Amazon has been a phenomenal success. The string of innovation started with enabling consumers to buy books online and to not only get good prices but to be able to see reviews of the books by people who have already read them. Amazon expanded that initial experience of online book selling into becoming the premier online retailer, offering an incredibly wide variety of goods. Then, again surprising consumers, Amazon launched the Kindle and created the category of electronic books. The key characteristic of these innovations was that there was nothing like them in the marketplace, and they had genuine consumer appeal.
Gutsy Leadership Blog
It is not much fun to be part of an organization that is at best treading water with no clear roadmap to break out and get on an exciting path of progress. That certainly had to be the case for employees of Delta Airlines when it filed bankruptcy in 2005.
Brian Williams, the long-time anchor of NBC News, is now faced with the demise of his reputation and his career. The reason is simple. It appears that he ignored the truth when reporting to the public on various occasions, and made statements that appear to have had only one purpose; to enhance his reputation. The first incident involved claiming his helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade, when it seems various military personnel indicate it wasn’t. Also, in covering hurricane Katrina, he claimed he was seeing bodies floating by his hotel, when apparently there were no flood waters near his hotel.
In the past twelve months the stock price of Facebook has gone up 40%, while that of Google has dropped 8%. Facebook has had laser like focus on improving its penetration into mobile and it is really paying off; mobile ad revenue is running twice the level of a year ago and it accounted for 69% of the company’s $3.59bn of advertising revenues in the recent quarter.
On a recent flight scheduled to go from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Seoul, Korea, the Executive Vice President of Korean Airlines responsible for overseeing in-flight services was sitting in the first class section as the plane sat at the gate preparing to pull back and get in line to take off. The executive was served a drink and an unopened bag of peanuts while the boarding process was taking the place and she immediately went into an abusive tirade of the flight attendant for not serving the nuts on a plate. This tirade went on while the plane pulled away from the gate. Just before take-off the executive demanded that the plane return to the gate and ordered the flight attendant off of the plane.
The lesson is clear: Strong leaders know that their people, their customers, and their suppliers are their most important assets and that they are totally dependent on them for success. They treat people with respect and are careful to make working conditions and relationships as positive as possible.
The U. S. Postal Service (USPS) continues to spiral out of control, losing $26 Billion in the last three years. As reported in the financial press, USPS recently announced that starting next year it will lower its service standards, thus slowing down delivery. Employees have said publically that this move will “virtually eliminate overnight delivery – including first class mail – from one address to another within the same city or town.”
I recently got exposed to a company that has had a very tough time over the past five recession-burdened years. The industry they participate in has declined about 2% per year during that period, versus the average 4-5% growth that it enjoyed during the decade prior to the recent recession period. Given that the company is one of the few with premium priced offerings in their industry, once the recession hit, their business was hit even harder, with them losing market share each year, versus a prior decade of market share growth.
As reported recently in Businessweek, soft-drink sales started dropping in 2005 and have not stopped since (-19% over the past ten years). This is not surprising, given all the attention focused on discouraging soda consumption. For example, New York’s subway cars feature “drink yourself fat” anti-soda posters. The impact is real; Coca-Cola carbonated sodas fell 2 percent last year, marking the ninth straight year of decline. Diet Coke is being hit especially hard, dropping 7% last year, due primarily to the continuing health concerns about its artificial sweetener aspartame.
As we close out this year and set our sights on 2015, I think it is worthwhile to step back and think about the fundamentals of what it takes to lead a group to a successful outcome. In doing this, I am reminded of some work published 4 or so years ago in the Harvard Business Review that has really stuck with me. It was focused on uncovering THE key behaviors found in the experiences of others who have achieved success.