Leadership and Vision

>>presenter: Hi, everyone. Thanks for coming
today. This is our second installment in the Hispanic Googler Networks series of talks
called Perspectivas, where we try to provide mentors at scale to share their stories of
success. Today, we’re honored to have Jerry Porras from Stanford University. He’ll be
talking to us about leadership and vision. So, without further ado, Jerry Porras. [applause]>>Porras: Well, hello everybody. I’m happy
to be here and to have a chance to talk to some Googlers. My only connection with Google
is that Sergey’s wife happened to be the daughter of a very good friend of ours on the Stanford
campus and grew up and I’ve know her since she was a little girl. That’s my connection. [laughter] Also, I use Google on my computer, so there’s
two connections. I want to talk about leadership and talk about it with a bit of trepidation
because if there is any topic in management that has been over-written about, over-researched,
over-commentaried, it’s leadership. I mean, there are literally thousands of studies that
have been done about leadership. There are literally, probably thousands of books that
have been written about leadership. Each of you has maybe read one or more books on leadership
and when you finish the book, you say, “Well, that was a nice idea. That was a nice idea.”
But does it affect the way you see the world? Does it affect your behavior? Does it really
lead to you being more successful? Maybe, maybe not. It’s almost random outcomes to
books on leadership or learning about leadership. So, with that introduction, you probably are
saying to yourself, “Well, what the hell’s he doing talking about leadership then? Why
don’t we talk about something else?” Well, the reason I am talking about leadership is
because I think that out of the research that Jim Collins and I did for a book that’s titled
“Built to Last”, we uncovered what I think is a very, very fundamental difference in
the leaders that built these incredibly, enduringly, great companies. And that difference, I think,
is fundamental and it’s not a difference that’s commonly perceived or viewed or thought about
by most people who are talking about management, managing or leading, or actually doing leading.
Before I begin my more specific comments, let me ask you how many of you have actually
read the book, “Built to Last”? Anybody? One person. Ok. How many of you have heard about
the book and maybe skimmed through bits of it? Yeah? Three people there. Have any of
you been in the same room with the book? [laughter] Well, yeah, you can all raise your hand cause
I have a copy of it up here. So now you can achieve that. Very briefly, what “Built to
Last” was about and this is really the source of these ideas, was a study that we did trying
to understand what made what we were calling “visionary companies” different from any other
company. And when we started the study, we didn’t really have a very clear definition
of what a “visionary company” was. We had these vague ideas and actually discovered
what a visionary company was through the course of doing the study. But very briefly, a visionary
company is a company that’s had a significant impact on the world, it’s widely admired by
its peers, it has had a long track record of being successful on a variety of dimensions
and it’s done this through multiple generations of leaders, multiple generations of products
and multiple generations of industry cycles. So, using other terms, a company like this
is an enduringly great company. And the two operational words are “enduring,” which means
more than 10 years or 20 years, and in the life of someone at Google, 20 years is an
eternity. So, but these companies that we studied have been great for, on average, a
hundred years. So, these companies were, on average, founded in 1897; the earliest was
founded in 1812, the youngest were founded in 1945 and they are companies that you’ve
heard of. They’re all big, successful companies today. Companies like IBM, like Merck, like
Hewlett-Packard– a list of 18 is the ones we wound up studying. And what we wanted to
understand is what do these companies do from the very beginning when they were small and
just starting out; the way Google was like six years ago. What did they do then? What
did they continue doing as they grew to be middle sized companies, 20,000 people. It’s
probably more than middle sized. And what did they continue to do when they got to be
huge companies with employee bases of a hundred thousand plus and a world focus? So, we wanted
to understand what were the continuous threads of the way they managed their companies from
the very beginning to the present. And in order to understand that really well and understand
it in a significant way, we came up with another group of companies that were comparison companies
that had been in the same industry– they were paired comparisons– the same industry,
founded in the same dates, roughly the same products, still alive in 1990 when we were
collecting the data. So, we wanted to know, it’s like having two horses running a race
and these two horses started the race a hundred years ago. And they run for a hundred years
and one horse is just spectacular and the other horse is quite good, but pretty far
behind. What does the spectacular horse do to run the race? How do they run it differently
than this comparison horse? Who, by the way, runs it much better than the average horse?
