Leadership Interview – Michael Hyatt

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

CEOs that make great decisions are rare these days. Humble, authentic leaders who really understand their craft are equally scarce. Chief Executives who actively engage in social media also find themselves in the minority among their peers. Michael Hyatt (@MichaelHyattwww.michaelhyatt.com) is that rare commodity. As Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world, and the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S., Michael’s track record of leadership has stood the test of time. After reading the following interview you’ll know why…

Mike Myatt: What is your first recollection of really knowing that you were called to be a leader?

Michael Hyatt: When I was a junior in high school, I noticed that I always went first. I didn’t wait on others if I thought something needed to be done. I took initiative. When I did this, I noticed that others would jump in and follow me.

Mike Myatt: Has your leadership style changed over the years, and if so, how?

Michael Hyatt: Very much so. I had a lot of success early in my career. I became arrogant and began to think of myself as the guy who had all the answers. Fortunately, I experienced some stunning failures soon after my string of successes. They humbled me. I refer to this as receiving “the gift of ears.” I learned to listen more and talk less.

Mike Myatt: What was the single biggest “ah-ha” moment you’ve had as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: When I realized that my thinking had a direct impact on my actions which had a direct impact on my outcomes. It all starts in my head.

Mike Myatt: How has social media impacted you as a CEO?

Michael Hyatt: It has given me more direct access to my employees, my customers, and the media. It has raised the visibility of our company and given me the opportunity to shape how people perceive us. It has provided me with a personal platform and a way to teach and learn.

Mike Myatt: How has your faith impacted your leadership style?

Michael Hyatt: I hope it informs everything I do. Jesus is the ultimate leader. I have learned so much about leadership from reading the Gospels. I intentionally try to emulate Him. Kind of “HWJL”—How would Jesus lead?

Mike Myatt: Who had the most significant influence on shaping you as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: Two previous bosses, one positive and one negative. (Don’t ask for names!) Additionally, two executive coaches, who have helped provide objective feedback and input.

Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: Putting my job on the line over a principle I was unwilling to violate. This has happened several times in my career. The stakes have always been enormous, and I was so frightened each time that I was physically shaking and sick to my stomach. But I had to make a stand. Thankfully, in retrospect, those decisions were critical. I don’t regret a single one.

Mike Myatt: What’s been most rewarding to you as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: I think giving people hope that you can lead effectively without compromising your character. Young leaders today are desperate for role models. They can quickly become cynical if they don’t have positive examples. This has motivated me to live my life intentionally in every sphere. (I should also point out that I often fail. But even there, being willing to admit it is a type of modeling.)

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?

Michael Hyatt: To model the five aspects of leadership: insight, initiative, influence, impact, and integrity.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the single biggest stumbling block for leaders?

Michael Hyatt: The idea that they have to have all the answers. The more humble and transparent a leader is, the more effective he or she will be.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest strength as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: My commitment to modeling the behavior I expect in others.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest weakness as a leader?

Michael Hyatt: I am too trusting. Trust is good. It builds rapport and connects people to you. However, if it is granted too early, without sufficient experience, it can be disastrous. I have made this mistake many times—and keep making it. Apparently, in this area I am a slow learner. Over the years, I have learned to surround myself with people who are less trusting and can look out for me.

Mike Myatt: Is it more difficult to be a leader today, why or why not?

Michael Hyatt: Yes, I think it is way more difficult. For starters, we are in the middle of a giant shift between generations who think very differently. As a result, they have to be led differently. Leaders have to be flexible in order to succeed. In addition, the economy makes it very difficult to succeed in business. We are having to re-think how we do business and adjust our value propositions.

Mike Myatt: What’s the best and worst example of leadership you’ve observed in recent times?

Michael Hyatt: The best example is former boss who kept his word, even when it cost him personally. He demonstrated tremendous integrity that impacted me deeply. The worst example—and I have actually witnessed several of these—is of leaders who can’t let go. They appoint successors then turn on them.

Mike Myatt: What should leaders today be focused on with regard to the future?

