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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Self-Belief Fuels a Strong Sense of Optimism

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Theodore Newton Vail 
AT&T - A Telecom Giant - (1845-1921)

Theodore Newton Vail – 
AT&T – A Telecom Giant (1845-1921)

Do you believe in yourself, your abilities and possess the confidence to succeed in life? It is impossible to develop a high degree of confidence without first having a strong sense of self-belief. This implies knowing without a doubt that you can do it, no matter what you realistically set your mind to do. “Henry Ford had tremendous self-belief and he constantly preached on it. He would hire workers [who] didn’t know [the] understand the meaning of impossible and would keep pushing the limits of their imagination.” [1]

Without a strong sense of self-belief, Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) would never have even taken her first steps forward. “A tireless believer in herself, in her wares, and in hard work, Lauder haunted a purchasing agent at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s classy department store, until she landed a small order. From there, she staked out her ever larger, ever more laden counters in the nation’s leading emporiums.” [2]

Self-belief fuels a strong sense of optimism. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) observed: “Optimism is essential when trying to do anything difficult because difficult things often take a long time. That optimism can carry you through the various stages as the long term unfolds. And it’s the long term that matters.” [3]

Self-belief and optimism provide effective leaders the means to overcome adversity and failure, as was exhibited by John Chambers (Cisco) when he saw his revenues collapse. “Cisco executives say Chambers always believed that Cisco would come out of the bust stronger. ‘We’re extremely optimistic that John Chambers will see to the success of all of us,’ says Mona Hudak, a Cisco manager. ‘We really are trying to build a great company that’s built to last,’ Chambers says.” [4]

Theodore Vail (AT&T) originally left AT&T after the initial investors did not concur with his vision of the company. After J.P. Morgan (J.P. Morgan Bank) acquired AT&T, Vail was brought back to implement his vision. “Vail’s determination and his confidence in the telephone company’s future were unshaken by the fact that the money market was dangerously sagging and recession loomed ahead.

“’When Mr. Vail came back to the telephone company as president,’ an executive at the Chicago associated company later recalled, ‘telephone men and the public generally recognized that somebody was there who not only knew the telephone business, but the world’s business, and it restored confidence.’ Vail was more than just a ‘telephone man;’ he was a knowledgeable entrepreneur, in his 20-year absence from the company, his successful business ventures had made him a millionaire several times over.” [5]

  1. Henry Ford – Leadership Case Study (http://www.leadership-with-you.com)
  2. Guzzardi Jr. Walter, The U.S. Business Hall of Fame (Fortune Magazine, March 14, 1988)
  3. Walker, Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)
  4. Maney Kevin, Chambers, Cisco Born Again (USA Today, January 21, 2004)
  5. Fry Annette R., Man of Decision (Bell Telephone Magazine, March-April 1975)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great, What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) Read a FREE Chapter.

Related:

You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose You

The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

Your Personal Vision Anchors You to Weather Your Storms

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Yes, They Did Built It and Made It Happen!

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Fred Smith – FedEx

It is time to recall how many great American leaders were pioneers who changed the World, as we know it today. There are so many positive contributions to society accomplished through the efforts of these individuals, which are often ignored or are taken granted in our daily lives. If you were to remove any one of them, the world would be quite a different place. Many were pioneers in their fields, whose innovations and inventions influenced subsequent innovations and inventions. While not inclusive, there are many notable examples.

John Dorrance (Campbell Soup) invented and marketed condensed soups to make Campbell’s a household name. Asa Candler (Coca-Cola) launched the soft drink industry with the introduction of Coca-Cola, and Milton Hershey (Hershey Foods) developed an affordable milk chocolate for mass-market consumption.

Eddie Bauer (Eddie Bauer) and L.L. Bean (L.L. Bean) pioneered the development of the sporting goods industry by creating products to meet the needs of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, followed by Phil Knight (Nike) who felt there was a need for a better running shoe.

Related: The Productive Response to Failure

During the early 20th Century Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) began acquiring hotel properties in the cities, improving them and opening a market for the upper middle class customer. But it was Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), who saw the need and opportunity for predictable quality accommodations for families on vacation. Fueled by the growth of the Baby Boomer generation, Holiday Inns grew across the country and then the world. His success influenced the creation of multiple lodging chains that followed his model.

Kemmons Wilson – Holiday Inn

Both of these leaders changed the hospitality industry by creating predictable and quality standards for hotel and motel accommodations throughout the world, vastly improving the traveler’s experience.

Related: What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

While many individuals contributed to the development of the automobile industry, the production of cheap and reliable automobiles, reliable tires and power diesel motors had an enormous impact on the shaping of America during the 20th Century. These great leaders, along with others, transformed America into a mobile society. One of the most influential is Henry Ford (Ford Motor), who didn’t invent the automobile, but changed and disrupted the automotive industry with the production of affordable and reliable cars for the mass market.

In less than 50 years after the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight in 1906, Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft), William Boeing (Boeing) and Juan Trippe (Pan American Airways) pioneered the early aviation industry, from the early 1920s through the late 1940s, to launch the commercial jet age in the early 1950s.

