"Lead Me, Follow Me or Get Out of My Way!"
Editor's Note: One of my pet peeves and a quality that I search for but rarely find. Read on and enjoy. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/
Who Said That?
Variously attributed to Thomas Paine, George Patton, and more recently, Ted Turner and Lee Iaccoca, no one, including Saint Google, is sure who actually said it. I think that it is an enduring sentiment and one that is hard to find in America today. The following article by Mark Suster sums it up quite nicely.
It’s hard to be a real leader. Decisions are never black or white, so most people fudge. The straddle middle grounds to keep everybody happy. They make compromises to try and hold together constituencies. On business decisions, they want to hedge their bets so they do a little bit of everything but nothing extremely well.
As highlighted by Brad Garlinghouse years ago in the famous “peanut butter manifesto”— it’s like spreading peanut butter evenly over a piece of bread. And of course fudging never produces world-class results, so many companies suffer from mediocrity.
The problem with hard decisions is that you can never make everybody happy. There is always somebody impacted or somebody who thought “plan B” was better. Leadership is about listening to multiple opinions but in the end trusting your instincts and deciding. Leadership is about not worrying about how people will think about you for hard calls. It is about being willing to be wrong. Leadership, as I’ve pointed out before, is about being respected more than loved.
As somebody fortunate enough to spend time with senior people from our tech and investment sectors I can tell you that even at the upper echelons people struggle to make hard decisions and the people willing to forge difficult paths are few and far between.
It was not a popular decision at all when Steve Jobs chose to open retail stores. People laughed at Google buying YouTube for $1.65 billion. Evan Spiegel was thought an idiot for not selling Snapchat for $3 billion. Netflix was widely criticized for breaking their business in two.
Leaders have well-formed opinions that go against the grain, the temerity to sell their vision to skeptics, the tenacity to stick to their ideas when they are inevitably criticized, the resiliency to w