The Paranoid Survive but the Optimistic Thrive

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Andy Grove, the former President and CEO of Intel, in his classic book on leadership, warns managers to watch out for Strategic Inflection Points that change the competitive landscape of their business.

Every manager must assume that something will change – very soon.  While this may be good advice for Intel-sized companies with everything to lose, in a typical growing business, it may be more important to concentrate on looking for opportunities.  In fact, being overly paranoid can lead to a management obsession with risk at the expense of opportunity.

As Seth Godin noted in his recent blog post, all boats leak.  While occasionally we make the mistake of ignoring the big leaks that threaten our journey, more often, we’re so busy fixing tiny leaks that we get distracted from the real goal, which is to go somewhere.

I’ve had paranoid bosses, desperate to survive, who were always raising an alarm, diverting me from the important work of implementing our business plan.  And I’ve had optimistic bosses who never lost sight of the long-term goal and helped me lift my head from the weeds when I succumbed to short-term thinking.  Guess which ones I’d work for again?

It’s not always easy to stay optimistic, especially when the boat is listing.  But there are probably already enough hands bailing.  The crew needs a captain whose eyes are on the horizon to inspire them.

So, on the high seas of business be alert for the rocks, but keep the boat afloat by buoying it with conviction and optimism. It’s finding opportunities and being disruptive that ensure your business will thrive – and that your competitor’s paranoia will be justified!

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