By Anna Miller
We often study the principles of leadership in order to become leaders ourselves. However, as helpful as reading about leadership from a conceptual angle can be, the most effective way to learn is by example. Here are a few well-known leaders who are perfect examples of the saying, “Great leaders are made, not born.”
1. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, celebrated CEO of Apple, didn’t start out with his vision of innovation that is the hallmark of his wildly successful company. He dropped out of college, and first worked a small-time job at Atari in order to save money to make a trip to India seeking spiritual enlightenment. Perhaps the greatest lesson leaders can learn from Jobs is that developing an ability to anticipate future needs is central to leadership. Jobs famously said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” This ability of anticipating future needs can only be developed by actively working on relationships in order to know people on a deeper level.
2. Henry Ford
Henry Ford is the quintessence of a great leader. Ford made affordable cars a reality with his model T, he pioneered the idea of assembly-line production, and eventually became one of the most successful industrialists to date. Like all great leaders, Ford was not afraid to take risks. He was sharply criticized for his offering $5 per day wage during the Great Depression. Nobody thought that doubling workers’ wage could possibly reap more profit for a company. But it worked; there was less employee turnover, the best workers from the nation flocked to his company, and as a result, less training was required, cutting costs enormously. Another leadership quality that Ford emphasized was life-long learning. Ford had various interests and actively cultivated each one. He once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning is young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
3. Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, among thousands of other useful inventions, failed spectacularly many times before finally being successful. And it was his attitude toward failure that kept him persistent. Edison once said, “I have not failed, I’ve only found 1,000 different ways that won’t work.” Edison is thus a perfect example of that one quality that all great leaders possess — accepting failure as part of the process that leads to eventual success. Where others become disheartened by failure, leaders use it to fuel their motivation.
There are millions of examples of successful leaders out there, and not all of them are as famous as the ones presented here. The key thing to remember about leadership, as evidenced by these inspiring lives, is that persistence in the face of failure, ridicule, or just regular old stagnation, and above all, trust in one’s self and others, is what separates leaders from followers.
This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topics of online degree. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: anna22.miller [at]gmail.com.
The Product Management Perspective: These three leaders provide good examples of leadership in product management. Steve Jobs is a great (perhaps the best) example of understanding your markets. He understands his customers perhaps even better than they understand themselves. He is the master at anticipating future trends and turning them into reality. Henry Ford became the subject matter expert not just in cars, but in getting cars to market at a low-enough price that consumers could afford to buy his products. He took calculated risks and was rewarded accordingly. Thomas Edison brought new meaning to the word ‘persistent.’ He continually looked for new ways to do things, and never settled for ‘good enough.’ He was the thought leader of his time. Learning and implementing behaviors from these (and other great) leaders will improve your success as a product manager.
Filed under: Leadership, Learning, Purpose | Tagged: Henry Ford, Leadership, persistence, principles, Steve Jobs, success, Thomas Edison | 4 Comments »