In a recent Wall Street journal article, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, said “To get something new done, you have to be stubborn and focused, to the point that others might find unreasonable.” That statement reminds me of a story from Ford Motor Company when Alan Mulally was making the rounds shortly after he joined the company in 2006 as CEO.
Mulally uncovered the fact that the Ford Fusion, launched just before he arrived, was selling poorly versus competitors like the Hyundai Elantra. When he probed further, he found out that versus competitors, the Fusion didn’t have all the “goodies,” such as side air bags, satellite radio and a navigation system, as standard equipment. When he asked why, the head designer indicated that Finance vetoed them to keep the cost down. Clearly the head designer was acting as a consensus coordinator, rather than a leader. That is a recipe for failure if you are trying to market distinctive, exciting cars that are clearly superior to your competitor.
The fix was easy. Head designers were charged with being fully responsible for the results of their designs, and were held accountable for all aspect of the car’s design. That means when Finance wants cheap, and the head designer doesn’t agree, he or she tells Finance no thanks.
So Bezos is right; leaders need the following traits:
1.) Internal Strength – Often called guts, or being stubborn & unreasonable. They do not budge if they believe in something.
2.) Desire for Accountability – They want the responsibility and the authority to get something done.
3.) Take the Consequences – They expect to be rewarded if successful and realize they must take the consequences if they fail.
What are some other traits you consider important to solid leaders?