Last year, I blogged a lot about leadership. I read a lot of leadership books. Then I just got completely burnt out on leadership theories. The more I read, the more I realized it's all just one writer's opinion. Very little of it is based on fact. So much of it is contradictory.
I came to the conclusion that all this leadership literature is at the same time bunk and beneficial. There are as many successful leadership styles as there are leaders. There are as many company cultures as there are companies. Theses styles and cultures are fluid and dynamic. They must change to react to both internal and external changes. Today's style might not be effective in tomorrow's world.
However, in order to find your individual style, it is beneficial to read lots of books, blogs, and magazines. Your leadership style may be improved through leadership books, biographies, business books, faith-based books, and so on. But most importantly, you leadership style will be formed by your day-to-day decisions and your ability to accomplish goals. Finally, if you want to be a great leader, hire a great team.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Image via WikipediaI had the fastest recorded 800-meter and placed third at the state meet in the 800-meter race in high school. As I discussed my college options with my track coach, she said it comes down to this: Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond?
Although running a half-mile in under two minutes is a big accomplishment and did well in Kentucky that year, it was mediocre at best. At the college level, everyone one can run a 800 meters in under two minutes. My track coach's point was you can win a lot of races running for a small college or you can be in the middle of the pack at a Division I school.
The business takeaway is that, when it comes to business success, it matters most what race you choose. You can pick a race with a bunch of mediocre runners and win or pick a race that's full of tons of great runners and finish in the middle of the pack. Pick a race that nobody is in and win.
For example, Tony Hsieh founded Zappos.com on that very idea. There was nobody in the online shoe retail business. "Footwear was a $40 billion industry...and 5% of that was being done by paper mail-order catalogs", but nobody was selling shoes online. His company became one of the fastest growing companies in America and quickly grew to $1 billion. He won a race that nobody was in.
However, that was sill only 50% of the potential of the $2 billion of mail-in catalog sales. Some want to credit Zappo's return policy, excellent customer service, culture, or fast delivery. But look at who he was competing against: snail-mail paper catalogs. Seriously, who buys via catalog anymore!? Online footwear retail was the the mediocre race with the fewest runners.
Tony Hsieh used the analogy of a poker table rather than a running race in his book, "Delivering Happiness":
I learned that the most important decision I could make was which table to sit at. This included knowing when to change tables. I learned from a book that an experienced player can make ten times as much money sitting at a table with nine mediocre players who are tired and have a lot of chips compared with sitting at a table with nine really good players who are focused and don't have that many chips in front of them.
In business, one of the most important decisions for an entrepreneur or a CEO to make is what business to be in. It doesn't matter how flawlessly a business is executed if it's the wrong business or if it's in too small a market. (HuffingtonPost.com)