So, to give you an idea of what that might mean in terms of something more concrete,
like the stock performance of these companies, we looked at the stock performance all the
way back from 1926 to 1990 and I’ve updated it to 2000. And if you invest a dollar in
three portfolios, one’s the market, one’s the comparison companies and one’s the visionary
companies, you find that the comparison companies outperform the market by a factor of about
four to one. The visionary companies outperform the market by a factor of 16 to 1. So these
are really, really high performing companies in the traditional ways that we look at performance,
but also they’re high performing companies in a broader way in terms of that they really
had an impact on the community, they’ve had an impact on the culture. Walt Disney is one
of the companies we studied. Hey, that’s had an impact on our culture. These companies
really do, have really affected the world that they’ve operated in. So, what do these
companies do that makes them so spectacular that these other companies who are really
the silver medal winners, if you will, what do the silver medal winners not do that the
gold medal winners did do? And one of the things that we found was that the leadership
looks different. The leadership of these companies looked different and specifically, when I’m
talking about leadership, the leaders we studied in most depth were either the founders of
the companies or the leaders who were responsible for transforming the companies into the great
companies that they are today. Cause they didn’t all start out as great companies. 3M
was a real loser. 3M went bankrupt, actually, in its first five years and it wasn’t until
it was about 20 years old– they continued to struggle along– that it started getting
transformed into the 3M that we have today. So, these companies didn’t all start out as
winners and they were transformed by specific leaders. And what we wanted to understand
is how did those leaders behave that was different from the way the leaders of the comparison
companies behaved? And so, I’m summarizing those findings and I’m weaving them in to
what they might mean for you, since none of you, I assume in the room are the CEO of this
company. Some of you may be managers; many of you may not be. Well, let me get a fix
on that. How many of you do have some sort of managerial, supervisory responsibility?
Raise your hand. Ok. So the rest of you are kinda wannabes, huh? [laughter] That’s good. It’s the time to listen to these
sorts of things. All right. So let me start out by asking you a question, which, I think,
you can sorta answer in your head. What’s a great leader like? Think of your own stereotypical
view of a great leader and what are the words that you would use to describe this great
leader? And so think about that a minute and here are words that often come up and some
research has shown that these are typical words that are used to describe what we consider
quote “great” leaders. Now, there are many more words, but this is
sorta a fairly representative base of words that get used to describe great leaders. Now you look at that list; that’s pretty powerful
stuff. And one of the most powerful dimensions to that is the whole area of charisma. You
gotta be charismatic to be a great leader and I call these types of leaders, “charismatic
visionary leaders.” And this is what we think of, this is our view of what a great leader
is all about and if you’re not this, you’re not a great leader. If you don’t have these
characteristics, you probably can’t be a great leader. Well, I don’t know about you, but
when I get up in the morning and I’m brushing my teeth and I’m looking in the mirror, I
don’t see a charismatic visionary leader looking back at me. Now, maybe some of you do. I’d
ask you to stand up, but I’m afraid you would. What do we see? Well, we might see some of
these things or a little bit of these things, but we tend not to see these things. A typical
person tends not to see these things. But these are the types of leaders that we admire
and respect and aspire to be; this type of a person. Well, these types of people are
the types of people that built some of the companies we studied. They were like this.
And they built great organizations. They built great companies. What makes it interesting
when you look at a long time frame and it’s hundred plus year history, we found that these
types of leaders built great organizations that were great while they were there. And
then the question is what happens when they’re gone? Well, the reality was that these companies
didn’t die; they continued and survived just as long as the visionary companies that we
were comparing them to. They didn’t die. But in the long term, hundred year history of
these comparison companies, we found that they were never as great as when that great
leader was there. And they never had a second great leader. So, it’s like one per customer.
You get a great leader; maybe it’s the founder, maybe it’s an early transformation leader
and once that person is gone, you’re probably not gonna get another one like him. And they’re
all “hims.” They were all “hims” in the companies we studied. So, you can create greatness,
you can create a great organization and its great while you’re there. And after you’re
gone, it isn’t as great. Now many people don’t care. They say, “Hey, that’s not my problem.
You know, when I was there, I was doing my job, I was doing a great job. I was creating
a great organization. After it’s gone, that’s somebody else’s problem and if they can’t
cut it, that’s their fault. I did my duty and I’m going on with my life someplace else.”
