Profiles in Leadership

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Bell Labs was among the most innovative scientific organizations of the 20th century. The man at the helm was Mervin Kelly, a physicist who led the laboratory. Follow his lead for inventing the future.

Growing up, no one considered Harry Truman a leader. He was a kid with thick glasses who mostly stayed home, working the farm or reading. But the course of his life changed when he entered the Army during World War I. One rainy night, he faced a moment of true terror.

How did a young man from Cocoa Beach, Fla.—a place not known as a surfing haven—become the greatest surfer of all time? Luck? No, unbelievable drive and determination.

Actor Michael J. Fox, 30 years old when he began dealing with Parkinson’s disease, has now written three best-selling books and raised $285 million for Parkinson’s research as well as continuing his acting career. His life offers three ways to continue leading despite adversity.

Comedian Drew Carey, part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team, has a novel idea: Let fans vote on management. He got the idea from Spanish teams whose fans vote on key members of the club’s front office.
When David Cote took the reins at Honeywell in 2002, the company was still reeling from a series of unfortunate events. Having trained under GE’s Jack Welch, Cote began the task of forming a new Honeywell culture.

“I have a theory that burnout is about resentment,” Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer says. “And you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful. I tell people: Find your rhythm."

Knowing, beyond a doubt, what customers want requires a zealous commitment to metrics. And no one commits better than Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Here’s what a “culture of metrics” has allowed Bezos to do as a leader.

Do you rely on your “golden gut” when making decisions? Or do you believe that other people in your organization have expertise or opinions that can help make your decisions better? Greg Burrill, owner and founder of home-builders WGB Homes, is in the second camp.

Peter Diamandis, who runs the X Prize Foundation, believes we’re on the cusp of a “world of abundance.” As he sees it, “abundance” is about creating a life of possibility. And he views the biggest, most foreboding topics­—water scarcity, climate change, population explosion—in terms of that possibility.

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