Leadership and growth- Part II

In the last post I discussed the importance of value and leadership based on fixed and growth mindset. Today I will focus on the obstacle, the challenges as part of growth. Therefore, I will start with the question: Why should focus on the obstacle?

When I think about challenges, I always turn to the amazing story of Blockbuster. Usually there is a discussion of how Netflix destroyed Blockbuster because they didn’t want to change but after doing some research I have found the the story is about avoiding challenges. One of the most important aspects concerning the Netflix/Blockbuster relation is that Netflix was offered at least three times to Blockbuster for an acquisition. The answer as always the same, Blockbuster didn’t need to buy them, they were already much bigger.

When you analyze the size of the companies when the offer was made, Netflix was about USD 50 million and Blockbuster was USD 5 billion. Eight years went by and Blockbuster declared bankruptcy and Netflix is a powerhouse. For Netflix, the obstacle was the size of Blockbuster, that in can only be defeated with a disruptive model. This reminds me of the story of David in the Bible.

If you remember the story, David used a sling to kill Goliat. The story tells us that he didn’t use the armor offered by Saul and that he didn’t use a sword as the previous contenders. He used a disruptive strategy. It is amazing how Goliat was bullying him and telling him he was not worth it before falling into his death. For David, the obstacle was Goliat and through Goliat he took a step in becoming the leader he was meant to be. The most interesting aspect about the method that David used is that since he was a shepherd (seen usually as a weak profession), he war proficient with sling which he used to scare predators from the sheep.

Lesson: The process of going through the obstacle is based on your own skills.

Netflix wanted to take the movies into a smaller screen such as a computer. Even though, Blockbuster thought it was ridiculous. Blockbuster tried to take their collection of movies online with Enron as partner, but the technology was not there yet and they gave up. They cancelled the project and decided that people will always want to visit a store. As the say, the rest is history and now Blockbuster has one store and Netflix is worth approximately USD 30.8 billion.

Interesting story, but what does this relate to growth and leadership? A leader does not obviate the obstacle. We can argue that Blockbuster made so many mistakes that they lost the fight, but if we see this as true, then we cannot value the work that Netflix did. Netflix knew that they couldn’t compite with size, therefore they were disruptive. David knew he would fail if he went on a hand to hand combat against a giant, therefore, he searched disruption. But disruption is uncomfortable. Disruption is complicated. Disruption requieres for us to adapt.

As a leader, the pandemic was a moment of disruption. Some leaders decided to stay in a fixed mindset, trying to to the same thing and getting different results. Others adapted, searched for disruption and maintained their leadership. Marcus Aurelius stated this in his book Meditations:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

As leaders, if we want to grow, we have to adapt. We have to disrupt. We have to create. We have to think outside the box. Why? Because the leader has the privilege of seeing the whole picture. As the captain of a vessel that has the whole view, so is the leader. When the leader decides that he will keep his fixed mindset, he is compromising his team, his organization. It is the same as telling the team that we do things this way because we have always done it like this.

Remember, obstacles are the path for growth. We growth through our problems. We grow through our challenges. This is how we prove ourselves that we are worthy of leading. Imagine Churchill without the Second World War, imagine Lincoln without the Civil War, imagine Kennedy without the Cuban Crisis, imagine Mandela without the Apartheid or imagine David without Goliat. These challenges mark the leaders. They make them better. They make them capable of demonstrating that they can take their team forward. They are able to change. That are agents of change.

If you, your company or your team are going through an obstacle, this is the way. Don’t go around it. Don’t be blind. It is the only way that you, the team and the company can growth. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never growth

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In conclusion, lead through the challenges. Lead through growth.

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