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.
I imagine a school system that recognizes learning is natural, that a love of learning is normal, and that real learning is passionate learning. A school curriculum that values questions above answers...creativity above fact regurgitation...individuality above conformity.. and excellence above standardized performance..... And we must reject all notions of 'reform' that serve up more of the same: more testing, more 'standards', more uniformity, more conformity, more bureaucracy.
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The principal reason, invariably, most "successful" giant companies rather quickly become also-rans, or just amorphous blobs on the competitive landscape, is their failure to re-tool in anything like a fundamental way. In fact, the worse things get, typically, the more they dig in their heels and defend yesterday's turf.
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Like it or not - and often we don't - power is a pervasive phenomenon. From midnight decisions in the Oval Office that risk the lives of young Americans to quarrels over the kitchen table, power is part of every human equation. Yes, it can be - and often is - abused, in business as in all arenas of endeavor. But it can also be used to do great good for great numbers. And as a career-building tool, the slow and steady (and subtle) amassing of power is the surest road to success.
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One reason (among many) that women may well take over the world of "virtual enterprises" is that they seem to have a greater instinct for networking. And the unfettered-by-machismo males who have taken to networking will do better than those who shun it as "sissy stuff." But truth is, it has always been the age of "networkers"; and in an era where organizations depend more and more on tenuously connected outsiders to get the job done, it will only become so.
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Anybody who is an entrepreneur is a person who essentially has impaired judgment. The odds of success are zilch. This valley is loaded to the gills with a whole lot of totally insane people who honest to God believe that they can be the next Bill Gates or the next Scott McNealy. And that is genuinely stupid.
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Steve Jobs is perhaps the most competitive human being I have ever met in my life, and yet I would argue one of the most artistic human beings I have ever met in my life. You can trash the movies all you want, but they do have an artistic component. And yet brutal competition knows no peers when it comes to Hollywood.
Business, life itself, is damned hard work if you wanna be good at it. Actually, that's precisely wrong. Business ceases to be work when you're chasing a dream that has engorged you. ("Work should be more fun than fun" - Noel Coward.) And if the passion isn't there. then biotech and plumbing will be equal drags.
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