That’s the type of leader that we tended to see in the comparison companies; in the companies
that we said are the silver medal winners. Well, here’s another view of leaders. Now this isn’t as common a view, but I suspect
when you start looking at this list, you find more words that you can hook into and that
you can say, “Hey, I’m a lot like that. I’ve got some of that.” I think this relates more
to the normal person; to you and me. These are what we’re calling, by the way,
cause these were the characteristics of the leaders that either founded or transformed
the built-to-last companies, the visionary companies, so we’re calling these leaders
“built-to-last” leaders. These leaders created the companies that were enduringly great and
interestingly enough, they also built great organizations and these great organizations
endured long after they were gone. Big difference. Big difference. Let me give you one really
concrete example. Motorola, which kinda has been in trouble
in the last few years, but when you look at their long track record, they’ve been an incredibly
successful company. And Zenith, which for many, many years was really a prominent television
manufacturing company and then got bought out by LG in Korea and the Zenith name has
kinda– if you go to second rate motels, you see Zenith TV sets today, so I see them frequently. [laughter] But, by and large, they’re not as prominent
as they were 10 years ago, 15 years ago. Motorola and Zenith were founded in roughly the same
time period, in the 1920s. Zenith was founded by a guy named Eugene McDonald. Eugene McDonald
had been a commander in the United States Navy during the First World War. He was a
larger than life guy, very strong personality, made everybody in the company call him “commander.”
Built an incredible company. He was a brilliant product idea person, he was a brilliant marketer,
he was a brilliant advertiser and Zenith was really a very substantial company from its
founding date until the late 1950s, early ’60s. Motorola, in contrast, was founded by
a guy named Paul Galvin, who was not a larger than life type of guy. He was described by
a lot of the words that we saw here just a minute ago. And he founded Motorola. He had
founded two other companies that had gone broke, so he didn’t have this great track
record. He set about creating a company that turned out to be Motorola. They’re both in
the same, roughly the same industry. Zenith, at that time, was building radios for home
and Motorola was building radios for cars, so they were pretty evenly matched companies.
They were sorta running together. Zenith was ahead in the race. Their radios and one of
their products and they were more successful. And then television gets invented and they
transformed into TV sets and they’re both building TV sets and Zenith widens the gap
over Motorola. Their TV sets are much more popular. And then, in the late 1950s, it happened
to both of these leaders. And what is it? What do you think “it” is? They died. They
died. They both died in office. Not in their office, ok, but in office. They died in office
within 18 months of each other. Well, those of us who do social science research love
to see things like that happen. [laughter] I mean, that’s a natural experiment. We can’t
go in there and shoot the guys and say, “Ok, that’s our experimental treatment, let’s see
what happens now to the companies.” But this was a natural experiment and then if you track
Zenith and you track Motorola after their great leaders, founders died, you see a tremendous
difference. Zenith kept making TVs, they kept making TVs. They tried to make some computers,
but they just fizzled in that. They made set top boxes to try to convert signals from cables
for their TVs and they essentially stayed in the TV business after their leader was
gone. What did Motorola do? Well, I mean, they did all sorts of things from transistors
into mobile devices, telephones. They tried this iridium project, which is network of
satellites. It happened to fail, but it was an incredible project that they tried. They
kept constantly changing, growing and evolving. Whereas Zenith stayed stuck. So, what was
the difference? What was the difference? The difference is that it’s not style that made
the difference because although we found that these words described people differently in
the visionary, charismatic leader to the built to last leader– they were quite different
words– we found leaders in the built to last group who also were charismatic. Sam Walton
was charismatic when he founded and built Wal-Mart. He was a charismatic guy. So, we
found people like that so we concluded that look, it’s not style. It’s not what your style
is and in a lot of literature in leadership talks about improving your style; you gotta
create this style or that style. We concluded that it isn’t style that’s really the key
difference. The key difference is what does the leader pay attention to? What do you pay
attention to? The charismatic, visionary leaders paid attention to leading their companies.
They built a company that revolved around them, their brilliance, their abilities, their
technical knowledge, their fantastic ideas, their creativity. Unless I’m proven wrong,
and we’ll know in maybe a few years, this is Apple. Steve Jobs built Apple around his
brilliance. And there, by the way, we have a natural experiment in that when Steve Jobs
was building Apple, blah, blah, blah, it was going great, he got replaced, kicked out,
he leaves. Apple goes like that. He comes back; Apple goes like that. That’s a natural
experiment. Pull him out. What happens to the company? Put him back in. What happens
to the company? So, it looks pretty much like Apple is Steve Jobs. Maybe not, we’ll find
out, but that is an example of creating a company that you lead, that depends on you
to be great. And that’s what we saw in the leaders of the comparison companies. In contrast,
what we saw in the leaders of the visionary companies was that these leaders focused on
building the great organization. And when I say building, I mean building across all
dimensions; building the people, building the systems, building the culture, building
the structures, building the technology. That you focus on building into the company all
the things that company needs to be great. That you don’t sorta focus on yourself all
of those abilities and you provide all of that knowledge and all of that focus for the
company and it’s great while you’re there. So, the built to last leaders focused on building
great companies rather than leading them. A real concrete example of that happened with
Westinghouse and General Electric. In the early founding dates of both these companies,
Westinghouse, who founded– George Westinghouse, who founded the Westinghouse Corporation,
was a brilliant engineer and inventor. And he invented numerous products, had lots of
patents to his name and when you put together Westinghouse, he founded it on his inventions.