Michael Hyatt: I think it is more difficult than ever to have clarity about the future—in any field. Between the economy and technology, everything is changing. As a result, I think it is more important to build a culture that is flexible and nimble, so you can respond to changes quickly. This is more critical than trying to figure out where everything is going.

Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers one piece of advice on leadership, what would that be?

Michael Hyatt: You are not as good as you think when things are going well; you are not as bad as you feel when things are going poorly. Retain your perspective and surround yourself with people who will love you and will tell you the truth.

Mike Myatt: Do you have anything new in the works that you’d like our readers to know about?

Michael Hyatt: I am working on a couple of books, one on leadership and one on productivity, but they are still a ways off.

Mike Myatt: How important is “legacy,” and how do you hope to be remembered?

Michael Hyatt: I have given a lot of thought to this, particularly in the Life Planning process that I advocate. I want to be remembered as a man who loved God, gave himself to others, and was faithful to the very end.

If you’re a fan of Michaels or if you just want to share a thought with him, please let him know by leaving a comment below.

How To Create Lasting Influence

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

The Influence Factor

Anyone can create moments of influence, but creating lasting influence is where your sights should be set. Understanding how to leverage the influence factor can make a defining difference in your ability to drive change, build cohesive teams, and to successfully implement strategic vision. As a leader your “Influence Quotient” is the IQ you need to pay attention to. In fact, your influence quotient will be a much greater determinant of your ultimate success than your “Intelligence Quotient” could ever be. Innate, raw intelligence while certainly something to be prized, is much more common and much less powerful than real influence. In today’s post I’ll examine the often misunderstood value of influence…

Let me be clear…when I mention influence I’m not referring to manipulation, elaborate schemes, or other forms of skulduggery. Ill-gotten gains will always be exposed for what they are, and moreover, they will never be worth the compromises that were made in order to achieve them. Not only is true influence not difficult to acquire, but it is also sustainable when you understand the proper constructs.  

Put simply, true influence is nothing more than understanding how to work with and through others to achieve a stated objective while staying true to your core values and maintaining your integrity. The following fundamental concepts of influence, which if properly understood and implemented, can help anyone become more efficient, productive and successful:

1. Influence is built upon a foundation of trust: If a person is not trusted there is a firm limit on their ability to create and use influence. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. However most people will gladly take a blind leap of faith for someone whom they have come to trust. Trust Matters….

2. Influence is built upon making others successful: This is often times referred to as the law of reciprocity. The theory is that if you invest yourself in making someone else successful then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you become successful. While this principle will not always pan out, in my experience it has held true across the overwhelming majority of my interactions through the years. True influence is rarely built upon the backs of others, but rather by helping others achieve their goals.

3. Likability: People do business with people they like, and avoid doing business with people they don’t like…it’s just that simple. Are you approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy, a person of character and integrity, or are you someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and generally not to be trusted? Those who fall into the camp of the former as opposed to the latter will find themselves having more influence and success.  The key take away here is that being a jerk doesn’t lead to the creation of influence.

4. Influence is most often possessed by those with authority: It is important to realize that there is a reason for the statement “the highest authority is that which is given, and rarely that which is taken.” Authority is most often given to those that display honesty, competency, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes influence. While influence can be wielded by those without authority, it will be limited in both scope and scale. Those with the most authority will always have the most influence.

5. Value and scarcity drive influence: Understanding the value of your position, brand, authority, resources, access to people or knowledge and any number of other items as it relates to fulfilling the needs and desires of others creates influence. To the extent that anything under your direct or indirect control is scarce or proprietary your ability to create influence will increase significantly.  

Bottom line…Don’t manipulate for personal gain, rather facilitate for mutual benefit. Take a sincere interest in the success of others, work on your likability factor, become adept at gaining commitment, develop your authority and control, and have access to things of value or scarcity and your influence with others will increase.

If you have any other suggestions on creating influence please share them in the comments below.

The Benefit of Dissenting Opinion

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I love vigorous debate, generally have an open mind, and actually enjoy having my thoughts and opinions challenged. If everyone always agreed with me conversation wouldn’t be very stimulating, and acquiring new knowledge and insight would certainly be more difficult. That said, I only really have the patience for intellectually honest discourse. I don’t care in the slightest about winning arguments, whether someone is right or wrong, or whether logic is sound or flawed, but I do care about motivation and intent. In the text that follows I’m going to ask you to do some soul searching – up for the challenge?

