Leadership is Execution

December 8, 2009 by
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Although it may sound a bit cliche, the success of a company (or any enterprise for that matter) depends on its leadership. It not only depends on their ability to inspire action but also in the leaders’ ability to paint a picture that people can relate to. I recently bumped into a post by an ex colleague that clarifies the point very eloquently. He comments that leading visions must be clear, compelling, and credible for followers to act on them. I agree. However execution is a key element for any leader to succeed.

There are numerous examples in history, the business world, politics, etc. where great visions have had those three characteristics. But execution has failed. I would argue that the right combination of vision and execution are really the main ingredients that are common throughout history. I hate to mention the usual suspects, but I think they clear prove the point. Apple or Google, companies that I have bored my loyal reader (singular) with are clear examples of it. Their visions definitely have the the main ingredients Rich mentions but they have been defined by outstanding execution. Steve Jobs, for example had a clear, compelling, and credible vision of how a phone with a mobile browser should work. But so did Microsoft with the infamous Windows Mobile. Three years later, when Apple boasts 20% (according to Deutsche Bank analyst Brian Modoff) of the cellphone industry’s profits the point is made.

I know what you’re thinking: Jobs’ vision was better than Ballmer’s, which may be true, but I believe Jobs’ team executed better than Ballmer’s. At the end of the day both companies had to catch up to Research in Motion’s Blackberry dominance in the smartphone market and they both had the opportunity to do it with a mobile browser. Let me explain. The common vision here, which in hindsight sounds even lame, was to allow web browsing with a cellphone. Apple executed that vision since the first version with a flawless browser experience. While Microsoft decided to develop very limited Pocket IE with their traditional first-version-to-be-fixed-several versions-later approach. The networks weren’t ready for a “big boy’s browser” anyway. Several years later Windows Mobile is a distant follower in the race that will most likely define the next decade.

Same vision, radically different execution. So my contention is that execution is really the cornerstone of leadership. One could argue that execution is what provides credibility, but that is a “rear view mirror” approach. Vision with execution is what leadership is all about. Again, I do agree that a vision needs to be clear, compelling, and credible to inspire execution. And that is the true definition of leadership.




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