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Why Leadership Is Not for Sissies


by Glenn Shepard
January 10, 2017
Category: Leadership


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About 1 in 4 workers reply to work emails within 15 minutes, while only 1 in 10 expects such a fast response. (Source: USA Today and GFI Software survey)

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In today’s fast-paced business environment where companies rise and fall on the strength of their foresight, leadership requires a rare ability to balance a long-term vision with the nuts-and-bolts of daily operations and values.
But “vision” may be the most abused word in business these days. People often speak of it as if it is a simple matter of looking ahead. In truth, it’s much, much more.

True vision is proactive and risky — VERY risky.

It requires you to imagine a future that doesn’t yet exist, and take action to bring it to life. It’s about making fundamental changes to your organization that set it on a course never seen in business before. It’s about doing what so many in leadership roles speak about, but so few actually execute.

Vision requires a serious commitment to long-term differentiation from your competitors.

We’re not talking about cosmetic changes like making a more durable paper towel than the next one, but about leadership that revolutionizes the distribution model for getting the absorbent product into the hands of customers.
Consider two developments that really changed the game and created lasting competitive advantages for the companies that developed them:

In 1907, Henry Ford had a revolutionary idea to create “a motor car for the great multitude.” It took him years of trial and error to develop a system (the assembly line) that could support such a grand vision, but he did it and his leadership changed the course of American history. Today it’s hard to imagine manufacturing without interchangeable parts, continuous flow and division of labor, but they were unknown before Ford brought them to life in 1913.

Fred Smith is known for two things: founding Federal Express (later shortened to “FedEx”) and creating overnight delivery. This is important because most inventors don’t have the skills to manage a company that can successfully market their creation. Smith had the big idea, AND the charisma to attract top-notch investors, employees, suppliers and customers. He knew that people would pay for dependable overnight delivery and orchestrated a dedicated fleet of jets to get the job done. Raising $91,000,000 in venture capital was just the beginning. His leadership truly transformed the way many companies conduct business, not just his own.

These business giants demonstrated the magnitude of vision, and the leadership required to fuel long-term business success.

If you really want to be a leader, you must have the vision to see what others don’t, the courage to try what others say won’t work, and the character not to rub it in their faces when it does.

To Your Success,


Glenn Shepard

P.S. The ultimate testament to Fred Smith’s vision is that his company name became a verb. How many times have you said you’re going to “FedEx” a package instead of “ship it overnight by FedEx”?

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