Many people hold onto tradition because that’s all they know. They simply don’t want to admit that times are changing and at some point, they will have to change as well. Iconic leaders the world over-challenged the status quo at some point. So, ask yourself this question.
What will be your leadership legacy when you depart from your company or when you depart from this planet? How will you be remembered as a leader?
Have you ever thought about it? Will you be classified as the leader who did not embrace the future but kept holding on to old practices and refuse to innovate your thinking and by extension your business? Take a look at the follow companies that held onto tradition and fail to innovate their business.
In 2005 MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe met with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and the pair talked merger. Eventually, Mark asked Chris if MySpace wanted to buy Facebook for $75 million. Chris said, no. When they met again later that year, Zuckerberg raised the price to $750 million, and DeWolfe again said no. Given the slow pace of innovation at MySpace when News Corp acquired them, it’s entirely possible Facebook would never have become the cultural touchstone it is today under Chris and Tom’s leadership instead of Mark’s. Facebook has now exceeded $500 billion in market value and Myspace is more of a Pandora Radio than a Facebook.
BlackBerry devices were top in their class for many years because they provided small Qwerty keyboards that made it easier to fire off emails and instant messages. However, Apple and Android smartphone users became comfortable with touchscreen devices and actually preferred them for the larger screens. BlackBerry failed to innovate, and the company stuck doggedly to the idea that fiddly plastic keys were not only desirable, but preferable to sleek, elegant devices, and that if it churned out enough, they would still sell. This never happened. The company did try to turn the corner with BlackBerry 10 that allowed it to create full touchscreen devices with a more modern look and feel, but by then it was too late. BlackBerry has stopped designing its own phone and conversely bringing to an end to one of the most iconic products of the internet era.
Business students will likely study Netflix’s toppling of the traditional video-rental market and especially the Blockbuster chain for years to come. Blockbuster CEO John Antioco was approached in 2000 by Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings about forming a partnership. According to Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy, “Reed had the chutzpah to propose to them that we run their brand online and that they run [our] brand in the stores and they just about laughed us out of their office. At that point, Netflix had just tweaked the business model and had begun selling subscriptions in September 1999.
“It was Reed’s insight that the subscription model would compellingly resonate with consumers,” McCarthy said. “He re-engineered the website and software to support a subscription model...we began to grow exponentially overnight. In 1998, I think the business did $1 million in revenue. In 1999, we did $5 million, then $35 million and then $75 million and $150 million and then almost $300 million...We were, I think five years to $500 million and another three years to a $1 billion, all because of the subscription model.” Now, Netflix has a market cap over 118 billion and consider to be one of the most innovative companies in the world, and in 2010, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection.
If Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did not challenge the idea of making a personal computer for everyone, there probably would not be an Apple today. Companies that strive on visionary leadership are the ones that take a proactive approach to reconstruct and disrupt markets while creating blue ocean opportunities for themselves. They don’t just survive but thrive in tough times. The workplace becomes an exciting one full of creativity and imagination.
A generation ago, a “Kodak moment” meant something that was worth saving and savoring. Given that Kodak’s core business was selling film, it is not hard to see why the last few decades proved challenging. According to Scott Anthony, a contributor for the Harvard Business Review, cameras went digital and then disappeared into cellphones. People went from printing pictures to sharing them online. Kodak actually had most of the patents for the digital-photography technology, but it didn’t commercialize them aggressively because that would have cannibalized its film business. Kodak was so blinded by its success that it completely missed the rise of digital technologies.
Instead, other firms licensed Kodak’s technology and commercialized it. Kodak couldn’t make that switch from a culture of film to a culture of digital technology. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012, exited legacy businesses and sold off its patents before re-emerging as a sharply smaller company in 2013. Once one of the most powerful companies in the world, today the company has a market capitalization of less than $1 billion.
You know, Roger Federer said something that really stuck with me. He said “I always questioned myself in the best of times, even when I was world number one for many, many weeks and months in a row, at certain times during the year I said, ‘What can I improve? What do I need to change?’ Because if you don’t do anything or you just do the same thing over and over again, you stay the same and staying the same means going backward.
About Gifford Thomas
I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 166,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.
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