Are successful leaders lucky?
The Warren Buffetts and Bill Gates of this world are often described as just lucky. But is that really the secret behind their success? Devote 5 minutes to watching Morten Hansen, management professor at UC Berkeley and Insead, describe the characteristics of leaders that make their organisations thrive in times of chaos and uncertainty:
Hansen studied high performing leaders and what he found goes against what we commonly believe about successful leadership.
Bold & visionary leaders a thing of the past?
That's the case according to Hansen. He brings up people like Bill Gates as prime examples of great leaders. Apparently Gates had no vision at all, in fact he was often wrong in his predictions.
Outstanding leaders instead create a future for their empirical trials. If the trials work out according to plan, they invest in the new idea. In other words, leadership is not about big bets but safe bets. Buffett is a prime example of such a leader which has led to an abundance of investors making fun of him and saying he had lost it.
We all have good & bad luck
Good and bad events happen to all people and in all organisations. They are out of your control and not expected. Good or bad luck is another way of describing it.
When comparing companies that are successful with companies that are not, Hansen's study found that they had more or less the same amount of good and bad luck happening to them. So he concluded that success had nothing to do with luck.
If not luck, then what?
What the study found was that the well performing leaders and companies had a higher return on the good luck they got because they seized the moment.
So how do you get higher return?
Successful leaders are prepared for bad luck, i.e. make sure that if worst comes to worst they know what to do.
They are prepared to seize the moment when good luck strikes. Bill Gates is a good example of that when he was still at Harvard but realised he couldn't finish his studies because he had to seize the moment when it came to personal computers.
And the third point is to execute brilliantly when you have good luck. That's how you get a higher return on luck.
Do you agree with Morten Hansen that luck has nothing to do with success? Are we great by choice? Should we, like Bill Gates, have nightmare memos to be prepared for the worst that can happen? Are you one hundred percent committed and focused on succeeding with what you are doing? Are you creative in an empirical way i.e. don't make one big investment into a new area but spend years trying out a new concept and only when it shows that it's a great idea do you take the risk of moving into that area. Do you seize the moment when good luck strikes? If so, according to Morten Hanson you are a great leader and not an average one.
Video: HarvardBusiness – You Tube