Why do most executives act as if they do not matter?

Vivek-Sitting-682x1024Steve Jobs famously asked John Sculley “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water — or do you want to change the world?” when he was trying to recruit him to come and run Apple for him. That one question perhaps changed the life of John Sculley, as well as Steve Jobs (and Apple). There are many other lessons that can be drawn from Steve Jobs’ way of running Apple, and these are quite succintly covered in this article, so I will not repeat them in this blog post. My purpose of writing this blog post is to ask the readers a simple basic question. Most executives are very smart, pushing through, intelligent individuals. Yet, frequently, till a Steve Jobs comes around and asks them a basic question such as the one above – they settle for selling sugar water. Why? One point of view on a life that matters is presented here. What is your view? Please share openly..

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  • Talsor Smith says:

    In my research, beginning with a survey of 80,000 managers conducted by the Gallup Organization and continuing during the past two years with in-depth studies of a few top performers, I’ve found that while there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it. Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.

    John Sculley remembers the first time he met Steve Jobs. He was CEO of Pepsi at the time, and he flew to California to meet with the then-26-year-old cofounder of Apple about a potential CEO role there.

    Jobs had met about 20 other candidates and been unimpressed. But after 5 months of getting to know Sculley, he was sold and offered him the job. Sculley initially turned it down. Then Jobs dropped a now-famous line on him that made Sculley change his mind:

    “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
    Sculley spent a decade at Apple, and it was a roller coaster ride. So was his relationship with Jobs. During one particularly tense moment, Jobs planned a coup to unseat Sculley. When Sculley learned about Jobs’ plan, he held a board meeting that resulted in Jobs running from the room crying and taking a long sabbatical. It’s a moment Sculley now regrets.

    • Deny SCM says:

      There is a long line of research that attempts to measure the impact of CEOs on the companies they run, and it provides background for these newer studies. Estimates of CEOs’ contribution to companies’ success vary, but one study found that it varies between 2% to 22% depending on the industry, and most estimates I’ve seen fit within that range. There is also some evidence that this “CEO effect” has been rising over time.

  • Ella GSCM says:

    “Steve’s Seven Insights for 21st Century Capitalists”

    I read a handful of blogs that either touted the future strengths of Apple after Steve Jobs’ resignation, as well as those that predicted its demise. (https://bit.ly/2QFWTvX) Those were somewhat interesting but a Harvard Business Review blog today containing seven of Steve Jobs’ most powerful quotes so far has definitely been the most fascinating.

    I like some success principals like ”Do what you love” “Put a dent in the universe” “Kick start your brain” “Create insanely great experiences”

    Simply put, innovation is a new way of doing things that results in positive change. Innovation is attainable by anyone at any organization, regardless of title or position. Make innovation a part of your brands’ DNA by thinking differently about your business challenges.

    • Deny SCM says:

      The CEO, then, is not the primary driver of a firm’s success. Industry, for instance, matters far more. But what factors determine which CEOs rise and fall, and who makes it to the top job in the first place?

  • Andres Mellow says:

    The CEO’s job is like no other in the organization. It is infinite. Senior executives are, by definition, ultimately responsible for every decision and action of every member of the company, including those decisions and actions of which they are not aware.

    • Ella GSCM says:

      “Ask chief executives why their companies are performing so well, and they’ll typically credit a brilliant strategy coupled with hard-nosed, diligent execution. When you ask Lars Sørensen of Novo Nordisk what forces propelled him to the top of HBR’s 2015 ranking of the best-performing CEOs in the world, he cites something very different: luck.”

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