The arrogance of success is the number one reason leaders fail


Right now, the word disruption seems to be the word on the lips of business leaders everywhere.

However, the people talking about this are often trying to operate an iPhone with the mentality of a rotary dial phone user. It just won’t work.

Nothing can become disruptive if it does not go viral and it cannot go viral without connecting with people on an emotional level.

The biggest deception facing the leadership of the big brands of yesterday is that they think they are still big brands of today by virtue of their position yesterday. Mind you, yesterday does not mean a century. It could even be three years ago.

The rate at which markets are changing is so fast that no company has the luxury of thinking its position is invulnerable.

Positive disruption

The reality is that the threat to big brands is not necessarily going to come from a big brand. It can come from even a startup.

Facebook, definitely a big brand, has acquired over 70 companies, killing the company but retaining the talent. What a brilliant way to kill two birds with one stone!

First, they silence potential competition that can disrupt them, and second, they get to keep the best of minds so that the disruption can happen from inside.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Why Facebook buys startups’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg once said:

“We have not once bought a company for the company. We buy companies to get excellent people… In order to have a really entrepreneurial culture one of the key things is to ensure we are recruiting the best people. One way to do this is to focus on acquiring great companies with great founders.”

“This gives us a peek into the mind of a disruptor. The most important thing is the team. Disruption is not something that you buy off the shelf. It is not a product. It is a mindset and if you do not have this mindset; You can cry about disruption all day long and nothing will change.”

“You cannot put new wine in old wineskins. The wineskin for disruption is the mindset of the team and not how big the office is.”

So where then does the disruptive mind come from?

The key trait in a disruptive mind is humility. It takes humility to accept the fact that you were yesterday’s superstar.

A lot of people relish who they used to be. If the stories of your past are more colourful than the present and the future then there is a problem.

Lessons in humility

Many people would not recognise opportunities if they came screaming and wearing bright orange. This arrogance of success is the reason why a lot of leaders do not make the transition.

These leaders talk in the present about realities of the past and have somehow convinced themselves that their past is their present and their future.

They talk passionately about change but with the same passion are holding on to the past. Then they wonder why things are not changing.

It takes humility to accept the fact that a startup with no experience can hold the key to the relevance of a company that has been a big brand before the founders of the startup were born.

It takes humility to place ability over experience. In reality when we talk about experience, there is no template for disruption.

What makes a disruption unique is that there is no precedent for it. Only if we expect our future to be a replica of our past do we hold on to experience as the key thing.

So, when Facebook spends billions of dollars on new companies started by people with no experience, it is investing in the future.

No one can say they have experience of the future.

Many companies still conduct interviews that were tailor-made for yesterday. If you miss it at recruitment, you will eventually learn that because it is better to plant a shrub than to bend a tree.

It takes humility to retire the very thing that made you a star and open up to ideas that you have no benchmarks for.

So, when theNew York Post dramatically sold out every single copy they had on the August 13, we were seeing humility in action.

A newspaper that was founded in 1801 yielding and partnering with Supreme clothing line, which started in 1994 having as its core group neighbourhood kids, New York skaters and local artists who became the stores staff, crew and customers, that is humility.

First Published by the Daily Nation

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