What follows might get a bit esoteric, but if you can get past the semantics of my philosophizing I believe you’ll find great value as I connect the dots on today’s topic. A few initial questions to ponder as we get started – How do you react when someone disagrees with you? Do you tuck tail and run desiring to avoid conflict at all costs? Do you dig-in your heels and prepare to defend your position to the death, all the while not really caring about how many casualties are incurred in the process? Or do you attempt to gain knowledge, understanding and perspective? Most importantly, do you genuinely engage in pursuit of the truth, or do you just wax eloquent in an attempt to justify your opinion or position?

It seems today’s world is awash with people who have lost the ability to disagree with someone, yet still respect them. If someone challenges your thinking and you immediately view them as an adversary, there might be a problem with your perspective. Are your leadership skills developed enough to have the tough conversations, or just the conversations you want to have?

Here’s my premise – few things benefit leaders in the ways that dissenting opinions do. The best leaders constantly seek out and engage those who challenge their thinking. They are curious, inquisitive, and have an insatiable appetite for learning. Most importantly, they truly care about what others think and why they hold the convictions they do. Whether you see opposing views and positions as conflict or opportunity says a lot about you as a person, and especially gives insightful commentary on who you are as a leader. Being able to discern and debate subjective positions with objectivity is an art form that must be present for effective leadership. If you cannot lead someone with whom you disagree then you are not a leader – you’re a dictator. If you cannot surround yourself with those who challenge your thinking then you are not a leader – you’re an egomaniac.

Understanding and respecting other’s perceptions is such a critical part of being an effective leader that absent this ability I truly believe you cannot be effective in a leadership role. Great leaders take the time to understand the various constituencies and spheres of influence they come in contact with. “My way or the highway” thinking, and/or positional dictatorships rarely create the culture and performance demonstrated by winning organizations.

While I long ago reached the conclusion that perception does in fact matter, it may not be for the reasons that you might think.  I have found that the majority of people tend to be myopic with regard to perception…they understand their own  perceptions, but are quite often either ignorant or uncompassionate with regard to the perceptions of others. You see, the most important item to understand is that success as a leader has very little to do with your perception, but rather it has everything to do with the perception of others.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore your perception, subordinate your perception, or change your perception, but I am strongly suggesting that you take the time to both be aware of, and understand the perceptions of others. What I’ve just espoused has nothing to with compromising your values or being disingenuous. Rather my reasoning simply hypothisizes that if you’re not in touch with the perceptions of meaningful constituencies, your success will be impeded by your tunnel vision.

When it comes to authentic, transparent discourse, motivations matter. Those who place the care and regard of others above advancing their personal, positional, professional or political agendas will garner trust, respect and influence. You see it is precisely by not attempting to steamroll, manipulate or outsmart others, that you’ll be able to effectively convey your message even to an audience that might not otherwise be willing or receptive. Moreover, by having open and honest interactions you might actually learn something…

I can guarantee you that you’re not always right, that your thinking can be nuanced, that your knowledge can be deepened, that you can reframe and evolve your positions, and that your vision can be expanded, However these things don’t generally happen if you give monologues rather than participate in dialogues. If you don’t engage those who hold dissenting opinions and viewpoints in candid and open discussions you will struggle in developing to your true intellectual potential. Whether you agree or disagree is not the point…The point is that understanding the perceptions of others affords you a source of intelligence, a learning opportunity, and the ability to keep lines of communication open.

