When I graduated from Rutgers University with my bachelor’s degree in engineering, most of my classmates joined major East Coast industrial companies. I, however, did something many of them did not consider. Drawn to the unbridled energy driving Silicon Valley and the revolutionary innovation happening in the area’s pioneering companies and research labs, I decided to move west to work for Hewlett-Packard.
The company had just been named among Fortune’s first-ever “Most Admired Companies” in the inaugural annual issue celebrating the top-performing and most-respected companies in the U.S. But more importantly, they were one of the most sought-after companies for top engineering graduates.
Having since served as a strategy consultant and CMO, in addition to teaching courses in leadership, it has become abundantly clear that great leadership is the single biggest source of competitive advantage a company has. I have observed some spectacular failures in leadership that undermined great teams and great products. Typically, this was the result of an autocratic leadership style and a belief by the leader that they had all the answers -- and had nothing to learn from anyone on their teams.
Great leaders operate at the other end of the spectrum -- they don’t separate themselves from their teams; they are very much a part of those teams and believe that each and every team member has a relative contribution to make and needs to be heard.