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Thoughts on Business Leadership

 

Thoughts on Business Leadership

by Carol L. Fatuzzo and Ennio Fatuzzo

Liderazgo

 

There are all kinds of leadership found in all walks of life, and much has been written about what comprises good or exceptional leadership.

For example, our book “The Death of the Julia Division1” is a moving memoir illustrating the struggles of military leadership. It chronicles the agony of a man who doesn’t believe the war he is fighting is justified but fights as hard as he can; the anger of an officer who knows that his superiors are making poor decisions from a remote location but still must follow the resulting orders; and the commitment of a leader who does his best in impossible circumstances for his soldiers and who suffers tremendously, as do all of those involved on the battlefield.

But what about business leadership? We provide some of our own views in our newest book “Creating New Superstars.”2 Following is some background and an excerpt from this book. Not everyone will agree with our opinions, but we hope this provides some food for thought.

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, companies developed strategic plans, in some loose fashion inspired by the strategic plans of the military. These corporate strategies commonly were reviewed only once every year because change usually occurred at a very slow pace, and gradual change is very seldom disruptive. In this peaceful time, certain practices became the norm and accepted as the standard for good management, including things such as:

  • New product definition based totally on market research
  • Extreme delegation to subordinates and teams for prioritizing and implementing programs
  • Decisions through consensus
  • Forecasting the future based on an extrapolation of the past

The general idea seemed to be that a “dull” and predictable company, managed well, would be a good and successful company. However, today the world is undergoing an explosion of disruptive change, driven primarily by rapidly advancing technology. And in these unsettled times, many dull but successful companies are struggling.

However, there are outliers or rebels—very successful, once small but now large companies where the “rules of traditional management” have generally not been followed, at least for significant periods in their lifetimes. These are the companies we call Superstars.

What is a Superstar

There is a new phenomenon emerging that we call “Superstar” companies. These are the few, extraordinary, publicly-traded, Fortune 500 companies that have managed to sustain exponential growth over more than a decade, even as they became giants. The list of Superstars and almost Superstars includes Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Genentech, Amgen, and Gilead Sciences. What has driven these outliers to such extreme success in the face of explosive change?

Our Views

Although not the only important factors in creating Superstars, the repeated flashes of insight, out-of-the-box thinking and acting, and powerful personalities of the leaders are critical. Such exceptional individuals are not bound by tradition and thus can rapidly adapt to and take advantage of a changing environment. They have passionate beliefs, are intensely focused on their goals, and take pride of being the best in their industry or maybe even the best in the world. And they are dedicated almost beyond reason to building their companies. These unique business leaders are rebels and often considered dictators, and they are shaping our future.

Exceptional Leadership (Excerpt from “Creating New Superstars”)

“Much has already been written about the importance of leadership in general, and the leaders of today’s Superstars more specifically. We highlighted some of this information in our brief histories of the Superstars in Chapter 2. Drawing on this information and our own experiences and research, we provide here a short summary of some of the common leadership characteristics that we believe are essential for Superstars.

First, an intelligent, strong-willed leader whom people will follow (not necessarily like) is required. This leader must be a risk-taker who is unafraid of making mistakes, and who enthusiastically embraces the unconventional, ranging from unusual management styles to untested business models. This leader also must be able and willing to rapidly reinvent (or support and partner with those creative individuals who can reinvent) everything again and again as circumstances dictate—from business models and business definitions to entire product lines.

To say this in a different way, to create a Superstar a leader must be able to think and act “outside of the box.” Does this mean that these leaders have to have that nebulous ability called “vision?”

Our answer is: not always. Remember that some of the “visions” of leaders like Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos led to actions that were clearly mistakes. But these same leaders also made correct decisions repeatedly, year after year. Clearly, in some cases the vision of a strong leader can create and drive markets.

One last commonality among Superstar leaders. The leaders must have exceptional commitment, persistence, and stamina to be able survive seemingly disastrous occurrences in their business and personal lives without declaring defeat—incidents we highlighted such as getting fired, ending up in hospital for stress, or having to work impossible hours, sometimes for no compensation. How many people are willing and capable to endure all of that to end up winning in business? The answer, of course, is only a few—those few capable of leading their enterprise to Superstar status.


 

 

The_Death_of_the_Jul_Cover_for_Kindle

 

1. Giacomo Fatuzzo, The Death of the Julia Division: Memoirs of an Officer (USA 2014). Available from amazon in both paperback and kindle formats: http://amzn.to/2jAi45r

 

 

creating_new_superst_cover_for_kindle

 

2.  Ennio Fatuzzo and Carol L. Fatuzzo, Creating New Superstars: Businesses that Soar above the Sea of Normality (USA 2016). Available from amazon in both paperback and kindle formats: http://amzn.to/2hAn6dy

 

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