So, what do you think? Whether you agree or disagree I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Leadership Interview: Pete Wilson

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth


One of my favorite things to do is to interview great leaders, and today I had just such an opportunity.  Pete Wilson (@pwilson) is considered by many to be one of today’s most visionary leaders. He is the Senior Pastor at CrossPoint Church, one of the fastest growing churches in the country, is the author of the bestselling book Plan B, and is one of the the most candid,  insightful and humble leaders you’ll ever have the opportunity to listen to – we all have a lot to learn from Pete Wilson. Bottom line – If you’re a leader then you need to watch this interview. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below…

How Dumb Is Your Business?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

How Dumb is Your Business

How dumb is your business? At the risk of drawing the ire of corporate elitists, I submit to you that the dumber your business is, the better off you are. The truth is that great companies are those which can thrive and prosper in the absence of sophistication. As odd as it sounds, businesses that are not dependant on smart talent, capital, or technology can scale faster and easier than those businesses burdened with the aforementioned dependencies. In today’s post I’ll share why I believe dumb is the new smart…

The simple truth of the matter is that if your business requires smart money (which equals expensive money), or your competitive advantage is tied to a superhero key employee, or your business is built around maintaining a technology advantage, you have more weakness in your business model than you do strengths. 

Let’s drill down on the talent argument a bit deeper. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you don’t want to hire tier-one talent. However I am clearly stating that you don’t want to be dependant upon tier-one talent. Talent is clearly a plus as long as it is a value add and not a business requirement. If your company’s long-term business plan requires the acquisition, or retention of the uber employee then your business not only has a risk management issue, but it is likely not scalable. If your company can’t be operated by mere mortals, you need to reexamine your business logic. Here is a simple rule of thumb…the bigger the key man policy the less scalable the company is.

The dumb factor not only applies to talent, capital, and technology, but it also extends throughout the entire value chain. It applies to your branding, marketing, supply chain, and ultimately to your customer base. If your customer has to be a rocket scientist to understand your value proposition you have problems. If your employees cannot simply and effectively explain what you do you have problems.

The last point I want to cover is that of growth as it relates to dumb businesses. Both scalable and non-scalable businesses can achieve growth and sustainable success. However it is important to understand the distinction between the two.  While a business cannot scale without growth, a business can grow without being scalable. If your business model requires implicit customer growth your business might grow for a time period certain, but it isn’t scalable.  

The moral of this story is that while sophistication and complexity often go hand-in-hand, they don’t have to be synonymous. Focus on driving-down the most complex tasks to the lowest levels of the organization, and then leverage with talent, capital and technology while avoiding the creation of margin eroding dependencies.

Related Post: Keeping it Simple  

Game Changers

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

At one time or another all great leaders experience something that is so big, so impactful, that it literally changes the landscape. It’s what I call a “Game Changer.” A game changer is that ah-ha moment that creates an extreme, disruptive advantage or improvement. What’s interesting is that the best leaders proactively focus on looking for game changers. Sure, great leaders never lose sight of their core business, they pay attention to managing risk, etc., but they expend far more energy intentionally searching for opportunity, but not just any opportunity – a game changer. In the text that follows I’ll not only provide you with a blue print for finding game changers, but I’ll also ask you to share your experiences and insights as well. I hope this post is a game changer for you…

As most of you know, I spent last week at the World Business Forum in New York. I listened to esteemed business school professors, two Nobel laureates, bestselling authors, and some of the world’s most successful CEOs. These were all people who have personally experienced game changers, and some have experienced them many times over.

While there were clearly a few moments last week that I found instructionally valuable in terms of creating a game changer (Nando Parrado), there weren’t nearly enough of them. There was far too much rehashing of old ideas spun as new. A game changer doesn’t maintain the status quo, it shatters it. It was this taste of disappointment that led me to share my personal process for finding and implementing game changers – I call it SMARTS(C) (Simple-Meaningful-Actionable-Relational-Transformational-Scalable).

Simple – While not all game changers are simple, the best ones usually are.  In most cases simple can be translated as realistic, cost effective, quick to adopt, and fast to implement. Don’t get entangled in complexities, get heavily invested in simplicity. 

Meaningful – It must add significant value to your core business, and if it doesn’t add to the core business it better add even more value. Here’s the thing…most leaders get sucked down into the weeds and they spend too much of their valuable time majoring in the minors. If it’s not really meaningful, it’s not a game changer so why do it? Focus on value creation.

