Gandhi and Mandela and Churchill and JFK and Reagan and Thatcher and Sarkozy and Franklin and Washington set the tone to an incredible degree-their "personal style" was their "brand." ("It" starts with personal style of the tip-top leadership team. Sorry to be politically insensitive, but who would give a hoot about Tibet if it weren't for the look and style of the Dalai Lama?) Boss at any level: You're either on the "it" boat-or not.
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Authority never matches responsibility. That's one of the great myths and delusions of all times. Winning managers and individual performers at all levels know that effectiveness means building your own network and creating your own authority. Those who succeed always reach far beyond formal deputation, take initiatives, and take the heat when things go awry. That's true in the military in times of war, true for 200 person manufacturing firms, and true at giant automakers or software companies.
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Community. A friend started a real estate brokerage a few years ago. By the time she'd added her second employee, she was a pillar of her 35,000-person community. No rule says that only the local banker or car dealer can organize the program to raise supplemental funds for the public library or send the high school band on a well-earned special trip. Participating in community affairs, with time more than dollars, is good business from day one. It gets your name around, adds to your distinctiveness, and, best of all, makes you an attractive employer (which is the key to sustained success).
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The 10 or 12 artists I have known really well all my life are at least as competitive as professional athletes. They may express it in slightly different terms, but you look at the Jackson Pollocks et al., and they are as interested in wall space in the galleries as Joe Montana is in the percentage of completed passes. So the notion that symphonic conducting, or stage play, or pure art, is not a competitive business is real bullshit.
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My half-baked reading of history is that we continue to go through these waves of entrepreneurial explosion followed by merger mania and consolidation. Out of that come big sluggish companies that eventually collapse under the weight of what they've created, and are killed off by the next wave of entrepreneurs.
The Chinese are quite entrepreneurial. Remember when Lenovo bought IBM's PC division. It was said that China didn't need a brand name, China didn't need to buy Lenovo to get into the PC business, I remember reading a one-liner somewhere which struck me as quite possibly true, it said the one thing that the Chinese had not been able to copy or figure out was the way, in terms of systems, that Americans - it probably would be true for Europeans as well - that Americans install and live by their management systems, while China is still quite half-assed. Perhaps that is a true statement.
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Power lies in the details, and the tenacious pursuit of such hidden levers can pay off enormously. While you don't want to get a reputation as a prissy worrywart, worrying about the details in private is important. You may think you are the world's greatest speaker, but if the auditorium's sound system is singing static - well, forget it.
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It boils down to studenthood-in-perpetuity / curiosity-in-perpetuity / applied fanatic restlessness. That is, a belief that life is ONE BIG LEARNING EXPERIENCE. Something mysterious happens to a curious, fully engaged mind - and it happens as often as not, subconsciously. Strange little sparks are set off, connections made, insights triggered. The results: an exponentially increased ability to tune up / reinvent / WOW-ize today's project at work.
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Obviously, despite hard work and heroic efforts, many dreams don't come true. But if we don't dare to dream and then throw muscle, heart, and soul into making the dream come true, then WoW Projects-and all of the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and financial riches that they bring will surely NOT be our lot in life!
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Winston Churchill said that appetite was the most important thing about education. Leadership guru Warren Bennis says he wants to be remembered as 'curious to the end.' David Ogilvy contends that the greatest ad copywriters are marked by an insatiable curiosity 'about every subject under the sun.'
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Champions are pioneers, and pioneers get shot at. The companies that get the most from champions, therefore, are those that have rich support network so their pioneers will flourish. This point is so important it's hard to overstress. No support systems, no champions. No champions, no innovations.
To grasp organizational life as it is, read novels (!) .... It is my fervent belief that we will never design rational processes that "overcome" such irregularities-don't bother telling that to a consultant. Hence, we should embrace the real, nonrational, nonlinear world with vigor and glee-and develop enterprise and career strategies accordingly.
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Oh Lord, there it is again. The question;" What kind of business should I start?" Incidentially, it has a twin that also sets me off: "What should I specialize in during the second year of my MBA studies?" Sorry, but those are two of the most profoundly upsetting questions anyone can ask - upsetting because the answer should be obvious: Do what turns you on, not what the statistics say is best.