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Where is my John Wayne?
Where is my prairie song?
Where is my happy ending?
Where have all the cowboys gone?


This week, I found myself doing two things this Phoenix Suns fan never thought she would:

  1. Crying over a Los Angeles Laker
  2. Dreaming of being a Los Angeles Laker fan

That is because Dr. Jerry Buss, who bought the Lakers in 1979 and proceeded to win 10 NBA World Championships, introduced the idea of team dancers to NBA games (including Paula Abdul!), branded the “Showtime Lakers” and was among the biggest driving forces of the explosion of NBA across the globe, passed away at age 80.

While thinking of the true impact he has had on not only my life, but the lives of people like Magic Johnson and Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, I found myself also thinking of three other sports leaders we’ve lost in recent years – the Oakland Raiders’ sometime-infamous Al Davis, the New York Yankees’ George Steinbrenner and Baltimore Ravens’ founder Art Modell – which led me to thinking, “Where HAVE all the cowboys gone?”

Leadership books teach us about general “rules” for being a good leader in any industry, and all generally include some advice on:

  • Visioning
  • Coaching
  • Supporting
  • Empowering
  • Communicating


But, as Frank Sinatra said best, while true innovative leaders in this world may possess one or more general leadership characteristics, they also tend to live more by the philosophy of “I Did It My Way” above all else. To me, all of these leaders above – who dared to buck trends, stand up to higher powers and ask forgiveness not permission – were true outliers to general rules and standards of leadership.

I guess you could say they have a “cowboy” leadership style.

But this begs the question – are there any cowboys left? Do we live in a world too scared of lawsuits and too bogged down by mounting reactive duties for any real cowboys to emerge?

Certainly, in the sports world, the Dallas’ Cowboys (aptly named) Jerry Jones and perhaps the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban could be considered business cowboys still leading today, but even recent cowboy leaders like Arizona’s own Dr. Bob Parsons seem to be slowly “getting out of the saddle” and moving toward more traditional leadership roles.

What do you think – can anyone find me any cowboys out there?

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio


  1. Scott Hanson says:

    In business, almost any entrepeneur could be considered a cowboy. They bet it all and ride the range to make it happen. Some are more conventional than others, but all play an essential role in our economy, whether they become the next Mark Zuckerman or the successful local restaurateur. Yee Haw!

  2. No, no more cowboys. And far fewer effective leaders.

    Leadership is no longer popular because following is no longer popular. We’ve become a nation that supports and encourages “everybody has an equal voice” without regard to expertise or ability.

    We’ve become enamored with the theory of consensus- making everybody happy.

    Consensus is the lack of leadership.

  3. Stephanie Lough says:

    I want to know where has Paula Cole gone?

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