Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Members First

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been interested in what sets some leaders apart from others – the positive outliers.   Let’s look at Jeff Weiner for instance.  Jeff Weiner, previously the Executive Vice President at Yahoo, is the CEO of LinkedIn.  He joined LinkedIn as the Interim President in December 2008.[1]  We can see that Jeff possesses some of the common characteristics of great leaders outlined by Katharina Herrmann, Asmus Komm, and Sven Smit in “Do you have the right leaders for your growth strategies?”[2]
For instance, the authors suggest that great leaders:
·         Create clear leadership-development targets for managers.  Jeff sets aside two to three hours every day to think and provide guidance to his staff.  He believes that part of the evolution from a start-up to a public company is moving from problem-solving to “coaching others to achieve business results.”[3]  He also encourages all employees to think about how the decisions they make impact the company’s mission.

·         Look beyond a company’s current business landscape to discern future growth opportunities and aim at achieving results.  He lists “next play” as LinkedIn’s unofficial mantra.  According to Jeff, the Duke men’s basketball head coach always yells out “next play” every time the ball changes hands.   Part of Jeff’s leadership strategy is to continue looking towards the future.

·         Stay focused on delivering customer impact (defined as the capacity to understand customers’ evolving needs). One of LinkedIn’s values is simply “Members First.” Every time they consider updates, they ask, “Is this putting our members first, or is this putting the company first? If it benefits members, it will ultimately benefit the company.”[4]   Jeff advocates trying to see things from other people’s point of view, whether in management or working with customers.  His focus appears to be successful – LinkedIn adds new members at a rate of two per second.  Currently, there are 175 million registered users in more than 200 countries.  Furthermore, one of his personal keys to happiness is to “go out of your way to serve others.”[5]

Granted, Jeff Weiner is just one person and one person does not make a company.  Hermann points out that for a company to have superior growth, typically 40% of its senior executives need to be highly skilled in the area of customer impact. 

“Do you have the right leaders for your growth strategies?” was written in 2011.  However, it does not make any mention of whether leadership strengths change based on economic conditions.  Do you think that challenging economic times require a different leadership skill set?

[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

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