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Moxie: When the situation calls for bold and gutsy

November 14, 2014

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Moxie. It’s an old-school word that either means a brand of soda or the sort of patois that brings to mind 1930s gangsters.

For author John Baldoni, however, moxie means a decisive kind of management style. His new book, Moxie: The Secret To Bold And Gutsy Leadership (Bibliomotion), actually uses the letters of the word to spell out what he means.

  • M stands for mindfulness
  • O for opportunity
  • X for the X factor
  • I for innovation
  • E for engagement

Baldoni, an expert on leadership topics, says he began to think about moxie in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. He notes that a survey the following year showed that 46 percent of senior managers doubted that their CEOs had a credible plan to deal with the crisis, while half of those surveyed believed their companies lacked the leadership to carry it out.

“This lack of confidence did not come from rank and file employees, but rather from the senior-most leaders of organizations. That’s pretty damning,” Baldoni writes.

Post-crash, he found that the leaders who steered their company back to prosperity did so by making “tougher, wiser choices, and moving forward in hard times.” In short, they had moxie.

Baldoni, who can be found on Twitter @JohnBaldoni,  cites a list of four attributes of leaders with moxie.

Fire. Leaders with moxie have passion. They need to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Drive. These leaders have ambition. They will make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. And, they want others to share in good fortune.

Resilience. Folks with moxie know how to pick themselves up after a fall. “They have known defeat, and it does not scare them.”

Street smarts. Finally, these leaders know how the world works. They know how to read people. They are pretty savvy when it comes to negotiating.

These aren’t just traits that describe CEOs. They also can make a great newsroom manager, or a good editor, or even a strong reporter.

Baldoni’s book is aimed at a management audience, but is also a gold mine for business journalists. It has some great tips that might help business journalists who regularly interview CEOs and senior managers. For each of his moxie definitions, he offers a series of questions that could be useful when preparing for an interview.

When it comes to mindfulness, Baldoni would ask, “What gets you up in the morning, and why?” For opportunity, he would ask, “How are you succeeding in your search for new opportunities?”

Moxie, the book, abounds with stories about CEOs that Baldoni considers to demonstrate moxie, which is another great source of story ideas. It closes with a Moxie Handbook, meant to make the idea work for managers. But, the concepts are good for keeping journalists on their toes, too.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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