Sunday, May 11, 2008

Walk before you Run to Win the Leadership Race

For some reason, the last few weeks have been very exciting for me. I'm not sure why, but it has felt like a particularly rich time to add value to companies by combining experience with new ways of looking at the world and communications.

As I have said before, one of the most energizing things going on today is that with the Internet, you can try lots of new things: the rules are different today. Yes. It's important to remember that human behavior is still the same. But you can reach people so much more easily and in so many different ways.

Our whole goal for clients is helping them achieve leadership. But leadership does not have a hard and fast definition. It means that a company is shaping its market, rather than having the market shaped for it. Beyond that general guidepost, achieving leadership can differ dramatically from company to company.

But, at its core, leadership comes from systematically thinking about how the market will be influenced and then helping each of those influencer groups to move forward. So often, we see that while having high profile attention can have lots of benefits to companies; focusing exclusively on that kind of attention can be very damaging to a company truly looking to achieve leadership. Sometimes, the core constituency that is going to lay the foundation for leadership, will actually be offended by too much high level attention too soon.

That's where experience comes in. It's important to figure out the "layers" of the market and build credibility. And, by the way, no two companies or markets are the same: A company in the "material science" business needs adoption by scientists if they are are doing provocative and transformative things; a company in the software business needs to be adopted by developers before the big business impact can happen; a company in the communications chip business needs to be accepted by systems designers before changing things; a company in the advertising business needs to influences both the infrastructure developers and the "clients" to get their idea accepted. And so on.

The real message here is that understanding how to achieve that lofty leadership goal takes some thought based on a combination of instinct, execution, experience, and new thinking. It's valuable energy to invest for a young company to have a chance to define its own destiny.

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