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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • February 1, 2012
  • minute read

Don't confuse brilliance with Vision 

Apologies for the Yoda-like speech pattern, but a brilliant Processor doth not a Visionary make.
Some Processors are truly geniuses in how they use their P skills, but the sheer brilliance they exude in doing so is not the same as being a Visionary – even though, at first glance or from a distance they might look the same.
Some companies – especially in the tech arena – are suffering from this category error. It took Jerry Yang almost 15 years to work this out (even though Yahoo [YHOO] shareholders got there long before he did). Everybody realized it in the case of Bill Gates at Microsoft [MSFT] (including I think, Bill Gates himself). I believe time will show it to be true of Larry Page at Google [GOOG].
Tech isn’t alone in making this mistake, mind you. Vikram Pandit is a P struggling mightily at Citibank [C] at a time when it desperately needs a V. Leo Apotheker fooled no-one in his short, ignominious stay at HP [HWP].
That’s not to say there aren’t times when a Processor isn’t the right person to lead a company – BP [BP] needed one a decade ago, and if it had one, it might have avoided the recent spill disaster. JetBlue [JBLU] needed one coming out of the David Neieleman Whitewater experience, and Netflix [NFLX] could do with one now. Almost all of Japanese industry benefitted from Processor leadership in the 80’s.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve got a Visionary leader when you’ve actually got a pyrotechnically brilliant Processor – it’s a very expensive mistake to make.


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  1. Les, is there a term for the stage a business is in or working through when they are best served by a Processor? Can a Processor successfully lead long term as the top dog? Is that when a well varied team is needed in support of the Processor-helmed company?

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