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He is a strong proponent of improved corporate governance and his record of transparency shows that he holds himself to the same high standards.
The most surprising thing about Buffett's leadership style is its simplicity. He ascribes to no complicated methods or models. He has distilled life down to basic wisdom and uncomplicated axioms. He ascribes much of his success to doing what he loves and being a good person that others like.
He has also emerged as a leader of leaders. Among Buffett's investment criteria is strong leadership. He views leadership as an integral part of success in this world, and ensures that each of his companies is equipped with great leadership talent. He bucks the Wall Street trend of firing leaders who fail to deliver short-term results, preferring to build his investments over the long-term (George, 2006).
What I learned about Warren Buffett is that leadership need not be complicated. Being a great leader is simply being calm, knowledgeable, honest and rational. It is not necessary to make billions to be a great leader; it is more important to love what you do and translate that to your employees.
The simplicity of Buffett's leadership is sometimes hard for others to translate to their own leadership styles. However, if you take his leadership style in total, you can see that the different components come together well. He is able to maintain consistency in his approaches in part because of his emphasis on fundamental knowledge, but also in part due to his humility. For a man who has amassed more wealth than any other human, he is by all accounts a genuine, down-to-earth man who at no point feels as though he has all of the answers. This understanding essentially forces him to maintain his level of knowledge and passion, in order that his leadership continues to deliver the same results in the future as it has in the past.
I feel one of the most difficult things to understand about authentic leaders is that they lead. They may take influence from other leaders, just as Buffett did from Benjamin Graham, but they do not concern themselves with what other people and other leaders are doing. Buffett famously rebuked the dot-com mania for its lack of fundamentals. The temptation must have been there to take the easy money, but his philosophy runs against such gambling. Instead, he rode out the boom with the same aplomb with which he is riding out the current crisis. True leaders know what they wan to do, and what resources it will take to do it. They show the way for others, rather than taking their cue from others. To calmly resist the prevailing trends and ways of doing things takes a lot of courage and a lot of confidence, and it is an essential component of authentic leadership as exemplified in Warren Buffett.
That confidence comes naturally to authentic leaders. His entire life, Buffett has believed in his abilities to recognize quality, to make smart decisions, and to understand the nature of the markets. When he failed, he took it as an opportunity to learn something new about the markets, rather than as a personal rebuke. Buffett has never wavered from his belief in himself and his own abilities, even when he has suffered through significant failures and errors in judgment. This confidence translates to his businesses well, and it is rare that a leadership team approved by Buffett will falter in the long run. Indeed, he prefers to instill his confidence in his subordinate leaders, so that they are empowered to inspire.
I have also learned from studying Warren Buffett the values of patience and consistency. Buffett may engage in continuous learning, but he never allows the events of the day to overrule his core beliefs and values. He believes that he understands the markets and that Graham's approach to market analysis will still be valid a hundred years into the future. By never wavering in the consistency of his approach, Buffett has been able to instill the same calmness and confidence in his employees that he himself carries. This is one of the marks of an authentic leader.
Patience is another one of Buffett's key virtues. The business world today often focuses intently on the short-term, with fortunes won and lost on the basis of quarterly results. Buffett does not take this approach. The executive compensation systems at his companies are geared towards long-term results, rather than quarterly. He even goes so far as to ignore macroeconomic forecasts in his investing decisions (Varchaver, 2008). This belief that the market's performance in the long run will be strongly positive no matter the state of the current economy has helped him to remain calm in the face of crisis, and to maintain the consistency of his actions. The long-term consistency of his actions matches his view of long-term market consistency.
Again, the ability to be patient and allow good people to do the good work that they are capable of is a sign of a strong, authentic leader.
Kennon, Joshua. (2009). Warren Buffett Biography. About.com. Retrieved February 4, 2009 at http://beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/warrenbuffett/a/aawarrenbio.htm
Varchaver, Nicholas. (2008). What Warren Thinks... Fortune Magazine. Retrieved February 4, 2009 at http://money.cnn.com/2008/04/11/news/newsmakers/varchaver_buffett.fortune/
George, Bill. (2006). The Master Gives it Back. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved February 4, 2009 at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/061022/30buffett.htm[continue]
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