9 Thought-Provoking Leadership & Personal Growth Ideas for 2013

As we close 2012 and enter 2013, many of us will take stock of how we’re doing as marketing and business leaders, and perhaps in our personal lives as well.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a few thought-provoking ideas from my recent reading, including from Jeff Bezos and Clayton Christensen, that resonated with me and could prove valuable to you.  While they’re mostly for your professional consideration, you may also find some personal overlap.   I’ve organized these ideas into nine categories for easy processing.

Good luck and Happy New Year.


1.  Figure Out How To Get Real Feedback & Input. 

A.  Doug Parker – CEO of US Airways

I try really hard now to have forums that allow employees to talk to me, rather than me being in front of 1,000 people. Four times a month, I put myself in a room with 30 or 40 pilots and flight attendants, and I talk for 10 minutes; they talk for 50 (emphasis added). It’s not just listening out of respect — you can’t imagine how much better you can do your job when you operate this way. When you’re leading a big organization like an airline, there’s a whole lot you can miss, so you have to start by listening to people. Then you can decide what the right course is.  (Source: Fortune)

B.  David Boies – Superlawyer, founder of Boies Schiller & Flexner

Anyone who’s worth talking to is worth listening to.  (Source: Fortune)

2.  Use Data to Expand Your Thinking, Not Lock It

Eugene Fama – Economist & Author

With formal statistics, you say something — a hypothesis — and then you test it. Harry [statistics professor Harry Roberts] always said that your criterion should be not whether or not you can reject or accept the hypothesis, but what you can learn from the data (emphasis added). The best thing you can do is use the data to enhance your description of the world. That has been the guiding light of my research. (Source: Fortune)

3.  In a VUCA World, Control Your Own Actions (VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity)

John Hickenlooper – Governor of Colorado

You can’t always control what happens to you in a game or in life, but you can control how you respond — you should never quit.  (Source:  Fortune)

4.  Don’t Stand Still. And – Go For It! (when you can)

Magnus Carlsen – No. 1 Ranked Chess Player in the World

My former coach, Simen Agdestein, used to be the best player in Norway. I was 10 years old at the time, and he said something that was simple but very helpful: He said I should break new barriers all the time (emphasis added). I was doing relatively well, but I had fallen into a pattern of playing a lot of the same openings and positions. He encouraged me to look further.  (Source: Fortune)



5.  Develop Talent: “Put Me In Coach”

Clayton Christensen – Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and one of the world’s foremost experts on innovation and growth.

Part 1.   In 1979, writer Tom Wolfe captured the public imagination with his depiction of one of the most competitive professional environments in the world: the screening of American fighter pilots. While Wolfe’s fighter pilots may indeed have been the best of the best, McCall’s [Morgan McCall, a professor at the University of Southern California] theory gives a causal explanation of why. It wasn’t because they were born with superior skills. Instead, it was because they had honed them along the way, by having experiences that taught them how to deal with setbacks or extreme stress in high-stakes situations (emphasis added).

Part 2.  The value of giving people experiences before they need them plays out in many fields other than business. The coach of one of my favorite basketball teams while I was growing up was always driven to win and to win big. As one of his biggest fans, I loved watching my team blowing out its competitors.

I remember a particular game, however, when I realized the limitations to the coach’s drive to always win big. As usual, they’d made it all the way to the championship game. But this year, the team they were competing against was playing particularly well. By the end of the third quarter, the starters were exhausted. I remember watching the coach on TV. He looked all the way down to the end of the bench. He never bothered to do that in typical matches until the final few minutes of the game, when the stakes were no longer high. This time, however, he needed someone to put into the game at that critical moment.

But there was a problem: He didn’t see anyone on the bench whom he trusted. That’s because he had never before put them into tight situations where they could have honed their abilities to perform under pressure (emphasis added). So he had to keep playing his weary starters. They lost that game—and the league championship.  (Source:  HBS Alumni Bulletin)

6.  Writing Generates Clarity. Don’t Ignore the Memo and Report!

Jeff Bezos – Amazon CEO

Meetings of his “S-team” of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team — including Bezos — consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes. (Yes, the e-ink purveyor prefers paper. Ironic, no?) They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.

Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group’s undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. “Full sentences are harder to write,” he says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking” (emphasis added).  (Source:  Fortune. Jeff Bezos: The Ultimate Disrupter, by Adam Lashinsky)

7.  Gain Inspiration from an Outside:In Perspective

Jeff Bezos – Amazon CEO

You want to look at what other companies are doing,” says Bezos. “It’s very important not to be hermetically sealed. But you don’t want to look at it as if, ‘Okay, we’re going to copy that.’ You want to look at it and say, ‘That’s very interesting. What can we be inspired to do as a result of that?’ And then put your own unique twist on it.  (Source:  Fortune. Jeff Bezos: The Ultimate Disrupter, by Adam Lashinsky)

8.  Learn from Experimentation – and Failure

Sara Blakely – Founder of Spanx

I have realized as an entrepreneur that so many people don’t pursue their idea because they were scared or afraid of what could happen. My dad taught me that failing simply just leads you to the next great thing.  (Source: Fortune)

9.  Create the “Count on Each Other” Culture

Jeff Bezos – Amazon CEO

I have realized about myself that I’m very motivated by people counting on me.  I like to be counted on. I like to have a bunch of customers who count on us. I like being part of a team. We’re all counting on each other (emphasis added). I like the fact that shareholders are counting on us. And so I find that very motivating.  (Source:  Fortune. Jeff Bezos: The Ultimate Disrupter, by Adam Lashinsky)

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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