People love lists - it’s why magazines do so many of them. Top 10, Best of, Most Beautiful, etc. I always read a list by looking for the people and companies I already know, hoping to discover something new about them or to snort in disbelief at how the writer missed the real scoop.
I looked forward to the Crain’s Chicago Business annual "40 Under 40" roundup for weeks. Unlike a lot of magazine lists, this one is directly relevant to my life (yes, I’m under 40, and no, I’m not telling), and the chances of finding personal connections are pretty high.
Sure enough, I saw a molecular geneticist, an actress, the co-director of a charter school and a chief operating officer whom I knew. They’re a disparate bunch, but taken in context with the 37 other listees, common themes emerge:
the willingness to take risks
Now, those are the traits of a leader, regardless of age or industry or city. It’s the rare individual who owns them all in equal abundance, but leadership doesn’t come easy. Continually cultivating those qualities in yourself is as important as possessing them.
You might not know Mason Hearn, president of McGuire Hearns & Tom and Professional Remodeler’s Pinnacle Remodeler of the Year. He took an enormous risk when he left an established commercial construction firm to start a residential remodeling business. He knew that as an architect and a contractor, he had the potential to bridge the gap between design and construction, and felt that his corner of Virginia needed a high-end, extremely service-driven design/build specializing in historical renovation.
Want a grand vision? This is what he wrote to us: "I continue to strive toward the building of a better company that supports our employees as well as our numerous suppliers and trade partners. ... We are committed to building sound, enduring and craft-oriented structures and lasting relationships. On a primary level, we are responding to man’s most basic need for shelter. More deeply, we seek to nourish the soul through the creation of beauty and thereby provide joy to those touched by our work."
But he has his eye on the big picture, too, and that means leaving a legacy for family, community and industry. In troubled times when buildings crumble and wealth vanishes, persisting in the belief that building a great business, donating your time and talent to the people around you, and strengthening your profession all matter means more than ever.