The early products were outcomes of his inventions. And that’s how he built Westinghouse and made
it very successful in the early years. In contrast, Charles Coffin, who was the key
founder in General Electric, was not an inventor. He wasn’t even an engineer, but he knew he
had to have great products. How do you compete in this marketplace, especially against Westinghouse,
without great products? What he did, is he created the very first Industrial Research
Laboratory in the company. He built the company’s capabilities to do all of the research and
all the invention necessary to compete with George Westinghouse in the Westinghouse Corporation.
He built the company. What happens to Westinghouse when Westinghouse leaves? What happens to
GE when Charles Coffin leaves? GE’s got this structure about this body inside the organization
that’ll continue to make it great. So, focusing on building a company and if you’re managing
a small unit, focusing on building the capabilities of that small unit is what leadership is all
about. If you’re a team leader in a project to produce some sort of software, you know
you may not be a permanent supervisor, but you’re the team leader in that group, focus
on building the capabilities into that group to do all the things necessary to make it
successful rather than having that group rely on you and your brilliance. You know you’re
a brilliant programmer or a brilliant systems designer or whatever, I’m not saying don’t
use that, but don’t have that dominate. Or use it in such a way that it develops the
capabilities of the others to do the same thing. Ok, so you say, “This sounds ok. This
sounds fine, but hey, how do I become a built to last leader? How do I become one of these
leaders?” That’s a fundamental question. Well, I wish I had the magic potion. If so, I would
be a lot richer than I already am, but I got some ideas. I got some ideas I’d like to share
with you. And the first idea revolves around clarifying who you are and what you want.
Ok? We all go through life and we have a lot of needs and so, yeah, I want a Porsche, I
want to be able to vacation in France, I want this, I want that. But those aren’t the fundamental
things that you want. If you really sit and reflect and ponder on what it is that you
want and how that relates to who you are, you begin to get a first step built in becoming
a great leader. And so, clarifying who you are and what you want, I think, can be done
in a lot of different ways, but let me suggest one way. And the way that I would suggest
you do it is by creating what I call a personal vision. Now, we studied organizations and
we studied what organizations did in this regard and it turns out that these ideas translate
very nicely to individuals and although I haven’t done research on individuals in this
arena, I get a lot of reports of people who come to me and said, “Yeah, I’m using those
ideas for me, personally.” And, in fact, one of my colleagues at the Business School has
actually developed a whole series of exercises that are part of a workshop that he puts on,
but if you’re interested in those exercises, I’ll refer you to him later. But look, here
you are. You’re in a company and companies are in turbulent environments and individuals
are in turbulent environments. Things are changing around you all the time. You get
forces coming at you from different directions and I liken this to a little sailboat out
in the ocean. And, by the way, as an aside, I started out life as an electrical engineer
and one of the things that I became very accustomed to was the idea that if you can’t draw something
out, you don’t understand it. So, I always want to draw out what it is that I’m trying
to conceptualize. Well, that’s good and well, but it turns out that my ability to draw stopped
growing in the second grade. So, I had very primitive ways of drawing and you’ll see them
in these slides here. But let’s assume that you are a little sailboat out in the ocean.
This is you. But also, a part of you is that you’re the captain of your own ship. This
is you, the captain of your own ship. Here’s your captain’s hat. [chuckles] Ok? And you’re out in this turbulent environment.
And there are the waves that are bashing you in one direction and the wind is blowing in
another direction and the rain’s coming down and beating you in another direction and most
importantly are– [laughter] so you really gotta watch out for them. So
how the heck do you maneuver yourself around in this world; in this environment? How do
you make sense of it? How do you create a successful life, a successful career? Well,
this is where these ideas about a personal vision can be helpful to you. Ok, this is
you on a– let’s don’t forget your captains hat. Ok, this is you and I don’t sail. I was
born in El Paso, Texas and all we had was sand dunes, so I’m speculating here, ok? But
you’re out in this ocean and it’s buffeting you around and how do you get someplace? This
is before GPS and all those fancy electronic stuff, but how did you get anyplace in those
primitive days? Well, very often, you had a star that was out in the distance that guided
you. And for the purpose of our metaphor, this star represents your purpose. Your purpose.
What is the reason you’re here? What is the fundamental contribution that you would like
to make to the world? What will the world lose if you’re not around making this contribution?