While Beech and Boeing focused on airplane design and production, Trippe set his sights on connecting the world, first in South America, and then across the Pacific in the 1930s with his famed “China Clipper” flying boats. Trippe worked with William Allen (Boeing) after the Second World War to introduce the jet-age to commercial aviation.

Related: Did You Ever Want to Just Give Up and Quit?

Fred Smith (FedEx) designed and created a web and spoke logistics and distribution model that enabled FedEx to grow into an enormous success. At the same time he incorporated numerous and continuous improvements and innovations to drive up efficiency, while minimizing costs.

Up to 1888, if you wished to have a picture taken, you needed to visit a local photographer. If you enjoy taking pictures, you can thank George Eastman (Kodak), who developed modern photography for the average consumer.

Prior to King Gillette’s (Gillette) razor, men either went to their local barber or used a straight razor to shave. William C. Procter (Procter and Gamble) introduced Ivory Soap.

Estee Lauder

Elizabeth Arden (Elizabeth Arden) and Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) pioneered the cosmetics industry for women, while J.C. Hall (Hallmark) created the greeting card industry into what we know it to be today, including the celebration of Valentine’s and Secretary’s Day.

While Americans rely on easy access to banking and credit services, this was not the case until the early 20th Century. For this, they can thank A.P. Giannini (Bank of America), who introduced the conveniences of modern retail banking.

Related: The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) introduced the prototype and business model for modern franchising, as well as the efficient product of fast food. It still remains the primary benchmark model in both contemporary franchise and fast food industries.

Television, radio, print media and the Internet barrage us with countless marketing and advertising messages to buy myriads of products and services. While Henry Ford (Ford Motor) is credited with launching the Age of Consumerism, you can thank P.T. Barnum (Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus) for first introducing the principles of advertising and marketing, which are still in practice today.

Montgomery Ward (Montgomery Ward) was the first to understand, employ and apply the concept of direct mail marketing. He observed the need and opportunity as the United States population surged in the early 20th Century, providing shopping alternatives for geographically diverse populations, located primarily in rural communities where product choice was both limited and expensive.

Howard-Schultz-Starbucks

The concept of contemporary discount retailing is often credited to E.J. Korvette’s, an East Coast retail chain that operated between 1948 and 1980. However Frank Woolworth (F.W. Woolworth) “was the pioneer of price-driven retail, building an empire founded on chain stores and volume retailing. Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) applied its concepts with his own twist. Walton’s example influenced many other great leaders and the development of their companies, including Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank (Home Depot), and Howard Schultz (Starbucks).

Related: Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?

While the Internet came into prominence in the late 1990s, many individuals failed to utilize the power of ecommerce. Those who successfully pioneered its use include Charles Schwab (Charles Schwab) in discount brokerage services, Michael Dell (Dell Computer), who developed an effective ecommerce strategy to sell computers on-line, and Jeff Bezos (Amazon), who built an on-line empire employing his ecommerce strategies, after as a financial analyst he observed a phenomenal 2400% growth in Internet usage.

If you think, these individuals didn’t do it on their own, you’re mistaken. They not only had an idea, but also had the persistence and resilience to make it happen!

Adapted from Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2012)

If you would like to learn more about the positive contributions of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Utilizing Continuous Improvement and Innovation to Generate Growth

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Jeff Bezos - Amazon.com

Great leaders accelerated the power of emerging and growing markets through innovation. They utilized continuous improvement and innovation to generate growth, pioneer advancements and in many cases, to disrupt their industries to create strong competitive advantages.

“Figuring out innovation—how to come up with a killer new idea and then execute it—has long been an obsession of entrepreneurs and the academics and journalists who study them. One of the great myths of the innovation process, often reported in the popular press, involves a creative genius experiencing a ‘eureka moment,’ refining the golden idea, and then pursuing it toward blockbuster status… Successful side projects and the policies that nurture them somewhat deflate this myth. First, they highlight the random circumstances that can give rise to important inspiration. Second, they promote experimentation—not abstract brainstorming—because the ‘aha!’ moment does not always happen at the outset, as mythologized, but somewhere in the middle of the process. Third, they underscore not the mad, brilliant scientist at the top but the collective brainpower of all employees, especially those close to the customer—Richard Drew at 3M, Paul Buchheit at Google. These people are critical to sustaining innovation over the long term.”

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) asserted that it was important to “constantly be open to innovation that can benefit the customer. This point has been made many times in the words above, yet it bears repeating. A company can be incredibly rigid, the bigger it becomes. Competition can become incredibly threatening. Technology can change from one day to the next. But what doesn’t change is that customers will pay you for products that will make them happy. And I fear that a lot, a lot of businesses have forgotten that as they became big, arrogant, and focused on anything but what customers want…”

Innovation is directly correlated to the practice of “ruthless efficiency,” which will be discussed in detail in Chapter Six. It is the result or consequence of focusing on improving the customer’s experience, while continually driving down costs and increasing efficiencies. This is only achieved through the process of continuous improvement, and the introduction of new ideas and insights that result in innovation. “Ruthless efficiency” in reality, is the cause, while innovation is the effect.

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the innovations and innovative thinking of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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