I and a few others were having a discussion on Twitter with the management visionary and author of In Search of Excellence Tom Peters. Peters was reacting to a suggestion that many leaders fail to behave as leaders — that they do the wrong thing. I jumped into the Twitter stream, asking: If courage is important, does changing inherent inertia require an alternative vision and courage to act?”
The reply was typical provocative Tom Peters.
Brilliant: Level of fury with the status quo such that one cannot not act. Having the courage to change isn’t enough; innovative leaders are compelled to do so.
I had the chance to meet Zach Nelson, president of cloud business software provider NetSuite, in a few years ago. We were at a Chicago Cubs game where the conversations flowed easily between business, baseball, and other topics. Nelson had mentioned that Billy Beane, the general manager for the Oakland A’s and the inspiration for the book and movie Moneyball staring Brad Pitt, sat on the NetSuite board of directors.
As the conversation pivoted from baseball to analytics, we agreed that having access to data is no longer a differentiator for Billy Beane or any other general manager in Major League Baseball. They all have learned from the Moneyball story and have developed similar processes and analytic capabilities to what Beane pioneered. All teams can now look deep into data to find that next underpriced yet high-performing athlete that could be the missing link to gain a playoff spot. The data can also highlight that tenured veteran who has been loyal to the team, and in fact helped them win championships in years past, but is now beyond his prime and might just be today’s obstacle to gaining that playoff berth.
I asked Nelson if Billy Beane was disappointed that this parity now existed, that all teams could, in essence, have the same data and analytical methods to see who should be moved on and off the roster. “He’s not worried,” Nelson said. When I asked him why, he said that Beane had at one time told him, “You still have to make the call.”
Someone needs to make the decision. Someone must have that level of fury with the status quo such that they cannot not act. It’s a tough call for a Major League Baseball general manager to move a beloved veteran off the roster and bring in a relatively unknown. There is risk involved. The result is not a foregone conclusion. And I guarantee you there would be factions within that team arguing vehemently against any such move.
The same scenario plays out in wholesale distribution every day. We might sense the winds of change and intuitively know that our technology platform, business model, or supplier relationships, for example, are impediments to innovation and long-term sustainability. But at the end of each month, the business still provides profits (albeit slimmer than a decade ago) and we are drawn to the gravitational pull of the status quo.
Transformative leaders, on the other hand, will have that level of fury with the status quo so that they cannot not act. Brian Solis, principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology, puts it this way, “It takes courage to break what others see isn’t yet broken and rebuild it in a way that others can’t yet visualize, appreciate, or support.”
This post is pulled from my book INNOVATE! How Successful Distributors Lead Change In Disruptive Times
Building THE Winning Culture
I’m both proud and honored to announce a new partnership with Level Five Associates. Level Five principals U.S. Army major generals (ret) Robert W. Mixon Jr. and John Batiste and I have co-developed and will co-present a one of a kind two-day executive leadership program May 11-12, 2016 in Dallas.