Why do you exist? And for organizations, we asked that question, but we can also ask it
at an individual level. And you can get very philosophical and all that and you can blue
sky it, but if you get concrete about it and ask yourself, “What’s the contribution that
I’d like to make to this world that I’m in?” You think, in the sort of privacy of your
own mind, you’ll come up with something that’s meaningful to you, that’s important to you,
that you feel passionate about, that you feel is really a significant contribution that
you’d like to make. And it doesn’t have to be huge; you don’t have to change the whole
world. But most of us would like to do something that we think is important. That’s purpose.
That’s the star out in the distance. That’s what guides you forever until you die. Now,
for those of you who sail, you know that you can’t sail in a straight line so you have
to do other things. You have to tack back and forth and so one way to think about how
do I limit my tacking is the second thing that you need to establish for yourself, is
what are your core values? Now, core values are a small number of values that you hold
really dear, that you will not violate for anything unless you make a mistake. Companies
have core values, people have core values. So, you’re willing to lose money, you’re willing
to lose a relationship, you’re willing to lose an opportunity, you’re willing to lose
all sorts of things rather than violate those values. So, needless to say, there’s a small
number. Most of us don’t have a long list of 30 core values. In companies, we found
five on average; not more than seven, not less than three. Just to give you an idea
of the company. So, for yourself, there’s some small number of core values that are
principles, that are ideas that you hold inviolate and they guide your behavior. So, if you believe
in respecting people, it guides your behavior. You respect people and you will not disrespect
people. You’ll not treat people badly even though it may advance you in some way. So,
core values sorta provide a boundary for the third part, which are these tacks. And the
ends of these tack points are what we call these big, hairy, audacious goals.
Big, hairy, audacious goals are goals that really stretch you, that are not something
you accomplish in a year or two or three, maybe it takes five years, maybe it takes
ten years. But they’re goals that challenge you. They’re goals that force you to change
in order to achieve them. That’s a key thing. They force you to change in order to achieve
those goals. They force you to learn new things. They force you to learn how to behave in new
ways, develop new skills, new knowledge, new experience. So, they’re not easy goals. They’re
not something that you can achieve easily. They’re typically not something that you see
the pathway to achieving them right away. You can’t say to yourself, “Oh, if I’m gonna
achieve this goal, I’ll just do step one, step two, step three, step four and I’ll be
there.” That’s too easy a goal. The types of goals that we’re talking about are goals
that really challenge you and you don’t know exactly how you’re gonna get there, but you
have confidence that you’ll figure out a way to get there. Those are the goals that really
promote change and growth in you as an individual. And that’s part of you figuring out who you
are. Now, what the core values do is that they limit those goals. The core values say,
“I will not try to achieve a goal if it’s gonna force me to behave in ways that violate,
that goal, that value. So, in order for me to achieve that goal, I’m gonna have to start
cheating and I have a value of integrity. That goal is not a good goal for me.” So,
by setting these goals to be challenging, but still within this envelope of the core
values, they keep you guided toward doing things that really serve the purpose that
you’ve got for yourself. These are all very key dimensions in understanding yourself.
And they don’t drive you to do a lot of other types of analyses. I mean, they’re pretty
sorta straight forward and simple in nature, but they’re hard to achieve because you have
to face yourself. You have to confront yourself and you have to do it in such a way that you’re
not kidding yourself with what you come out with. So, that’s step one. Step two, as a
leader then, is for you to build an organization that’s consistent with who you are and what
you want. So, if you’re starting a brand new organization, or you’re in an existing one
and you want to build it, it needs to be consistent with who you are and what you want. If you
build an organization that’s very different, it’s certainly not going to make it easy for
you and probably won’t be possible. Cause you just can’t be in this constant internal
conflict. So build an organization that’s consistent with who you are. It’s consistent
with your values and build an organization that has a purpose, that fits your purpose,
that somehow is on the path toward your purpose. So, when you ask what might be some of the
characteristics of this organization, and this will be my last comment, is you have
to build an organization that, first of all, has a core ideology. And the core ideology
fits with what we’re calling a passion for change. Now, the reason we use the ying-yang
symbol is because it represents duality– things that are seemingly opposite, but fit
together. And the duality that’s represented here is that the core ideology is fixed. It
never changes. Your purpose never changes. Your core values never change. At the same
time, the passion for change means you drive to change everything else in order for you
to achieve the goals that you set. So, organizations reflect that. And organizations reflect having
a core ideology and also having a passion for change. And the core ideology are the
core values and the purpose and the passion for change, in an organization, likes to learn,
experiment, take risks, stretches itself, challenges itself. But this is a reflection,
once again, of you having gone through an analysis and an understanding of who you are
and then you’re trying to translate those ideas into the type of organization that you
lead. Or in the case of those of you who aren’t leader today, it’s the type of organization
you wanna get connected to should fit who you are. Your chances of being successful
in that organization go way up if what the organization is, fits who you are. If it’s
over here and you’re over there, you’re probably not gonna be successful in that organization,
in that company. So, often what happens when people join companies is that they look at–
well, first of all they look at the pay. How much am I gonna get paid? That’s the first
big question. And the second one, often, is, well what am I gonna do? But they rarely ask,
“Is this organization doing something that I think is important? I’m spending a lot of
time in this company; giving it my blood, sweat and tears, it oughtta be in the service
of something that I think is important and not just there for the pay.” Or, “Not just
there because I happen to have an interesting job.” Although, those are both important things.
