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Bold Leader Spotlight: Howard Hughes – Aviator, Innovator, Industrialist

howard hughes bold leader

The Bold Business Bold Leader Spotlight returns to cast its light on history, with a look at aviator, innovator, and industrialist Howard Hughes. Hughes was born on Christmas Eve in 1905, and his proud parents could not have anticipated the tremendous impact their son would have on the world. Over the course of his lifetime, Hughes would demonstrate a bold leadership that few had witnessed previously. This not only occurred through Hughes’ accomplishments, but it also stemmed from the way he conducted everyday affairs. Without question, he has been one of America’s boldest leaders throughout its history.

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Howard Hughes was a bold leader.
What stands out among Howard Hughes’ accomplishments? The man was certainly an aviation pioneer!

Driven by Results at a Young Age

Bold leadership is often epitomized by a focus on goals and results. These drive bold leaders to accomplish the unthinkable. And for Hughes, this remarkable trait was evident at a young age even before the Howard Hughes corporation existed. As a teen, Hughes describes two major goals that he wished to achieve in his life. The first was to become the world’s best pilot, and the second was to be the world’s best movie producer. While this might seem like any child’s fantasy ambitions, this was not the case for Hughes. These were goals that guided many of his actions throughout his life.

Believe it or not, Hughes became a millionaire while still a teen as well. Unfortunately, his mother passed away when he was only 16 years of age, and his father died when Hughes was 18 years old. As a result, the Hughes Tool Company, worth $1 million, became the first Hughes corporation. And with this fortune, Hughes soon pursued the goals that he had dreamed about for so long. With a focus on attaining his boldest visions, Hughes pursued his vision with passion. And the Hughes corporation dream would certainly follow.

Howard Hughes doing some sort of radio interview
As a bold leader, Hughes did his best to inspire others.

Exuding Confidence in Self and in Others

Shortly after Hughes established the Hughes Tool Company as the first Howard Hughes corporation, he made an important decision. He chose Noah Dietrich, an accountant, to operate the company under Hughes’ bold leadership. As it turned out, this choice was tremendous. Within five years, Dietrich had turned the company into a $75 million entity. By showing such confidence in others, Hughes amassed significant wealth in a short amount of time.

Dietrich was not the only individual in whom Hughes showed confidence. Throughout his career, he often delegated authority to others in whom he trusted. This included other companies outside the Howard Hughes corporation, such as TWA airlines. When Hughes believed TWA was excelling in the airline industry, he purchased a significant share of the company. Though Hughes was often recognized as a lone wolf and a recluse, he was not without the ability to see talents in others. This was actually a notable aspect of his bold leadership.

Hughes was an aviator willing to take risks
Piloting the Spruce Goose was a memorable Hughes accomplishment!

Bold Leadership Through Example and Humility

It is well known that Hughes was determined to be the very best in a number of areas. As part of the Howard Hughes corporation conglomerate, he founded Hughes Aircraft Company, film production companies, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. At the same time, Hughes set his own world records in the process. This included the world’s fastest airspeed record, the fastest transcontinental flight, and the fastest world flight. Hughes was always willing to do whatever it took to achieve the mission. In leading through example, his bold leadership influenced many during his lifetime.

Hughes’s humility in this regard extended into all his projects. One notable example of this bold leadership trait involved an aircraft collaboration project he pursued with the CIA. Named the “Spruce Goose,” Hughes designed and built a flying boat at the end of World war II. However, its size received criticism with officials suggesting Hughes had simply pursued a vanity project. Taking the criticism to heart, Hughes humbled himself and flew the Spruce Goose himself. While this was the only flight the vessel would take, it demonstrated Hughes’ humility as a leader.

Championing Change for a Better Society

Hughes was quite powerful in championing change during his lifetime. As already described, his innovations in aviation set records and prompted the evolution of commercial flights. Likewise, the Howard Hughes corporation also included a film production studio, and his achievements here are noteworthy as well. Some of his films received Oscar nominations, and a film he produced at age 21 received an Academy Award. And later in his life, he invested heavily in Las Vegas modernizing the city into what it has become today. His bold leadership embraced these types of changes and made commitments to see them through.

Hughes ultimately died in 1976 after years as a recluse. But despite this less than spectacular ending, he was the epitome of bold leadership. And when he died, the Howard Hughes corporation was worth $1 billion. To this day, Howard Hughes remains an inspiration to millions for the bold leadership he consistently exhibited.

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