Bob Miano's Blog

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Measuring the Impact of Transformative Leaders

This article appears as the fourth part of a blog series on transformative leadership, published ahead of the Harvey Nash Leadership Lecture with Rudy Giuliani on March 4th 2014.

My blog series on transformative leadership has explored the leadership traits that are found in groundbreaking figures, including the importance of mentorship and the need for tenacity to impact lasting change.

In my final blog post before our exciting leadership lecture with former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, I wanted to explore how we measure the impact of transformative leaders.

Throughout history a select band of leaders become recognized as transformative. The winner-take-all environment of our political system provides many examples of individuals who loom large to this day.

Presidential cousins Theodore Roosevelt, President 1901-1909, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, President 1933-1945, are two such American leaders, both described as transformative by many commentators. They inherited one America at the start of their tenure in our highest office, and left a fundamentally transformed, stronger, America in their wake.

Teddy Roosevelt was noted for his exuberant personality, a varied career as author, naturalist, explorer, historian, and politician, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement. Surprisingly, for a Republican President born into a wealthy New York financial family, he became known for his achievements in trust busting and increased regulation of businesses in the face of rampant industrialization.

In November 1904 he was reelected in a landslide based on his "Square Deal" domestic policies, promising a fair deal to the average citizen while breaking up monopolistic corporations, holding down railroad rates, and guaranteeing quality standards of food and drugs. He was the first president to speak out on conservation, and he greatly expanded the system of national parks and national forests.

Through sheer force of personality Theodore Roosevelt is widely recognized to have left America a fairer, more entrepreneurial and environmentally conscious country after his time as President.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic depression and global war. Energized by his personal victory over polio, FDR's persistent optimism and activism contributed to a renewal of the national spirit after becoming President during the depths of the Great Depression in 1932.

As World War II loomed, FDR supervised the mobilization of the U.S. economy to support the Allied war effort. Unemployment dropped to 2% and the industrial economy grew rapidly. Manufacturing output doubled, railroads strained to move new products to market. FDR dominated the American political scene not only during the 12 years of his presidency, but also for decades afterward, he is consistently rated by scholars as one of the top three U.S. Presidents, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Both Roosevelt's became national leaders at critical times, they had strong personalities forged out of personal tragedies, and while their leadership was shaped by global forces both also used their prodigious leadership skills to affect measurable change in America; from economic boom to military strength, environmental protection and American consumerism, the measurable impact of a transformative President is clear.

However, business leaders can also have a clear and measurable transformative impact on their organization, as well as the wider business sector where they operate, in some cases creating entire new industries that power the global economy for decades to come.

In January 2000, Steve Ballmer was named Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft and for the next 13 years Microsoft's annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, while its net income increased 215 percent to $23 billion. Its gross profit is now double that of Google or IBM. Ballmer's ascent as a transformative business leader was shaped by hard work and vigorous academic pursuit, embracing an element of risk taking in his personal career and his institutional management style.

Ballmer's transformative impact is similar in tone to the career of Carly Fiorina, a previous Harvey Nash Leadership Lecture keynote speaker. As chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005 Fiorina was considered one of the most powerful women in business. Fiorina led the groundbreaking merger with Compaq, which made HP the world's largest personal computer manufacturer.

Ballmer and Fiorina were among the pioneers with the right mix of skills and leadership traits to transform an emergent information technology industry during the late twentieth century. They left their businesses as multi-billion dollar institutions, employing tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and around the world. The impact of their transformative leadership can be measured not only in dollars on a balance sheet but in how their companies changed the way we go about our everyday lives.

Our speaker on March 4, 2014 at the Harvey Nash Leadership Lecture is Rudy Giuliani. His distinguished career is defined by public service. In 1993, Giuliani succeeded in one of the few races that Teddy Roosevelt sought but failed; Giuliani was elected Mayor of New York City. In 1997, he was re-elected with 57% of the vote in a city in which Democrats outnumbered Republicans five to one. Under Giuliani's leadership, overall crime was cut by 56%, murder was cut by 66%, and New York City--once considered the crime capital of the country--became the safest large city in America.

History will recognize Giuliani's transformative leadership from his achievements measured during the course of his career. Like Ballmer, Fiorina, and the Roosevelt Presidents, Giuliani's early life and career placed him in a transformative leadership role at a defining moment. On September 11, 2001 he narrowly missed being crushed when the World Trade Center towers fell while he was personally responding to the crisis.

As I have said before, his leadership in the following days, weeks, and months placed Rudy in a vaulted category of leaders that, in my opinion, few will ever reach. Reassuring, pragmatically tough, and inspiring in equal measure, Rudy rallied the city and the country around him while it was reeling from a body blow.

Transformative leaders who operate on the world stage, like Giuliani, Ballmer, Fiorina, and the Roosevelt's, can teach us all how to be better transformative leaders in our own organizations. When I assumed responsibility for our Harvey Nash USA offices in 2004 we were a collection of diverse and disparate acquisitions, trying to compete in an undifferentiated fashion with some of the giants in the talent recruitment industry.
I realized that for us to survive, and then grow, we needed to do something different to adapt to a globalizing market for talent. I knew we had to develop a strategy to provide us with a capability to run faster and jump higher than our biggest competitors, focused on the betterment of our client's globalized outlook.

At the time, the Harvey Nash Group had just acquired a Vietnamese off-shoring business in a country where there was a most concerted program of producing SMET graduates. My idea was to utilize this burgeoning supply of hard-working and highly-skilled Harvey Nash talent, operating in time zones conducive to the sourcing of candidates overnight, so when our recruiters switched on their mobile devices in the morning, they would have vetted resumes ready to assess and share with clients.

At first, this change was a most unpopular idea. My U.S. staff envisioned the use of 'outsourced recruiters' would diminish their own role. However, as unpopular as the concept initially was I knew it was the right approach for our business, and our clients. In a fast-changing market we had to transform or die.

As it turns out this transformative staffing model has had the desired effect. Our company has prospered. Our expert recruiters are able to dedicate more time to their clients by working closely with their Vietnamese colleagues to source the best candidates faster than ever before. Our U.S. teams have grown to accommodate higher demand in our services, and our U.S. based clients are recruiting the best talent hours, days or weeks ahead of their competitors.

Learning the lessons from transformative leaders like Rudy Giuliani I feel we have transitioned our own business model to compete in a globalized market, to the benefit of our three important stakeholders: our clients, our candidates, and our own staff.


The 2014 Harvey Nash Leadership Lecture with Rudy Giuliani, at The Plaza Hotel, New York on March 4, 2014, is an invitation-only event. If you are interested in learning more, please email your details to Huong Thai,