I’m not trivializing them. What I’m saying is that you will be a more successful person
in a company, if the company also fits who you are. And in order for that to be possible,
you need to know who you are and then you need to ask questions about the company you’re
with to figure out if it’s the type of company that fits who you are. So, these ideas, I’ve
taken them from an organizational level; from looking at the built to last companies and
focused them on a person and focused them specifically on thinking about yourself as
a leader. But these ideas also, and if you’re ever interested in reading Built to Last,
it describes companies in a lot more depth and detail about how did they sustain their
core values and their purpose and how do they continue to promote change. Because they’ve
developed very interesting and intriguing ways of doing that over a long time period.
And that’s what makes for enduring greatness in companies and I propose to you that these
ideas would also make for enduring greatness in you, as a person. And you don’t have to
be a larger than life, charismatic, walk on water, glow in the dark, visionary leader.
You can just be you if you focus on the right things. Ok, thank you. We’ll open up for questions. [applause] Yes.>>man #1: [inaudible]>>Porras: You wanna go to the mic? Apparently,
it’s videotaped so.>>member #1: What kind of suggestions would
you give if you find yourself in a company that has all of these things, but you find
yourself within a branch of the company that there’s one person that’s not doing all these
things? That is, on top of–>>Porras: And is a supervis–>>member #1: a very large part of the company
that to some degree is, but to some degree isn’t.>>Porras: Yeah.>>member #1: He’s holding on to too much of
a part of it and not letting it be that.>>Porras: Yeah. I don’t know. [laughter] It’s a real challenge. Obviously, the person
has done things that the company thinks are good and positive and that’s why they’ve gotten
promoted to where they are, so there are some things that they’re doing that are good. Yeah, yeah. So, you can try to battle the
world and be Don Quixote and trying to battle those windmills, but if that person is high
enough above you, that’s not gonna do much. So, what I would suggest and recommend is
a kinda coping response that you try to cope with that reality, but what you do is you
affect and influence the things that you can affect and influence. And then if you’re a
supervisor or manager, that means that, you can affect the things below you. So, I would
focus my efforts and my energy on those things below me and trying to implement what you
think is the way you’d want to operate building that organization. And, more than likely,
over time, that’ll certainly be recognized and lead to your success and the more successful
you are, the larger an entity you can influence.>>man #1: The other thing I’ve done also is
collaboration within other groups that are part of the organization.>>Porras: Yeah. So you get together with other
people who see the world the same way as you do and you work together to build success.
And you start to compensate for whatever barriers this individual puts up in front of you.>>man #1: [inaudible] this is what we see
and if it happens, then it happens, but we continue to try to affect things and do things
the right way.>>Porras: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And
remember that you want to, you want to focus on the things that you can really influence
and/or control. And the things that are out of your control, you just have to figure out
a way to respond to them. So, if this person does something that really is blocking behavior,
then you gotta figure out ways around it or to compensate for it. And that’s a very important
skill to develop because the world will never be perfect, you’ll always find individuals
who run counter to some of the ways you think things ought to be done and if you spend all
your time trying to battle them, you create a certain type of reputation and you also
frustrate the living daylights out of yourself because you never have the power. You’re always
down below. So, focus on the things you can do something about, put energy into that and
after a bit, what I’ve seen happen in organizations is that if there’s enough visibility of people
having to do things to compensate for negative stuff that the top person’s doing, that gets
discovered by a higher level person.>>man #1: It’s not really negative, it’s just
it’s not, what you were saying, allowing these things to exist without– so the decisions
are made there and so some other decision could be made in a different way and so and
you’re right. So, it’s very, very interesting and I learned a lot coming here– after ten
