Happy 4th of July: The 21st Century Independent Leader

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The 21st Century

Independent Leader


First published in Jossey-Bass Business Leader, July 2, 2013.

Fourth of July Holiday message from our CEO, Bob Rosen:

America’s Independence

When we celebrate the Fourth of July, we do more than commemorate our collective independence and birth as a nation. We also honor the independent leaders and thinkers who willed America into existence 237 years ago. 

I live and work in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the District of Columbia. From my office window, I can see the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the distance—testaments to the leadership of our Founding Fathers. From the beginning, the notion of independence has been at the very heart of our national identity, a direct and enduring legacy of our first, strong-willed leaders.

The Independent Leader

The feeling of independence is very important to our personal and professional development—it gives us a sense of who we are; it makes us distinct from others; it gives us the confidence and courage to share our ideas and to speak openly.  A certain level of independence is required for us to function as healthy, productive adults.

Whether in the public sector, business or the military, leaders must work hard at being independent thinkers and problem solvers while grappling with common yet complex questions:

  • How do we stay independent while connecting to something much bigger than ourselves — a team, an organization, a local or global community?
  • How do we acknowledge the growing interdependence of our economies, ecologies and ideologies while promoting independent thinking and innovation?

This is the essential tension of the American character:  We must be strong and self-reliant yet vulnerable and collaborative as we work to build and sustain a sense of community. To successfully balance this tension, what must a healthy, 21st century leader do? Here are some time-tested practices that worked well for Washington and Jefferson over 200 hundred years ago. Based on our work with top leaders and executives, I know that they’re just as effective today:

Be emotionally detached from outcomes. This enables you to innovate in a fast-moving, uncertain and competitive world. It allows you to make hard decisions about people, for their own sake and for the sake of your organization.

Be willing to take risks and make mistakes. Have the courage and honesty to say “I made a mistake” when you screw up, and resolve to do better next time.

Retain your autonomy and your power. Leaders need to be resilient and bounce back in the face of adversity. Developing this strength allows you to pursue your goals and cultivate the confidence to shape your environment.

Be 100% committed and 100% detached. It may sound crazy, but commitment is the foundation of your success as a leader. Detachment is the safety valve, making sure your emotions don’t carry you away.

Be good at compromise and collaboration.  If you are an island of self-interest, you will struggle to build teams and relationships.

Now get detached and commit to enjoying the holiday—in your very own and independent way!


How is your Intellectual Health? Find out by taking the Healthy Leader Assessment.


Happy Fourth of July from all of us at Healthy Companies!


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Now a New York Times Bestseller – Grounded by Bob Rosen





About the Author

Bob Rosen, Ph.D.

Bob Rosen, Ph.D.

Bob Rosen is founder and CEO of Healthy Companies and author of 8 best-selling leadership books, including Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World, a New York Times bestseller, and Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life, a Washington Post bestseller. At Healthy Companies, we help develop leaders at all levels to improve their health, well-being, potential and performance.


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