Three years ago Time Warner gave up on AOL and spun it off. They couldn’t make anything distinctive and exciting out of it. Last year, AOL spent $315 million to buy Huffington Post and put founder Arianna Huffington in charge of most of the AOL online properties. Very recently, AOL announced it was moving Arianna back to just running Huffington Post.
In a nutshell, AOL is searching for a reason for being. There are many aging AOL services, like instant messaging. Currently AOL is excited about their service called Patch.com, a local news website. Estimates are that AOL is losing $500million on it annually, but remain optimistic; surprising given that the websites of local tv and radio stations do a pretty good job on local news!
While AOL is making some money on its ad revenue from offerings like their tech blogs TechCrunch and Engadget, and its stock price has recovered to levels of three years ago when it was spun off, the folks running the company need to come to grips with the number one task of any courageous leader:
Face Reality and Develop a Creative, Distinctive and Aggressive Plan
Why do leaders find this so hard? Because there are huge traps which you as a leader need to avoid:
1.) Spending all your time executing today’s business – You need to regularly schedule some think time to deal with reality and develop a high-impact plan.
2.) Surrounding yourself with implementers of today’s business – Such individuals are typically comfortable with their jobs, defend what they are doing and don’t want change.
3.) Being reluctant to have bold, smart and “unusual” individuals reporting to you – This is the type of person who should be charged with surveying the current situation and developing strategies that will be distinctive and fresh and excite potential customers.