Five strategies of influential leaders

By Neha Kale

Sheryl Sandberg knows that you can’t second-guess the power of a revolutionary idea. The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, whose 2013 book Lean In is credited with empowering a generation of women to progress in the workplace, is proof that a bold approach to leadership doesn’t just determine the success or failure of a business – it can also influence the way we see the world. 

Sandberg isn’t the only one whose one-of-a-kind leadership style has made her a household name. From Steve Jobs, the legendary tech maverick who revolutionized personal computing, to Angela Merkel, the famously humanitarian German chancellor who featured in the 2015 edition of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, the world’s most remarkable bosses can offer eye-opening insights. Here are five leadership strategies sure to take your business from good to great. 

Teach women the value of ‘leaning in’

“Taking initiative pays off,” writes Sandberg in Lean In, her call to arms for ambitious women to seize opportunities rather than giving in to professional fear. “It is harder to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.” From pioneering Lean In Circles, worldwide gatherings of women who encourage each other to step outside their comfort zone to rallying organizations to let employees balance professional duties with childcare, Sandberg’s passion for creating a more equitable workplace is something we could all stand to learn from. 

Realize that what you don’t do is as important as what you do

Steve Jobs understood that simplicity is a form of genius. When the tech visionary was reinstated as the CEO of Apple in 1997, his decision to abolish a sprawling product range to focus on making just four products that combined user-friendliness with elegant design, was revolutionary. He turned the once-flailing software company into a tech giant that posted revenue of $US234 billion last financial year. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson in 2012. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” It’s also a call to action for businesses to stop attempting to own every segment of the market and invest in what they do best. 

Quit while you’re ahead

Warren Buffet knows a thing or two about damage control. The philanthropist and CEO of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway owes his $US62 billion fortune to a decision-making process that is less interested in maintaining ventures for the sake of ego, than it is in allocating time and resources to future growth. “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks,” Buffet wrote in a 1985 annual report letter that addressed a poorly performing textile mill he acquired for $14 million in the 1960s. It’s a strategy that’s paid off in spades.

Don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions

Angela Merkel believes good leaders need to stand by their values. In August 2015, the German chancellor’s decision to open her country’s borders to refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq – despite its logistical implications – was an inspiring move for any leader that’s ever questioned whether it’s wise to prioritize humanitarianism over the bottom line.

Focus on one person at a time

Mother Theresa is a powerful reminder that good leadership is as much about personal connections as it is about big ideas. The much-loved missionary, who founded Missionaries of Charity, a religious organization that managed hospices and soup kitchens across India, was devoted to the notion that helping one person at a time could help pave the way for major change.

From understanding where to invest your energy to making challenging decisions, the world’s most influential leaders aren’t afraid of rejecting conventional wisdom to bring their vision to the world. They also prove that following your own path might just be the key to greatness – in business as well as in life.