Dealers in hope

The Straits Times
Published: 15th May 2014
By Ronald Lee, Managing Director, PrimeStaff Management Services

 
Great business leaders chase their vision and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Hire the best

Mr Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s empire, once said: “You’re only as good as the people you hire.”

Truly great leaders are not threatened by the prospect of hiring people who are smarter than them. In fact, they know it is the only way for any organisation to become truly great, especially if you want to grow your business to a global level.
Mr Kroc also believed in the power of team. “None of us is as good as all of us,” was his motto.
 
Don’t accept ‘no’

When Mr Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was developing the very first iPhone, he was dissatisfied with the use of plastic because it scratched easily. Instead, he decided that the iPhone’s face had to be made of glass.

He met with the CEO of Corning, who informed him of a type of glass they had developed called “gorilla glass”.

Mr Jobs said he wanted a major shipment of the glass in six months but the stunned CEO told him it was not possible due to engineering challenges.

Mr Jobs didn’t accept “no” for an answer and the CEO found a way to deliver the glass in less than six months by dedicating an entire production line to manufacturing it – full-time, non- stop until the order was complete.
 
Always inspire others

A hallmark of a great leader is the ability to inspire others.

Mr Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of coffee chain Starbucks, knows this better than most.

“One of the fundamental aspects of leadership, I realised more and more, is the ability to instil confidence in others when you yourself are feeling insecure,” he said in the book, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.

He has created a great corporate culture pivoted on a social conscience, and inspires employees to deliver their very best performance.
 
Don’t be afraid to make enemies

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been quoted saying: “When you’re a catalyst for change, you make enemies – and I’m proud of the ones I’ve got.”

The chairman and CEO of News Corporation may have been embroiled in a phone hacking scandal because of a British newspaper he owned, but he has built a media empire nonetheless – the world’s second-largest media conglomerate in fact.

I am certainly not advocating going to such extremes, but the lesson here is that great leaders are not afraid of being disliked; they recognise that it’s part and parcel of the game.

Your external haters will be your competitors. And your job may require you to make tough decisions or implement policies that are not welcomed by everyone.
 
Stay true to your vision

Many entrepreneurs start a business to sell it for a profit once it has achieved a certain degree of success. But not Mark Zuckerberg – not initially at least.

In 2006, Yahoo tried to take over Facebook with a US$1 billion offer but the then 22-year-old CEO rejected it outright.

With the memory of the dot.com bubble burst of the early 2000s still haunting investors, many felt that Mr Zuckerberg had made a big mistake.

But the fresh-faced CEO was clear in his vision, which was “to build something for the long-term”.
In 2012, Facebook’s initial public offering became the biggest in Internet history with a market capitalisation of over US$100 billion. The price of its shares has fallen since, but the IPO made Zuckerberg a billionaire several times over.
 
Never give up

Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, is credited with saving the company from the brink of bankruptcy.

Xerox was mired in debt to the tune of US$18 billion due to an unsustainable business model and having being overtaken by competitors that were more innovative, agile and aggressive.

Declaring bankruptcy would have been an easier way out, but Mulcahy chose to embark on a much tougher goal – “restoring Xerox to a great company once again”.

That, she certainly did, thanks to her persevering spirit.

As you can see, a great leader is both a dreamer and a realist.

After all, as Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

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