Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Business Leader Malpractice

"If you're only strong in the good times, then you're committing business malpractice," Jim Collins said--or something like this--at a leadership conference recently. "You need to be strong also in the bad times." He then outlined the findings as reported in his book Great By Choice. Like Amundsen and unlike Scott, both racing for the South Pole, you need to be strong in the blizzards as well as fair weather. Amundsen pushed through adverse weather because he was prepared. He researched what methods of transportation would work in Antarctica rather than trying some new, untested technology or a technology that works in less severe climates. Scott tried motorized sleds and ponies, both which failed, leaving his team to pull their own supplies. Amundsen took extra precautions so they could find their supply shack on the return trip, even if they were slightly off track and in 'white-out' conditions.

You cannot blame poor results on external factors. Every business goes through economic downturns, regulatory changes, distractions through election cycles, natural disasters, a major customer that switches suppliers for any reason, etc. But many businesses survive and thrive through bad circumstances. We all have faced an incident:

  • that was caused by something or somebody else
  • potentially significant consequence, either for the good or the bad
  • that had a element of surprise.
You probably faced an incident like that this morning in your personal life. That's life, right? Events like that happen in your business life too. Winners in Collins' research are not luckier. Winners act differently. They don't squander these 'surprises' and they avoid being exposed or unprepared to the 'bad' consequences for these kinds of events.

If you leave your organization exposed such that a 'bad' event will leave it decimated, you've committed malpractice. If you lead an organization that's not prepared for the next downturn, you've committed malpractice.

Is there insurance for this kind of leadership?

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