Actionable – It’s not a game changer if whatever “it” is never gets off the drawing board. If you cannot turn an idea into innovation, if you can’t put thought into practice, it’s not a game changer. By definition game changers happen, they exist, they have life. They don’t lurk in the shadow-lands of the ethereal and esoteric, they become reality.   

Relational –  I have found that game changers enhance, extend, and leverage existing relationships as well as serve to create new ones. When you get down to brass tacks, all business boils down to people (employees, customers, partners, investors, vendors, etc.), and people mean relationships. Real game changers understand the power of people and relationships, and they embody this in both their construction and implementation. If you forget the people, you cannot have a game changer.  

Transformational – I have yet to see a static game changer. By definition, a game changer causes change. If nothing changes, if nothing is created, if nothing is improved, if nothing is transformed, then you don’t have a game changer. A lesson that I learned long ago is that you simply cannot experience sustainable improvement without transformation.

Scalable – if it’s not scalable it’s not a game changer. An idea that offers no hope of a future will more often than not turn into a nightmare rather than fulfill a dream.  True game changers are built with velocity and sustainability in mind. The best thing about real games changers is that they build upon themselves to catalyze other accretive opportunities.

So there you have it, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on creating game changers, my SMARTS if you will, it’s your turn to share. Share an ah-ha moment, an experience, a process, but share…This post can be a game changer to many people if those who read it are willing to share their collective wisdom. Go…

World Business Forum – Top 10 Speakers

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

The video above recaps the final day of this year’s World Business Forum in New York. In yesterday’s recap of Day one, I gave a detailed breakdown of each speaker presentation, but today I thought I’d do something a bit different…Since everyone seems to like a list, I decided to rank the top ten speakers from both days. So the list that follows is my ranking of the Top 10 Speakers from World Business Forum 2010 as well as my logic behind the rankings.