months, it was a– huge change. It was very, very, very interesting.>>Porras: Yeah. It’s a real challenge to figure
out ways to influence your boss. But there are ways to influence the boss and part of
it is getting in the head of the boss and asking yourself, “What is this person trying
to achieve? What do they want? What would they think makes them successful and how can
I help them get that within the constraints of the way I think ought to behave and operate?”>>man #1: [inaudible]>>Porras: Yeah, yeah. Great. Ok.>>man #2: I wondered if you’d applied this
or thought about this in terms of countries, like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, places that
are really struggling to get a leadership in place and do something versus the corruption.>>Porras: Yeah. Well, one of the, one of the
uncertainties that has come to my mind when we start talking about other countries is
whether these ideas are like very American and wouldn’t really apply in other countries
with other cultures. And that’s a question. We haven’t done the research in other countries
to know if these ideas do apply. If we talk about the US and you think about the founding
process of the US and things like the Constitution– we hold these truths to be self-evident, they’re
citing the core values of the country. And the purpose is never clearly illuminated,
but if you look at the history of the United States, you can try to discern some broad
purpose about creating democracy, not only in this country, but in the world and having
people have the freedom to choose their leaders and things around that area. So, our country
was founded on that, but yet, the Constitution and all allows for change. It promotes and
stimulates change and the creation of three bodies in our legislative process that allows
for balance and for change to be driven when one body is satisfied with how the way the
other two bodies are doing things. So, it, in our country, I think these ideas have worked
or have been applied or were applied by the founders of this country. We go to Iraq, Iran
and we start thinking about those countries, I suspect that at a very basic level these
ideas still make sense, but the way they get translated into reality looks very different.
And I don’t understand that translation clearly enough to be able to speak about it. But I’m
speculating that yeah, Iran, Iraq, they have values and they could illuminate those values.
Are they shared by the entire country or– there I start being puzzled. If you’ve got
a lot of these clans that have been clans for centuries and centuries and you try to
put them together into a country, do you have any values that are shared across all those
clans? I mean, those would be questions that would come up in my mind. Yes.>>man #3: Hello. I’m at the onset of my career,
so the piece of advice I would like to ask you is, in addition, maybe to try and find
a built to last leader that would identify with my values, do you have any other piece
of advice for trying to become the best follower?>>Porras: For trying to be, for trying to
become the best follower?>>member #3: Right. Or maybe a follower that
will last.>>Porras: Ok. Well, I think some of it relates
to what I said just a minute ago about trying to figure out, and I think the most effective
way to try to figure this out is in a conversation with the leader and the conversation needs
to revolve around what does that leader need from you? What do they want from you? How
would that what you do contribute to the success of the organization that you’re in and to
the leader’s success? Sharing what you think you need from the leader in order to accomplish
what you want to accomplish– what you’re being asked to accomplish. Sharing your personal
ambitions with that leader so the leader knows where you’re coming from. And trying to build
a relationship that’s as open in the communicating things like that as it’s possibly can be.
Now, some leader will be open to that. They’ll be responsive; they’ll talk to you. Other
leaders won’t. So, if they’re not, then you have to become a detective and try to figure
out what does this leader need from me? And I’ll try to supply it. There’s more chance
for mistakes there because you’re guessing, but it’s better to guess than just to go your
own way or to follow the letter of the law; the letter of what the person tells you. Because
very often, I mean, people communicate things and they communicate with some words and there’s
a lot of hidden messages in the words that are used and you gotta find out and understand
what those hidden messages are. So, if you have an open relationship with the leader,
you can ask questions about that now, “Is this what you mean? Is this what you intend?
