world -- and the way we look.
I noted these two because each was a practitioner that transcended his industry as a leader that reshaped our world.
To me, that is extraordinary leadership. And we have found, in having had the honor of interviewing some of the great leaders of our time, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, William Clay Ford, Jr. and others, that leadership is elusive.
But all great leaders have one thing in common: they are able to make others “believe.” Believe in the mission. Believe in the cause.
What none of the great leaders have in common is how they get others to believe. How different could Sassoon be from Jobs? Or the management style of William Clay Ford, Jr. compared to Michael Bloomberg?
I have written that the great leaders are able to do the following: 1) anticipate what is next, 2) navigate the organization, 3) communicate a vision, or purpose, of the organization, 4) listen to what matters and take action, 5) learn from all of those around them and synthesize the learning into action, and finally 6) lead by determining what is next for the organization and usually be right.
But the greatest leaders can see what the world wants before the world knows. Did we know that we wanted an iPhone before Steve Jobs showed us we did? Or did women in the late 1950s and early 1960s know that they wanted their hair cut into geometric shapes and sharp angles in new styles that would do away with hairsprays and the stiff hairstyles that went with them?
Jobs made a phone and music device a fashion item. Sassoon created a revolutionary fashion look that arrived before a social revolution in the 60s. The point was that each was ahead of his time, just in time. Just in time for the world to be waiting for what they invented.
This is the stuff that they don’t teach you in books. But it is also the stuff that we will be studying and writing about in this blog at the Korn/Ferry Institute. Because we are on an endless search to find those next great leaders.
The leaders that change a company, changes lives, and change the world.