Appreciate laughter (Jeff Bezos)
Leadership can be born out of unexpected and tiny bursts of genuine laughter as much as it can be characterised by a stern visage and a stiff upper lip. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and currently the richest person alive, is known for such a strong laughter that as a youth his siblings refuse to go to the movies with him. He keeps this quote on the fridge: (note that it all starts with laughter):
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
The rapid pace of change of today's work means that everyone's nerves are constantly tested - those of us with a sense of humour can alleviate sudden peaks of emotional pressure instantly when vital tech fails or is hacked; when people do not keep their word (sometimes due to no fault of their own) or when requirements and regulations just seem to keep piling on to a project.
Know the power of "No" (Steve Jobs)
Steve Jobs was perhaps not a saint he is often portrayed as but he was a world-class manager with an amazing intuitive sense of what works and what does not. And at some moments he was able to capture sheer moments of brilliance. One of those is this quote:
"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things."
Be gritty and self-reliant (Angela Duckworth)
Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder and CEO of Character Lab. Here book "Grit" is not just another business bestseller with text size meant for children's books but an in-depth look at the results of her academic research for the lay reader.
“...there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine...you've got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people...Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it...it's doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”
Be curious and open to learning (W. E. Deming)
William Edward Deming remains a much-admired academic and statistician in the mass manufacturing sector and for bigger firms in the services sector. His insights and structuring of business processes still define how very many Fortune 500 companies operate, how they communicate internally and sync different departments between each other. Behind his complex work, however, stands one guiding principle: curiosity regarding how things really work.
Our schools must preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that everyone is born with.
Become obsessively customer-focused (Jeff Bezos)
We end where we started: with Jeff Bezos elucidating an obvious point but doing it in a manner that really enforces the urgency of changing our focus to what is truly important.
There are several principles of Amazon, but the number one thing that has made us successful by far is an obsessive-compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor. And I talk so often to other CEOs – some other CEOs and also founders and entrepreneurs. And I can tell that even though they’re talking about customers, they’re really focusing on competitors. And it is a huge advantage to any company if you can stay focused on your customer instead of your competitor. So, then you have to identify, who is your customer?