Is a Leader a Solo Act?

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Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article on Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP. The article profiled McDermott’s rise within SAP and the fact that this German company will now be at the hands of an American CEO for the first time in its history.

McDermott has placed his beliefs front and center, stating that SAP must move quickly and innovate. “There is no speed limit on innovation” McDermott told a crowd at a recent event. But herein lies a fundamental problem that challenges  the “believability” of that statement. Can innovation happen through the efforts of one person alone or does innovation require a team?

Today’s most admired companies are those that innovate. Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and ExxonMobil are all at the forefront of their respective industries due to constant innovation. Additionally, their ability to innovate is often credited to their employees and the teams they have assembled to drive some of the best innovations and inventions of our times. Yet McDermott seems to have chosen a “go it alone” strategy having terminated most of SAP’s previous leaders of innovation.

SAP’s advisory board seems to be in full support of Mr. McDermott and has done nothing less than support him in his me, myself, and I strategy. But will it work? Here are 3 areas where McDermott’s strategy may go awry:

1. Collaboration breeds innovation – even the late, great, Steve Jobs saw the benefits of team collaboration when launching the first iPod as referenced in the book Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney. Teams were assembled to take a raw idea and bring it to life. Contrary to popular belief, Apple’s success wasn’t Steve Jobs alone.
2. Checks and balance. Not having a #1 or #2 on your team can lead to beliefs of invincibility and disillusionment. Every leader needs a strong next-in-line. Believing that only you have all the answers or ideas is very risky. Beyond the benefit to the business, having the right #2 will stretch and challenge the leader to explore options he or she might have otherwise dismissed.
3. Competitive Intelligence. Much like the reasons for #2 above, it’s highly unlikely for one person to be “in-the-know” on all things at all times. I rely on my team as a unit to keep us all up to speed on current and trending market conditions. Having multiple inputs from different folks minimizes bias and assumptions.

So will SAP’s strategy work? Time will tell.

Know When to Hold ’em and Know When to Fold ’em

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Work not going well? You’ve been there a while but lately you seem to be spinning your wheels. You have several important projects or initiatives you’re responsible for but you still feel a bit…unfulfilled…numb. Is it time to look for a new job? Would a change in your environment really make a difference? What if you make a change and things don’t get better? Or the all-time favorite justification for staying put – “there’s no perfect job”.

While I don’t suggest job-hopping, I do believe that life’s simply too short to be unhappy, unchallenged, unfulfilled…or numb. Taking charge and owning your happiness and completeness is up to you and you alone. No one is going to do it for you. No boss will ever come to you offering to do all they can to make you happy. Remember you’re employed by them for a reason – to accomplish their goals as they are disseminated from on high.

So how do you know if the sand in the hourglass is gone and it’s time to move on? Answer the following questions to give you an indication if it’s time.

1. How excited are you to get up and go into work each day? No excitement? Boring? Drab? Dreadful? Or are you emotionally charged, eager, and ready to tear it up each day?
2. Where is your energy level at 10 am each day? Does your energy drain early in the day? Do you feel ready go get out of there before the lunch bell rings?
3. How friendly is your relationship with your boss? Do you interact on an as-needed basis or do you spend time informally simply chatting about stuff in general?
4. What words do you use to describe your co-workers? Do you consider them friends, partners, confidants? Or do you view them as snipers hiding in bushes, adversaries with sinister intentions?
5. Is the quality of your work outstanding? Do you feel like you’re delivering a masterpiece everyday or are you going through the motions? Are you still growing and learning new things that help improve your craft or are you stale, stalled, or going backward?
6. How much time do you spend thinking about or admiring other companies? Do you look at other companies with a wanting eye? Do you rush to the news stand to purchase Fortune’s, 100 Best Places to Work, issue  when it comes out?
7. Do your dinner conversations every night turn to work? Are you constantly talking about how bad things are at the office? How under-appreciated you are? How much your boss takes you for granted?

Life isn’t perfect and neither is work. For me it simply boils down to 3 things: Am I being challenged every day? I am learning? Do I like and trust the people I work with? Am I connected to my boss on a personal level? These may not be your 4 metrics and if they’re not I strongly suggest you identify what yours are. Without knowing what will make you happy, you will never find happiness. It all starts with you!