Is this what you’d like? These are the constraints I feel I have; therefore, I need these resources
or this support.” Building up that sorta dialogue with your leader can make you a much more
effective follower.>>woman #1: I really like this idea of defining
who you are and what you want and especially of finding a team or organization or collaborators
who can allow you to be that; experiment and challenge yourself and do risky things while
still being true to your principles. But, so what interests me is how that can be reconciled
with the idea that those charismatic leadership qualities that you listed are often qualities
that people say that women or underrepresented ethnic groups, or any group in an organization
tend to not do because they think, “Oh, I have a lot to prove so I’m gonna be humble,
work in the corner, do my job, I will talk to the people who talk to me, I’m not gonna
be silent, but I’m not gonna go claw my way to the top and take on a personality that’s
not true to myself because you feel alienated if you can’t, if you– exactly why you want
to create that organization.” You wanna be who you are, feel like you’re being true to
yourself and succeed that way. So, I’m an engineer. I’m a woman. I’m a Latina. I’m highly
underrepresented and I’m still enjoying what I do, but I definitely struggle with trying
to take on those charismatic leadership qualities because from all angles I’m told, “You should
be doing all this if you really want to succeed.”>>Porras: Yeah, yeah. That’s a real dilemma,
clearly. And I think that the reality of it is that
these leaders that built these companies were unknown pretty much outside of their companies
because they weren’t always tooting their horns, they weren’t always getting themselves
involved in high press situations, they weren’t always being recognized, etc. They were just
doing their work and building a great company and creating success with their efforts and
the proof was the companies they built and how successful they were. Well, as a minority
person, either a woman or a person of color or both, there are added pressures on you
to be more visible to, to be more out there, to be more of this charismatic visionary than
any charismatic visionary around because that’s supposedly what great leaders are all about
and I think it’s a trap. It’s a trap that I would urge you not to fall into. I would
urge you to stay with who you are and to resist the pressures to be something that you’re
not. Doesn’t mean that if you have trouble speaking before big audiences that you shouldn’t
work on that; that’s part of your growth. That’s part of your development. That’s part
of you improving yourself and your ability to build a great organization. So, it doesn’t
mean that you can just sorta like say, “Ok, this is who I am and I’m not ever gonna be
different.” I don’t mean that. There are things that you can be different at doing, but still
maintain your core. So, you still have a lot of places to grow, but I suggest that you
don’t try to grow in ways that violate who you are. And there is a lot of pressure in
that. There’s a lot of pressure to do things that might violate who you are because they’ll
make you more successful. And that, so it’s a tough battle and it may, and it will lead
to you being frustrated because you think you’re not being recognized for the contributions
you’re making and a part of it is because of stereotypes of white males around you,
put you in a box and the only way you break out of that box is behaving more like the
white male that put you in the box. And that’s not who you are. So, things are changing,
ok? And in ten years, if you ask me this question probably the answer would be very different,
or you might not even ask the question in ten years because things would be different,
but they are the way they are today. And I think it still is important to say, “Ok, I
can grow in these areas, I can become more of this or that and still that’s consistent
with who I am, but I’m not gonna do things that are really inconsistent with who I am.”
So, you gotta know who you are. Yes, thank you.>>woman #2: I have a question on the research
that you did for finding these companies and the criteria for success. So, you had some
companies that were founded by strong leaders who had a product, which was perfect for the
time and they created a vision and a company around that. You also had examples of companies
whose leaders didn’t have the product, they weren’t the inventors, but they came on board
and were able to transform the company in a particular way. How, what sense do you have
as to how, whether some of those products were serendipitous? Did they always drive
that by being open to the ideas that were around them? By being open to the economic
or environment that was around them? Can you– kinda break that up a little bit?>>Porras: Yes. There were some exceptions
to what I’m gonna say, but by and large, these companies, essentially, started without a
product.>>woman #5: All of them?>>Porras: Most of them. The vast majority
of them did. They started without a product. We spoke with Bill Hewlett–Hewlett-Packard–
we said, “Bill, what were you and Dave thinking about when you started the company?” And he
said– this is almost verbatim– he said, “Look, we were a couple of young guys. We’d
recently graduated from Stanford. We thought we were pretty smart, which is something,
by the way, that afflicts a lot of Stanford graduates, we wanted to get in business together
and we wanted to make a contribution.” “What kind of contribution did you want to make,
Bill?” “We wanted to make technical contributions. That’s what we’re about.” Their first products,
contrary to popular myth, was not the audio oscillator that they sold to Disney. The first
products were a bowling foul-line indicator– your foot goes across the line and a little
light lights up– an automatic urinal flusher and some sort of a jiggling machine for weight
reduction; jiggle the body, somehow. Those were their first three products. All failures.
They didn’t start the company on a product. They started the company because they wanted
to build a company and then they searched for products to build that fulfilled this
technical contribution basic purpose that they had. And 3M, it started out with a product
and the product drove them into bankruptcy. They were mining this carborundum, this grit
that was used for sandpaper. They mined two tons of it, couldn’t sell it and they essentially
went bankrupt and the board of directors kept putting money into the company to keep it
going. And little while, little while was almost 20 years later, they limped along doing
all sorts of goofy stuff. Then along comes William McKnight and he comes up with the
idea of masking tape. And that launched 3M into the 3M we know today. So, the products
are a consequence of the company, not the company is a consequence of the product.>>woman #5: In your second kind of companies
that you’re, the really successful companies that you’re talking about–>>Porras: Those are, those are the built to
last companies. In the comparison companies, they invariably
all started with a product. Zenith had this radio that they initially developed. It was
started out with a product from the very beginning and then the company was built around that
product.>>woman #5: Ok, thank you.>>Porras: Ok. Thank you.>>presenter: You wanna stay, if anyone wants
to stick around for lunch, we’ll be having lunch with Professor after this. Thanks. [applause]

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