Consultants tend to over-rationalize what they see around them. For example, they visit a very successful company and then begin to think that company is successful thanks to to the way it does things. They tend not to consider that the studied company may be successful in spite of many of their practices and behaviors. The consultant then falls in love with their mental schemes and tries to preach these "success secrets" to other companies.
By the time others begin to listen to him, the original studied company is not very successful anymore and the consultant thus ends up preaching from a vacuum.
So, what makes a company successful in the first place?
Let's start by underlining that luck plays a part. However, as Jim Collins states: luck exists but it cannot be a consistent strategy.
Also, let's stress that companies are unique and what works on one might not work at all in another one. Thus there is not even such thing as a "great leader." Ben Horowitz states it this way: "Mark Zuckerberg is a phenomenal CEO for Facebook. He would not be a good CEO for Oracle. Similarly, Larry Ellison does a terrific job at Oracle but he would not be the right person to manage Facebook."
So, what makes a successful business leader? Here is my take although the list is obviously not all inclusive.
- They love winning and they hate, hate, hate losing. In sports the second and the third place may receive a silver or bronze medal. In business the second and third place return home empty handed. The level of adrenaline in business has to be higher than in sports. The successful business leader has this fixation with winning. Ray Kroc said it this way: "I believe in God, family, and McDonald's - and in the office, that order is reversed. If you are running a hundred-yard dash, you aren't thinking about God while you're running. Not if you hope to win. Your mind is on the race. My race is McDonald's."
- Integrity: this is just the ticket to the game. Nothing else to say here.
- Energy and street smarts: they work smart and hard. They set the pace for all the organization.
- Humbleness: They run scared even when they are leading the pack. Andy Grove's version: "only the paranoid survive." And, Frank Wells' version: "as long as you think and act as if you're coming from behind, you have a shot at staying ahead."
- They don't have personal and professional life. They have life. They are always in the race.
- They achieve high levels of engagement from their direct reports and from the rest of the organization.
The more successful a company is and the longer that success lasts, the more difficult it gets to lead that company because the enemy, in the form of complacency begins to attack from within.
In sports the rules of the game stay mostly the same. In business the rules of the game and even the game itself is continually changing thus, only the paranoid survive.
"My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that."
- Alice in Wonderland
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