In his latest work, Akdeniz (MBA 2.0: Master the Most Innovative Ideas in Business, 2013) explains why coolness is the core component of being a great modern leader.
The concept of what it means to be a great leader in business has evolved considerably over time, from robber barons to Rockefellers and beyond. Today’s great leaders, according to Akdeniz, can be summed up in a word: They’re cool. Since coolness can be defined differently by different people, he uses the relatively narrow definition that cool means other people want to be like you. Akdeniz then provides one case study after another of leaders who fit his model of the cool boss. He discusses business leaders, such as Jim Sinegal, the co-founder of Costco, and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com iconic figures, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs; and leaders outside the classic business arena, like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. In each case, Akdeniz provides the leader’s background information and describes how that person exemplifies one or more cool qualities. The guide also touches on how a manager or other leader can adjust her own approach to become cooler and lists 11 qualities that today’s great leaders share, pointing out that even the greatest leader doesn’t have every quality. Instead, modern leaders adopt styles that work in their specific situations and industries. While Akdeniz makes a compelling case for the need for cool, and his case studies are both comprehensive and entertaining, he doesn’t provide much guidance for the boss who wants to improve his own style. His advice boils down to a suggestion to become a confident, forward-thinking, flexible manager, which is a bit like being told to buy low and sell high by a stock adviser.
Akdeniz draws a clear picture of the destination but doesn’t provide much of a road map for getting there.