  1. Nando Parrado- Nando was the only speaker at the conference to receive a standing ovation, but this is not why I ranked him #1. Nando earned the top spot on the list because his presentation simply raised the bar to an entirely different level. He recounted the miracle of surviving 72 days after his plane crashed high in the Andes. After being unconscious for 3 days and being counted among the dead by other survivors, Nando awoke to find his mother, sister and a number of his rugby teammates had died. They had no food, water or winter clothing. At an elevation above 12,000 feet and with temperatures that reached -35 below zero, Nando not only survived the initial crash, but a broken skull, being buried by a subsequent avalanche, eating the flesh of the dead, and then hiking for 11 days covering 70 miles across the Andes in street clothes to get help. This was one of the longest human survival accounts in history and was later made into the book Miracle in the Andes and then into the movie Alive. As a result of Nando’s efforts 16 people were rescued after 72 days in the Andes. Nando is an exceptional human being whose philosophy can be boiled down into two of the quotes given in his presentation: “I fought so hard for life that I decided to have a life” & “life is success.” Nando’s presentation simply put things into perspective for a world sorely lacking perspective. Bravo Nando…
  2. Jack Welch- The former Chairman and CEO of GE reminded us of the value of candor. He spared us the business speak and rhetoric and said things that all leaders needed to hear. As with Nando, I could have listened to Jack all day long. Candor, clarity, humility, passion and a heart for service characterize Jack Welch. Jack’s belief for the need to “lead change before you have to” is a mantra for leaders to live by. We all need to learn from Jack by dropping the politically correct approach to leadership by just doing the right thing.
  3. A.G. Lafley- The former Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble gave a clinic on innovation. I’ve never heard anyone speak so fluently on the topic of innovation. Just about every statement that passed his lips was quotable. I thought his most insightful and accurate comment was: “Great innovators constantly disrupt themselves – It’s better to attack yourself on the innovation front than allow your competitors to do it.”
  4. Joseph Grenny - Joe spoke about the need for, and power of influence. Most notably he did it very well. A great presenter and story-teller, Joe has complete command of his subject matter and gave the audience actionable instruction on how to create influence. My favorite quote from Joe was “creating influence is about creating a magical experience.” Just go away on ponder this thought for a while – How can you create magical experiences across constituencies and throughout the value chain? Get this right and you’ll make Joe proud.
  5. Martin Lindstrom - Not only was Martin the most animated and entertaining presenter, but after listening to Martin I quickly came to the conclusion that nobody understands how to connect with the mind of consumers better than he does. Whether constructing, deconstructing, or smashing brands, Martin’s understanding of branding goes far deeper than the tired noise you typically hear from brand agencies. My favorite quote from Martin was: “great brands are emotional bookmarks.”
  6. Renee Mauborgne - Co-author of Blue Ocean Strategy, Renee offered great insights on creating demand, most particularly on creating consumer demand where little or none previously existed. I love creative thinkers and her presentation focused like a laser beam on creativity of thought and approach. My favorite thought by Renee was: “Success rests on pushing the creativity frontier. Smart leaders spend more time on creativity than productivity.”
  7. Steve Levitt - Author of Freakanomics and Super Freakanomics, Steve was superb. I had to pinch myself as I thought I might have been dreaming – was I really witnessing an economist with a self-deprecating sense of humor? Not only did Steve keep the entire audience at Radio City Music Hall in stitches, he did it while making astute observations and keen insights on what it takes to be successful in business. My favorite quote by Steve was: “Great ideas invade people.”
  8. Vijay Govindarajan- Vijay is a Professor of International Business and the Founding Director of Tuck’s Center for Global Leadership at Dartmouth. A recognized expert on strategy and innovation he is also the author of seven books. What I particularly like about Vijay is that his observations are truly unique and insightful – no surface level thinking to be found here. If you’re looking for someone to challenge conventional thinking Vijay is a very good bet. My favorite quote from Vijay was: “Strategy is not about competing for the present, but competing for the future. It’s about understanding that non-linear change means anticipating & appealing to customer discontinuity.” Brilliant!
  9. James Cameron - I actually wasn’t expecting to like Jim…I knew he was driven and creative, but my sense of him was that his ego may be even larger than his considerable talent. His words left me questioning my initial impressions, and I actually found him to be a pleasant surprise. What impressed me the most about Jim was his depth of knowledge, his leadership savvy, and his general business acumen (his creativity is a given). My favorite quote by Jim was: “Why ask why in the moment – just solve the problem.”
  10. David Gergen- As a White House advisor for more than 30 years David advised both Republican and Democratic Presidents. While I don’t always agree with David, I think we probably agree on more than not. He possesses a wealth of information and experience on leadership and is probably the speaker that I’d most enjoy having dinner with. Since my son is an active duty EOD officer in the Air Force, the following quote by David really resonates with me: “Looking to hire great leaders – hire one of our veterans.”

So there you have it…my picks for the Top 10 Speakers at World Business Forum 2010. Jim Collins, Al Gore, Joseph Stiglitz, Charlene Li, Bill McDermott, Mavin Odum and Luca Majocchi didn’t make my cut – do you think they should have, and/or do you think my list should be reordered? Love to receive your thoughts.

PS
In case your wondering, yes, both of the recap videos contain our original footage which was shot, produced and uploaded on the fly while attending the conference. We love video at N2growth…

World Business Forum – Day 1 Recap

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I had several requests for a detailed breakdown of my observations on the first day of the World Business Forum – careful what you wish for. Day one of the conference was headlined by a highly esteemed group of speakers who didn’t give me nearly what I had hoped for – While there were a few shining stars, and some great sound bites, I wasn’t challenged nearly as much as I hoped to be. There was a lot more common thinking than critical, innovative thinking. I have live video above, and in the text that follows I’ll share my opinions on the best and the worst of WBF Day 1…

Jim Collins kicked-off the day with everything you would expect from him. Jim was animated, passionate, informative and lucid. He is a great presenter and was highly entertaining. My problem is that I was looking to be more than entertained. Where Jim fell short in my opinion was that if you’ve heard Jim before, there wasn’t a lot of new information. Jim went to his staples of Level 5 Leaders, the Hedgehog principle and the Flywheel concept. I wasn’t nearly as dazzled by Jim’s statistics and metrics as I was his outlook on life. What really resonated with me was that Jim seems to walk the talk. He reads 100 books each year that are NOT related to his work, he maintains work-life balance as evidenced by the fact that at age 50 he still goes rock climbing at least three times a week, and what really impressed me was his humility. The bottom line is that I really like him, I just wished he had more new material to share. Some of the nuggets that Jim did disseminate were as follows:

  • Success that translates in hubris leads to failure.
  • Never confuse power with leadership.
  • Most overnight successes are 20 years in the making.
  • Double your ratio of questions to statements.
  • Don’t waste time trying to be successful, spend time being useful.
  • Be willing to change your tactics, but not your core principles.

