There are over 150 international editions of Fox’s ten books that have been published in 35 languages in more than 100 countries. They include Secrets of Great Rainmakers, The Dollarization Discipline, How To Become a Rainmaker, How to Become a Marketing Superstar, How to Become CEO,,How to Become a Great Boss, How To Get to the Top, and most recently, How to Be a Fierce Competitor: What Winning Companies and Great Managers Do in Tough Times, published by Jossey-Bass (March, 2010). His clients include some of the world’s most successful and most admired corporations and organizations. Fox graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Here are a few of his observations in How to Be a Fierce Competitor that caught my eye:
“The single biggest difference between leaders and managers is the tolerance for ambiguity. Leaders can deal with ambiguity, can deal with not having all the facts, not having all the data. Leaders make decisions, big decisions, midcrisis decisions, without certainty of the outcome. Managers don’t.”
“Invest your time with your highest-performing sales people, with your most creative marketing people, and with your most inventive innovators. Then watch your investment pay.”
“The father of modern venture capital, Georges Doriot, uttered the famous quote, ‘Someone, somewhere, is making a product that will make your product obsolete.’ The message: never stop I proving, adapting, innovating. Be ever fearful of the obsolescing technology, the vanishing market, the changing playing fields. Being ever fearful makes you ever watchful.”
Here’s an especially thoughtful passage:
“The ‘third shift’ is a metaphor for those people and groups of people who toil in relative anonymity in the organization. They may workers on the night shift; the scientists in distant labs, behind locked doors, working on the next breakthroughs; the customer service people dealing with the problems and one irate customer after another; the field repair people fixing critical customer machinery on the weekend or holiday; the caregivers that empty bed pans. These people may not be omnipresent, but they are critical to the continuing success of the company. Great managers recognize such people, give them credit, give sincere thank-yous.”
“Pay for knockouts, not for punches. Pay for sales revenues generated, not for sales calls made. Pay for packages delivered on time, not for miles driven. Pay for new products commercialized, not for new product ideas. Pay for games won, not for points scored. Pay fir good grades, not for hours studying. Pay for increased brand awareness, not for numbers of ads run. Pay for store sales, not for hours open.” In other words, pay for results…not efforts.
* * *
February is Presidents’ month, and in this frame, it’s a fine time to spend a few hours with Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s life and leadership offer rich lessons for managers and indeed all leaders in our own turbulent moment.
Paul Angle’s The Lincoln Reader is a classic in the huge field of writing on the 16th president. But that’s not the most important reason to pick this book up. Open it because it is a great read, comprised of a range of first-hand accounts of Lincoln and narrated in clear, engaging prose. What shines through clearly in these accounts and in Angle’s expert commentary is how Lincoln used the hurdles in his path — failure, loss, confusion, and more — as learning opportunities. They became avenues to deeper insight and confidence in himself and thus important milestones along his leadership journey.
David Donald’s 1995 biography, titled simply Lincoln, is arguably the best single-volume work on the Civil War president in many decades. Donald’s deep knowledge of and care for his subject flow through each page, guiding the reader along the, at times, astounding path that Lincoln walked and examining how his leadership developed during his presidency. Donald’s work is particularly relevant to leaders working in the midst of great uncertainty because he focuses on how Lincoln never lost sight of the larger stage and his own mission as the country’s chief executive on that stage.
In honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth last year, the Library of America produced a first-rate anthology of writings about Lincoln. Edited by Harold Holzer, The Lincoln Anthology contains all manner of (concise) observations about Lincoln and his legacy from individuals as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Gore Vidal. Their viewpoints are not to be missed, not only because of the diversity of their distinct perspectives on Lincoln’s humanity — how he dressed and spoke and told a joke — but also because the reader comes away from the book with a much clearer sense of a leader’s impact: the shapes this impact takes, its importance in the moment, and its consequences long after a leader finishes his or her work.
* * *
Nancy Koehn is an authority on entrepreneurial history and is the James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, where her research focuses on entrepreneurship and leadership. She is the editor of the book The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times, published by Harvard Business Press in October 2009.
In his latest book, Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face — and What to Do About It published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group, Richard Tedlow provides a wealth of information and insights as he examines a number of especially interesting situation throughout U.S. history. Here’s a composite excerpt:
“The United States in 1900 did not have improved roads…We didn’t have gas stations. Indeed, we didn’t have much gas…We did not have traffic lights or rules of the road…Automobiles were expensive in 1900. No bank would lend you money to buy one. Dealerships would not finance their purchase…The few cars that had been tinkered together by the turn of the century did not have all-weather bodies. Nor did they have headlights…
“What must be kept in mind is that most of us march backward into the future. We see what was. If we are particularly perspicacious, we can see what is. Our true visionaries, however, can imagine what might bed. Think of the term horseless carriage. The automobile was originally named not for what it was but for what it was not. So people looking at cars in 1900 could reasonably conclude that they would never bed used for commuting regularly to work. You wouldn’t drive when it was dark, raining, or snowing.
“Cars did not have self-starters. You had to crank the engine to get it going, and this could prove dangerous. Indeed, it could be fatal…Many early cars, such as Ford’s own quadricycle, did not have steering wheels. They had tillers instead. What other vehicle has a tiller? A boat. People think in terms if analogy, and it was not terribly outlandish to think of a horseless carriage as a ‘land yacht.’ As a plaything for the rich…”
Here’s where Tedlow’s narrative really gets interesting.
“Bicycle manufacturer Albert A. Pope predicted in 1900 that within a decade there would “be more automobiles in use in the large cities of the United States than there are now horses in those cities. Both Edison and Pope, however, were predicting that cars would be electric. Edison said this would be possible by the development of an improved storage battery.”
That was 110 years ago.