An opportunist does not a visionary make. One of the problems that killed Myspace and threatens on a yearly basis to take Microsoft plus Yahoo plus AOL down and is nipping at Cisco is that they all discovered a niche and were the first movers into that niche. However first mover advantage into a niche also does not a visionary company make.
What happened to all of them is that they all hit grand slam home runs close to their first times at bat and then confused being lucky and quick with being smart and visionary. They became too self-congratulatory and when they so quickly became the one trick pony 800 pound gorillas without a continuing vision to stand on they left themselves open to truly visionary companies doing something that none of them could and still don’t seem able to do.
The secret to visionary companies’ continued success was explained best what NHL great Wayne Gretzky stated: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” What Apple and Facebook know and more specifically their founders/CEOs’ Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have in common is aspirational clarity. They appear to be able to see where the puck will be and into the future of what their market will not just want, but go ga-ga over and then they deliver it. Some may refer to that as their being market makers, but what enables them to make their market is that they can anticipate what will delight their customers and members that those people don’t even know will delight them.
In speaking to and interviewing CEOs for blogs, articles, columns and books as well as in my c-suite executive coaching practice I have been fortunate to come upon aspirational clarity for these high performers. Initially they and I thought it was about being more impactful and more persuasive from a top down level. However as the economy has shifted and people have grown wary and very weary of “pushy” types it has become clear that leaders and executives (and sales people) need to do something that provides more of a pull and that is more compelling than a push that is more convincing (and pushy). And what provides that pull is presence.
I discovered it for myself from my good fortune to be mentored by Warren Bennis. I will listen, take to heart and follow anything he “suggests” to me (Warren doesn’t tell anyone to do anything). And the reason I will do that with him and that I didn’t do it with other “authority” figures is that Warren is present and has presence. To me that makes him much more authoritative than authoritarian and not only someone I will listen to, but someone I have hungered to have in my life for all of my life.
Why is presence so powerful and so influential and why is being pushy becoming less effective? Most people in the world feel multiple absences and gaps in their careers, their effectiveness, their jobs, their relationships, their marriages, their families, their friends and perhaps most importantly in their actual being. They not only feel these absences, they feel self-doubt and confusion. That is what makes them initially open to pushy people (who on the surface seem supremely confident). However when it is revealed that those pushy people don’t really care about them and only about themselves, self-doubting people feel baited and switched, ripped off and betrayed.
On the other hand when you are present, and by that I mean fully engaged in listening to the other person and helping clarify what is most important, urgent and critical to them and then help them achieve, accomplish or attain whatever that is, people will be irresistibly drawn to you.
And as they said in the iconic movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it (i.e. are present and have presence), people will come (and do whatever you want them to do, because it really is in their best interest).”