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP followed Jim, or at least attempted to…While Bill has a successful track record in business going all the way back to his years as an entrepreneurial teenager, his presentation was horrid (sorry Bill). It was full of trite cliches and worn out leadership rhetoric. Bill’s passion an his sales skills were clearly evident, but his presentation came across as a wannabe self-help guru more than a CEO of one of the world’s best software companies. Now that Bill will probably never speak to me again, here are the few gems that he passed along to the audience:

  • Get better every day you live.
  • In a world where everything is connected, anything is possible.
  • Leaders make the news, they don’t report it.
  • Winning is the biggest force multiplier that a leader has.

The highlight of the day for me was when Jack Welch took center stage, and center stage he took. Jack literally held court – he was marvelous. What I truly appreciated about Jack was his caring and compassion, but perhaps what I found most appealing was his candor. I’m so tired of business speak and cute presentations that I could scream. What Jack did is what Jack does – he tells you the truth. You might not always agree with him, but you know where he stands. Boy is this something that most leaders today could really go to school on. Spare me the sanitized, politically correct rhetoric and just tell me what’s on your mind. Why does this prove so difficult for today’s leaders? Here are a few of the peals Jack shared yesterday:

  • Lead change before you have to.
  • Play offense – Try desperately not to be on defense.
  • Leaders get too caught up in trivial things and don’t pay enough attention to leadership development. The lack of leadership development in most organizations is tragic.
  • Barack Obama and particularly his administration is anti-business.
  • The Teacher’s Union has killed education in America.
  • Fear is dead as a management tool. 
  • The best idea should win.
  • More candor can only be good for business.
  • You can’t protect jobs with walls.

Up next was Calos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Carlos is responsible for more than 300 brands globally, and it’s no wonder why – he has a plan and he’s sticking to it. Carlos was passionate, on-point, and as you might have guessed consistent in his messaging. Following are a few of the ideas Carlos shared yesterday:

  • Dreaming BIG and dreaming small take the same amount of energy – why not dream BIG?
  • Companies are made of people, so dreams matter.
  • Great people with the right training and opportunity will become better than you – hire great people.
  • Since you can’t please all the people please the people that matter – those that perform.
  • Great leaders create a culture of ownership.

Next was Charlene Li who spoke about two of my favorite topics – social media and leadership. Charlene covered the basics with clarity. She made a compelling case for leaders to adopt social media and gave numerous illustrations as to the many benefits for doing so. What I liked about Charlene’s presentation is that she clearly articulated that EVERY aspect of business can be improved through the proper use of social media. A few of her thoughts can be found below: 

  • Social Media is forcing us to redefine leadership.
  • Can’t control relationships in social media..you have to give up control but make sure you still have command.
  • Social Media is not about technology – it’s about communication.
  • When it comes to social media fail fast and fail smart.
  • What’s the ROI on a handshake?
  • Asking who should own social media is like asking who should own the customer.

Matin Lindstrom followed Charlene with a great presentation on branding. What I liked about Martin’s presentation was that he went a bit deeper than most who attempt to decipher the ethereal topic of branding. Some of Martin’s key points were as follows:

  • Great brands are emotional bookmarks.
  • Everything your brand does should survive without the logo.
  • The more senses of a customer you engage, the more loyal they will be to your brand.
  • 85% decision-making is irrational– but most brand research is purely rational.
  • Good branding: Sound +Vision = emotional engagement = consumer preference.

