Very few people can say they have had the chance to work with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, three of the greatest strategists of modern times. Individuals whose leadership contributed to building companies that have not only re-shaped the landscape of the technology industry, but fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. Over the course of his impressive career, David Yoffie, Professor and Director of Intel, HTC and TiVo, had such a privilege.
In an effort to better understand how entrepreneurs can develop into leaders of great companies, Yoffie wrote Strategy Rules; a book which compares and contrasts Jobs, Gates and Groves to try and understand what they did in similar ways that produced such extraordinary outcomes. His conclusion? It’s not about individual personality traits, but more about how they think and behave.
Jobs vs Gates vs Groves
At the most basic level, these leaders are very different. Bill Gates was a typical computer nerd who grew up in a wealthy family, and dropped out of college after two years. Andy Grove was a holocaust survivor who walked across Hungary to flee a repressive communist world. And, Steve Jobs is known as a famous flower child, college dropout.
And while these individuals do have some important similarities key of successful entrepreneurs:
- They were incredibly ambitious, not just to make money but to build great companies and change the world
- They worked incredibly hard
- They provoked searing debates inside their companies
- They were all slightly paranoid
The top differentiator between these leader’s success and others who have tried to achieve the same, is a common strategic framework, which David breaks down into 5 timeless CEO lessons.
5 Timeless CEO Lessons
- Look Forward, Reason Back
This is about getting CEOs to focus less on the problems and challenges they have today, and spend more time thinking out 2-3 years from now. What does the end game looks like? What do I need to do today to get there?. This lack of vision and long term goals is one of the biggest challenges David has seen throughout his career. It is the main reason many companies are not able to grow to their full potential. As David always says: “Strategy is much like a chest game; think several steps ahead, then figure out the next 3 major steps to reach that position.”
- Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company
For many entrepreneurs, this is a difficult balance to find simply because entrepreneurs tend to naturally be risk takers. However the best entrepreneurs are able to make significant bets that could change the game, without putting the company at risk. They find ways to mitigate the risks, and even if things don’t play out the way they want, they have the ability to pivot and make changes and necessary adjustments so the company can recover from a bad outcome.
- Build Platforms and Ecosystems – Not Just Products
In today’s world, products are easily imitated; competition emerges rapidly. If you can instead build a platform in which third parties get value-add, then you have much greater possibility to build a sustainable business with high degrees of profitability over time.
- Exploit Leverage and Power
Success is not only a result of high level strategies, its mostly what you do day to day in order to make the business work. Many entrepreneurs don’t execute well at a tactical level. Even if the vision and strategy are in place, it’s the ability to achieve the right tactics on a daily basis that will make your company stand out as a differentiator.
- Shape the Organization Around Your Personal Anchor
CEOs don’t always understand where their real strengths are, and equally important, where their weaknesses are. They often think they can do everything, or at least should be in the driver seat in all critical aspects of the business. A good leader needs to understand his other own weaknesses, and focus on filling the gaps.
As we can see in the 5 timeless CEO lessons that David has outlined, the characteristics of successful leaders have less to do with personalities than with attitudes and behaviors.
See David Yoffie at the ACETECH Whistler Summit
Yoffie has been the highest rated speaker for the past 20 years at the annual Whistler Summit, and this year he’s back. He will be joining 10 world-class speakers, over the course of a 3 day summit, focused on leadership in the tech industry. Yoffie will be discussing opportunities and challenges in the era of machine learning with a case study on Numenta, a lead in the AI space. For more information, or to register online, click HERE.
ACETECH is BC’s only not for profit organization formed by CEOs for CEOs of companies innovating with technology. We help CEO’s lead better, grow faster, and feel empowered by offering a proven growth strategy program; transformative event experiences; and a trusted peer group for ongoing support.
Written by Simon Cloutier, ACETECH