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John Coleman
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Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders
10:31 AM Friday December 30, 2011
by John Coleman and Bill George

As the New Year approaches, people will be making resolutions to eat better, exercise more, get that promotion at work, or spend more time with their families. While these are worthwhile goals, we have a more important challenge for young people: Think seriously about your development as a leader.

These are tough times. Many leaders of the baby boomer generation have failed in their responsibilities by placing their self-interest ahead of their organizations. In so doing, they have failed to serve society's best interests. As a result, more young leaders from Gen X and the Millennials are being asked to take on major leadership responsibilities. To be prepared for the challenges you will face, we propose the following resolutions this New Year's:
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What is purpose? Why – particularly in business – does it matter?

In a recent podcast, Stanford Psychologist Lera Boroditsky spoke about the Kuuk Thaayorre language spoken in the Pormpuraaw aboriginal community in Australia. The Kuuk Thaayorre language does not have relative spatial terms (e.g., “left”, “right”) only terms for “absolute cardinal directions” (e.g., “north”, “south”, etc.).

As an English speaker, I can use the terms “north” and “south”, but I most often orient around myself and use the terms “left” or “right”. When I turn around, “left” turns with me – my sense of space depends on where I stand. If you place me in a dark room and ask me to point “south” I’ll be lost – I’m almost completely unable to identify a direction independent of me.
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John, I didn't know it was your birthday, until I got onto this newfangled website and see other people congratulating you. Well, there seem to be enough of them, so I won't pile on.
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John Coleman

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The recent Occupy Wall Street protests are only the latest of a series of global movements carried out by those who have grown cynical about leadership in business, government, and society.

There is reason for this cynicism. The twenty-first century has been rocked by scandals and failures of leaders in the baby boomer generation. In business, companies like Enron and individuals like Bernard Madoff have broken laws and violated trust. In 2008 financial markets melted down, triggering the Great Recession and costing millions of people their jobs. Governments have failed to demonstrate fiscal responsibility, creating trillions in debt and stifling global growth.

After a decade of problems, it’s not hard to see why people take to the streets or grow distrustful of those who bear responsibility for the troubles we face and who have too often put their self-interest ahead of their institutions.
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Last year, I was fortunate to moderate a fascinating panel discussion with Harvard's Center for Public Leadership on the topic of "Next Generation Leadership." One of the panelists, Rosalinde Torres, encouraged us to ask the following question: "What has made you successful in the past that you need to change to move forward as a leader?"...
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