Joseph Grenny was up next talking about influence and leadership. Of all the topics on the agenda I was most excited to hear what Joseph had to say about influence. I have found that influence is often misunderstood, frequently abused, and rarely leveraged to its full extent. Following are a few of the thoughts Joseph shared on the importance of influence: 

  • Influencers succeed where the rest of us fail.
  • Smart leaders leverage influencers by involving them in modeling, mentoring and coaching.
  • Challenge begins when new ideas confront old thinking.
  • Leadership boils down to 2 things: what should we do & how do we get people to do it?
  • Creating influence is about creating a magical experience.
  • The most important capacity we possess is to influence behavior.

Closing out the day was David Gergen on the topic of leadership. Few people have witnessed leadership at the level David has serving as a White House advisor for 30 years spanning multiple Presidencies. While David and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, we seem to agree on the important points. I not only admire David for his years of service, but in his encouragement to others about the importance of service. Out of all the speakers on today’s agenda David is the one I’d be most interested in having dinner with. Following are a few of the thoughts David shared in closing out Day 1:

  • Start-ups begin here, but are scaling offshore.
  • Looking to hire great leaders – hire one of our veterans.
  • The single most important thing a leader does is to find the next leader.
  • too much group think is a sign of poor leadership.
  • The increased education of our workforce mandates a change in leadership style.

Well, there you have it Day 1 of World Business Forum in a nutshell. I’d welcome your thoughts and comments on the speakers and/or their ideas.

Thought Leaders

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership…What is a thought leader, and what does thought leadership mean in today’s business world? These are interesting questions as we get ready to kick-off the World Business Forum today in New York. Over the next two days I’ll be with some of the worlds most notable CEOs, an Academy Award winner, a Nobel Laureate, New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Selling authors, distinguished business school professors, champions of innovation and other titans of industry. But are they really thought leaders, or are they simply just plowing old ground with more eloquence than their predecessors? In today’s post I’ll examine the subject of thought leadership in an attempt to separate fact from fiction…  

As much as some people wish it wasn’t so, a thought leader is not someone who simply restates someone else’s views and positions. Even going beyond uniqueness of thought, a true thought leader’s positions also challenge established norms and conventions. Moreover, the true litmus test for a thought leader is when their unique ideas are implemented in the marketplace, they tend to create disruptive innovation, and often change the way we view the world.

Regrettably the label of thought leader has evolved to become a self-bestowed title for anyone who has something to say or promote, often without regard for qualitative issues. Some would say that the term thought leader, once synonymous with futurist and innovator, is more closely aligned with snake-oil salesman today. Don’t get me wrong, true thought leaders still exist; they are just much harder to spot these days.

Let me begin by stating that authentic thought leaders, the real deals, are not created via great marketing and PR alone. While they are oft published, quite outspoken, and many times represented by marvelous publicists, they are not merely contrived, self-promoted legends in their own minds. Rather true thought leaders are born out of real-world successes, achievements, and contributions that have been recognized by their peers and competitors alike. 

The collection of speakers at WBF causes me to ponder what really constitutes thought leadership? I’ll be sharing my observations with you over the next two days, but my advice to you is to  judge people on their actions and results, not their rhetoric. Don’t accept conventional wisdom as gospel unless you can validate proof of concept, and then only accept it if you can innovate with it, or around it.  Here’s the deal – when you run across a real thought leader, you’ll clearly recognize them as such for there is something truly unique in both their words and deeds.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on what defines thought leadership. I’m also interested in your thoughts about the speakers I’ll be profiling over the next few days – do they deserve thought leader status? Lastly, if you have anyone who stands out to you as a real thought leader in business I welcome hearing about them. I look forward to your comments…

Bold Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

My daughter shared this video with me and I thought it was brilliant – the video explains leadership so vividly and powerfully that you’re not likely to forget what’s being communicated. While it talks about leaders, followers, momentum, the tipping point and other well understood leadership principles, the point that I want you to focus on is the case made that the power of leadership rests not with the leader, but the followers. I discussed this in great length in a previous post: Leadership – It’s About the People. So my questions are these: Are you the kind of leader that inspires and motivates? Are you willing to be  edgy in your approach? Do you understand that while leadership may start with you, it’s greatest power is what happens as a result of working with, by and through your followers?