Michael Bloomberg represents the best of leadership in the modern era. He built one of the finest companies of the information age and actually did it the old-fashioned way by keeping Bloomberg LLC privately held. Though building a global company, and with it a $20 billion personal fortune, could have been plenty of accomplishment for one life, he ran for Mayor of New York and accomplished the feat in 2001.
While every politician has his/her detractors, most would consider his two terms as mayor to have been a smashing success. He tamed the multi-billion dollar city deficit and took on tricky issues like banning smoking and committing the city to environmental sustainability. While serving as mayor, he personally pumped about a billion dollars into charities as a perennial member of America's top ten philanthropists. And local New Yorkers know that his philanthropy goes much deeper than just writing checks. He both recruits other wealthy New Yorkers to philanthropic lives and rolls up his own sleeves to paint houses and serve in community centers.
A s the credit crisis deepened in the fall of 2008, devastating the financial services sector in NYC, rather than shrugging his shoulders, letting his term end in 2009, and dumping in his successor's lap the problem of stabilizing and rebuilding the New York City economy, Bloomberg decided to challenge (successfully it turned out) the two-term limit on his job in order to run for re-election in 2009.
The move was divisive - many accused him of shamelessly hanging on to power. I see it differently. I see a 66-year old-business titan, successful politician and spectacular philanthropist with nothing left to prove who understood the depth of the challenge and his own capabilities, and recognized that he is the best man for the job. To me, that is not arrogance; that is leadership.
And I love the signal he is sending: business, government and philanthropy aren't separate worlds divorced from one another. They have important commonalities and synergies that should be reinforced not minimized. And the very best leaders can contribute in all three. More should, and probably will, follow his lead.
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