BLG Leadership Insights

The Next Best Thing: Steve Jobs’ Leadership Misstep

A few weeks back on my way to work at around 8:30 in the morning, I walked by three or four AT&T stores with long lines filled with eager souls waiting for the doors to open. Each one of these bright eyed and bushy tailed, hope-filled, patrons of tech had their heads buried in an iPhone 3 (or god forbid an original iPhone!). I am assuming once the imaginary gates of heaven opened the teaming masses were going to race in and pay a pretty penny to own a piece of the future. As we now know, those brilliant new iPhone 4s were in fact not so perfect and not so functional. Anyone with a lick of tech sense will tell you to skip the 1.0 of something and wait for at least the 1.1, but still humanity needs the latest to feel complete.

When it comes to leadership, we tend to do the same thing. We know better, but we just can’t help ourselves. Leadership is actually less mystical then we try to make it out to be. Each week a brilliant, earth-shattering book comes out touting a never-thought-of way to lead your company/team/family/dog to new heights. It’s a catch and release world: they keep bating the hook, reeling us in, throwing us back and doing it all again. But leadership actually comes down to a pretty straightforward concept: what’s best for your workers is best for the company. It’s not a new concept, but it is one that is constantly forgotten and forsaken.

As an example of this kind of lapse in judgment, let revisit the aforementioned iPhone 4 mess. For years Apple made their money and good name by giving the customer what they wanted and making it fun, exciting, and down right beautiful. If an idea didn’t work, they junked it or they doubled their effort to make sure it did. But when problems arose this time, Steve Jobs and his army of supposed geniuses forgot their own golden rule. It wasn’t their fault, it was yours. Not getting a strong enough signal? Dropping calls to grandma left and right? Then it must be your fault for holding their brilliant and perfect product the wrong way. This level of arrogance builds up when those in charge forget that those they lead, or in this case those they sell to, are just as or more important then they are. Yes, Apple has rebounded and seen the error of their ways. But it’s going to cost them a reported $175 million in “bumpers” and a ton of terrible press.

So we can take two important lessons from this debacle:

1. To become a great or even halfway decent leader, you don’t need the latest greatest idea, theory, concept or piece of equipment. Just get yourself some common sense (not available in stores) and remember that what’s good those you lead will always end up being good for you, your company and your future.

2. Waiting on line for two days for stuff should be limited to Star Wars movies and rock concerts. And even then it still kind of seems a little sad and like a giant waste of time.

Picture Credit: Kyz

BLG Leadership Insights Proactive Leaders

Top 10 [Unconventional] Leadership Books

vonnegutSince I write and teach about leadership I’m often asked, “What are the best leadership books?”

It’s always a hard question. First, there are so many great books on the subject and second, not everyone has the same tastes. While one person might like The Art of Woo they may yawn over a reputable academic volume dedicated to 17th century organizational behavior.

However, there are a handful of books that can teach us a lot about leadership while captivating most people. They are as follows:

1. Moby Dick (Melville): Captain Ahab can teach us a thing or two everything about vision as it relates to leadership.

2. Catch-22 (Heller): If Heller didn’t invent and define the phrase “Catch-22” modern organizations would have.

3. Dead Souls (Gogol): How do you go about buying the ‘souls’ of dead peasants for a personal profit? You need good  sales skills…to say the least.

5. Walden (Thoreau): Keep it simple, stupid.

BLG Leadership Insights

Roosevelt for Obama’s First 100 Days: Three Relevant Books on Leadership

There is much truth and insight to be found in the parallel between Roosevelt’s first hundred days and Obama’s first hundred days in office. Like Roosevelt, Obama is being forced to become a proactive leader who must deftly navigate a harsh political terrain due to a swelling economic crisis.

Obama’s first hundred days aren’t over yet but his ability to organize collations while creating focused agendas will be severely tested in the upcoming weeks.

The following books all take studied looks at how Roosevelt defined America’s unique challenges and the revolutionary leadership role he molded in order to overcome them.