Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

The Controversial Leadership Qualities of Tony Stark

Hello everyone, I hope your week is going well.  My summer has gotten off to a good start and for once I’ve found a few opportunities to travel which should be fun.  Being broke has hindered that the last few summers and it will definitely be refreshing after so long without a good vacation.  Today I wanted to talk about Tony Stark as a controversial example of company leadership.  I was inspired to write this after reading an article about this by someone else, but I have a slightly different opinion than her.

Dana Theus wrote a blog post called “Iron Man for CEO?” in which she talks about whether or not she thinks Tony Stark would be a good CEO.  She believes that people like the character of Tony Stark because he represents the arrogant, maverick and bad-boy type CEO.  However, those same qualities make her think that most people would actually dislike working for him.  In a survey she referenced, the qualities that Tony Stark has are seen as bad qualities in a CEO.  She goes on to point at that the same study showed that people valued these supposedly feminine qualities more:

  • Connectedness: Form/maintain human connections.
  • Humility: Listening, learning, sharing credit.
  • Candor: Willingness to speak openly and honestly.
  • Patience: Recognize that some solutions emerge slowly.
  • Empathy: Sensitivity to others that promotes understanding.
  • Trustworthiness: Track record and character that inspires confidence.
  • Openness: Being receptive to all people and concepts.
  • Flexibility: Ability to change and adapt as circumstances require.
  • Vulnerability: The courage to be human and make mistakes.
  • Balance: A well-rounded sense of purpose.

She sums this up by saying that all of these qualities imply that employees value stability and emotional intelligence in their leaders more.

However, I feel that there are some good qualities that Tony Stark has as well.  While it may not easy to define, I think it can be summed up in four basic qualities.  His biggest asset is that he can come up with a plan, present it to others well and motivate other people to help him execute that plan.  The second quality that he is completely involved and up-to date in his field of science and technology which is important for the leader of any company.  The third quality he has is that he engages people.  He may not always be perfectly tactful or politically correct; but when he is talking, telling a story, conversing with anyone – he captures their attention and can capitalize on that.  And the last quality is that he gets excited and energized by leading people, and this pushes him to work hard in his field.

It is my opinion that the optimum CEO does all of these on some level.  Clearly, it would be rare for a CEO to have all of the qualities listed above to a strong level.  However, it is my opinion that a good CEO makes sure that either he or other people in upper management can provide all of these qualities because they are all essential.  An employee needs a leader that can be empathetic and humble in their relations, but they also need someone to make strong predictions, clear expectations, well formulated plans, and provide inspiration.  It is my opinion that a high quality CEO would create an environment where an employee sees all of these qualities of the company through at least one person in the first couple tiers of management.  What is your opinion on what is required of a leader?  Do you have any good examples of CEO’s who are good leaders?  Have a good week! 🙂


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