Sunday, July 1, 2012

Are great leaders lucky?

I recently found a video from Morton Hansen from Berkeley subtitled how great leaders make their own luck and published by Harvard that makes some really interesting points about the difference between great leaders and others.

He refutes the idea that great vision distinguishes great leadership, citing the example of Bill Gates who, in leading Microsoft, wasn't the first to recognise the potential of a number of industry changes, most notably the rise of the Internet! Instead he suggests great leaders share the following personality characteristics:
  • Productive paranoia - Always worrying about what is happening
  • Fanatical discipline - Always focused on how best to achieve their goals
  • Empirical creativity - Always assessing new ideas and going with the ones that work
And he further goes on to suggest that great leaders achieve a 'higher return on luck'.  An interesting concept; surely luck is just luck?  Not so he says.  Their study showed that both successful and less successful leaders faced the same number of 'good luck' and 'bad luck' events.  They concluded that the difference is in the way in which great leaders acted; they found that great leaders take three types of action more often than others.  And that these types of action achieve better results from whatever happens:
  • They prepare for bad luck - They assume it will happen sometime and ensure they are prepared to deal with it
  • They capitalise upon good luck - They spot opportunities and seize the moment, even if it means abandoning previous plans - again he quotes Bill Gates - who abandoned his degree course to do the deal to sell MS-DOS to IBM
  • They execute brilliantly - WHen they see and seize an opportunity they make sure they make the most of it
If you're interested in hearing more, watch the video: