Profiles in Leadership: Bill Taylor

This Profiles in Leadership conversation with Bill Taylor on September 24, 2020 was hosted by the Wake Forest Program for Leadership and Character, the ZSR Library, and the Allegacy Center for Leadership and Character.

Bill Taylor is the author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways. He founded Fast Company magazine. Some key messages from his conversation include a discussion of the spirit of possibility: to consider what you can unleash in your organization through being an innovator, challenging conventions, and bringing others along. To do this, one has to release control. Leaders need to behave as leaders by being someone others can learn from, being relatable, and approachable.

Leadership advice to young business professionals:

  • Demonstrate the courage to challenge conventions, counter the competition, and risk creating something new.
  • A leader’s purpose focuses on serving others or contributing to something greater (being a missionary) vs. enhancing themselves or organizations (being a mercenary).
  • Leadership is a team sport (including shared leadership).
  • Bring energy and passion – presence to all initiatives.
  • Leaders need to be persistent to persevere to achieve goals.
  • Be steadfast in ideas and commitments and flexible in the execution (adjust to changes).
  • Leaders need to set the example to shape the desired culture.
  • Be inclusive to tap into the collective wisdom of the team and diverse ideas.
  • Leaders need to be results oriented while being
  • Service focus to leadership is important for leaders’ character – develop people, the organization, and have big impact.
  • Create a big vision and goals to make a real difference.
  • Ensure you take on projects or initiatives that align with your core values, organization’s values, and/or purpose.

When interviewing leaders:

  • Do your research on media.
  • Ask leading questions to get person talking.
  • Listen closely but be thinking about next set of questions.
  • Search for crucible experiences that shape the leader or scenes, or settings.
  • Ask for a break to collect your thoughts.
  • Be flexible to explore areas not anticipated.
  • Ask about tough decisions and how the person made them – contrary to peers.
  • Ask about mistakes or do overs.
  • Tape and transcribe the interview – listen to the tape