What is the mark of a good leader? One of the most oft-repeated answers is the need to have a vision, to know what drives you to do what it is that you are doing. A good leader believes in something, and more importantly is able to share this belief with everyone working with him.
There certainly is a lot of truth in this idea; that is, as long as you’re not overdoing it. Take Steve Jobs, for example. Jobs is more than just a CEO; he’s arguably responsible for establishing the design philosophy behind every Apple product built in the last decade. This philosophy, this vision has always been at its core rather simple: keep design out of the way in order to create simple, intuitive products. Jobs not only pushed that idea forward, but he also made sure that everyone working for him worked toward achieving it.
However, Steve Jobs’ recent departure from Apple due to health concerns showed just how critical his presence had become for Apple. This is because rather than letting the brand stand on its own, Jobs always chose to play a prominent role in his company’s marketing, notably with his now famous keynote speeches, known as Stevenotes. This strategy had its upside over the years, contributing to Apple’s rise to stardom. But as we see today, this strategy now risks hurting the company’s stock, with investors being scared that Apple will lose some of its drive without Steve Jobs. A leader occupying too much space can indeed cast a shadow on his own company, and as Michael Dell explained in a recent Newsweek article, it can also result in up-and-comers not being noticed.
The point I ultimately want to make is this: as with all things, leadership works best in moderation. Being a leader does not mean becoming a guru. Share your vision with your co-workers. Hire like-minded people. Make sure that they impart the vision you both share in their work. And tell your clients, or the people who purchase your product, what your company stands for. But make sure that in the end, it’s your brand that they remember, not yourself.
Patrick d’Astous is the founder of d’Astous Groupe Conseil a sponsor of NextMontreal.
Image from Elliott Morgan.