Profiles in Leadership
Carl Sagan’s passion for the universe was so huge that the moment Johnny Carson saw him on a Dick Cavett special, he wanted the scientist booked on The Tonight Show. Sagan delivered “a cosmological crash course,” explaining the connection between the history of the universe and the development of life on earth.
Everybody is happy to tell you about the importance of following your passion. Few let it lead their lives. A good example is Phoebe Snetsinger, the first person to see 8,400 species of birds, becoming a hero among birders while battling cancer.
After a diagnosis, patients at the Mayo Clinic meet with a team of specialists who help them understand what’s happening so they can decide about treatment together, says president and CEO Denis Cortese. This kind of teamwork is the stock-in-trade of Cortese, who won last year’s top leadership award from the National Center for Healthcare Leadership.
When he started out, John Mackey just wanted to make a living selling wholesome food. But the founder of Whole Foods Market had been on a quest for some meaning and purpose in life, and Mackey found them in what he calls becoming a “conscious capitalist”—that is, focusing on purpose rather than profit.
The chief purveyor of hip-hop culture saw opportunity everywhere, even in the earliest days of rap. “You’d be happy to work with somebody,” he says, “but nobody wanted to work with you.” Since then, Simmons has made millions launching businesses nobody else believed in across media, fashion and banking, all catering to an underserved market.
In 2005, Gen. David Petraeus understood that the U.S. military’s “seek and destroy” strategy against insurgents in Iraq wasn’t working. So, he rewrote the book … literally. At the heart of his new strategy lie three paradoxes relevant to leaders in all settings who face a formidable challenge (or enemy):