The New Year is notorious for inspiring pledges and promises of self-improvement. From a better diet to a wiser budget, our hopes for transformation seem to reach their apex with a turn of the calendar. January 1st carries with it a sense of renewal, and the opportunity for a fresh start.
In the spirit of resolving to be our best in 2007, Business 2.0 asked 50 superstars of the business community how we can succeed in the lead during the New Year. Despite the diversity of the leaders interviewed, three themes echoed throughout their responses€”authenticity, trust, and simplicity.
AUTHENTICITY €“ Be true to yourself.
Leadership won`t work when it`s artificial, contrived, or insincere. Today`s followers are hypersensitive to inauthentic leadership, and modern consumers have little tolerance for products peddled by passionless organizations. Successful leadership stems from the heart of the leader.
€œYou have to understand who you are and figure out a way to communicate it. It might be in a different industry, but it’s about what pumps the blood through your veins, what makes you excited, what pushes your buttons. And then discovering the best way to communicate that, no matter how big or small; it’s what you stand for, what you believe in, and what reflects who you are.
~ Andre Agassi – Co-founder, Agassi Graf Development
When leaders and their organizations grow in influence, they face increasing opportunities, some of which tempt them to abandon their heart. Leaders are challenged to remain true to their guiding passion when surrounded by distractions.
€œYou can’t be all things to all people. Whatever it is that you’re successful at, that has to be the number one goal. In my case, it’s accessibility. So all of my products have to be usable, accessible, affordable€¦ Decide what it is that you are and then stay true to that thing. My brand is based very much on how I live my day-to-day life.
~ Rachael Ray –
€œEvery product and every brand has a core essence. Don’t sacrifice that core essence as you update the product.
~ Alan Hassenfeld – Chairman, Hasbro
TRUST €“ If you build it, they will come.
As a consumer, it`s maddening to find an amazing €œsale, which turns out to be of little to no value due to stipulations in the fine print. It`s frustrating to buy a software package and later learn it`s not able to deliver the features promised by the salesperson. It`s infuriating to purchase a used vehicle in €œgreat condition only to discover major mechanical problems that were glossed over by the previous owner.
When transacting business, we, as consumers, bring expectations to the table. We want high-quality products that deliver as advertised. We anticipate customer service that treats us as dignified human beings rather than distractions. We`re drawn to brands which consistently earn our trust by meeting our expectations, and we reward these brands with our business.
€œThe rules of engagement around building a brand have changed significantly over the past 10 to 15 years. Where companies at one time could spread their message through traditional marketing, consumers now seek an enduring emotional connection with the companies they patronize. The foundation of that connection is the most important characteristic of building a world-class brand: trust. Trust with your people and trust with your customers.
~ Howard Schultz – Chairman, Starbucks
As employees, we also enter the workplace with expectations. We assume we`ll be appreciated for hard work and dedication. We look for honesty and forthrightness from our leaders. We expect decent wages for our contributions.
When employers extend us a fair salary, communicate openly with us, and express gratitude for our efforts, they`re likely to earn our trust along with our peak performance. Trust begets trust. When we extend it, we`ll reap the benefits in abundance.
€œIn order to reduce costs, increase production, and nurture a culture of innovation – all of which are important criteria in today’s global economy – you’ve got to have high trust among your workers and partners. Why? Because everyone involved needs to sacrifice. If you don’t have high trust, none of those things will happen. You can’t fake high trust.
~ Stephen Covey – Vice Chairman, FranklinCovey; Author, The 7 habits of Highly Effective People
SIMPLICITY €“ Cut through complication.
When searching the shelves of the local grocery store or pharmacy, we`re struck by a dizzying array of selections. Tide® laundry detergent is available in upwards of 40 varieties. Extra-strength Tylenol® can be purchased in Go Tabs, EZ Tabs, Rapid Release Gels, Geltabs, Caplets, Cool Caplets, or Liquid.
And those are the simple products! Our cell phones, computers, televisions, and PDA`s have become multifaceted gizmos and gadgets with endless functions, half of which we have no clue how to operate. We`re blessed with the options created by technology, but we`re confounded by our inability to take advantage them.
€œTechnology has this way of becoming overly complex, but simplicity was one of the reasons that people gravitated to Google initially. This complexity is an issue that has to be solved for online technologies, for devices, for computers, and it’s very difficult. Success will come from simplicity.
~ Sergey Brin – Co-founder, Google
€œMost of the problems we have and talk about today sound very complicated, but they aren’t. They’re simple. And complications actually hide solutions. So when I’m faced with a problem that looks complicated, I try to bring it back to its simplest state. When you’re trying to solve a problem, always bring it back to the simplest formulation.
~ Muhammad Yunus – Founder, Grameen Bank; Winner, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize
Authenticity – If you`re not fighting to stay true to who you are, life will pigeonhole you in a confining role. It`s up to you to consistently position yourself to the areas of your greatest strength and passion.
Trust €“ Chronic suspicion is suicide in leadership. By willing to risk in your relationships by reaching out with trust. In response, you`ll earn respect and devotion.
Simplicity – Slice and dice so that in 2007, less becomes more. Focus your energy by making fewer goals, but committing to keep the ones you create. Instead of adding appointments, concentrate on bringing your €œA game to each and every meeting.