By Neville Chamunorwa
The difference between companies that are considered trailblazers in their respective fields and those that follow behind them comes down to one important principle – leadership. The very best leaders, the ones who continue to innovate and adapt as required to stay ahead of the competition have one quality that trumps all others. They are right, a lot.
Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon is one such leader. He explained how people are most surprised by this principle more than any of Amazon’s other leadership principles. The company’s 4th leadership principle is:
“Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs”
Firstly, being right a lot shouldn’t be misconstrued as never getting it wrong. Secondly, the art of being right a lot can be improved with practice. In the same way you can develop any other skill over time, you can learn how to be right much more often than you’re not.
Through his observations of people who are right a lot, Bezos has noticed two key recurring themes amongst them all.
1. People who are right a lot, listen a lot
The best leaders are not the loudest ones in the room. Rather they are the attentive ones, who understand that knowledge and wisdom are gained by talking less and listening more. Any good leader you can think of possesses this trait. The great ones take it a step further with the ability to read between the lines. This is a much deeper level of listening that allows great leaders to also make sense of that which isn’t said, seen or heard by others.
2. People who are right a lot, change their mind a lot
Many people think of good leaders as the ones who have the courage of their convictions. The ones who make up their minds and are resolute in their commitment regardless of the outcome. Great leaders cease to hold the same level of confidence in their methods when faced with new information that tells them otherwise. They will feel obliged to revisit their preconceived notions in order to make the most informed decision. There is an understanding that tunnel vision is a curse and flexibility – in a world that is changing faster than ever before – is the key to real competitive advantage.
Steve Jobs changed his mind a lot and turned out to be right a lot
According to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs is another example of a great leader who understood the importance of changing his mind, whether he was presented with new data or not. Having worked closely with the late innovator during his tenure at Apple, Kawasaki recollects how the iPhone was initially introduced as a closed system. This meant that any entity outside the walls of Apple couldn’t create an app for it. In order to have a functional application, software developers were required to use a Safari plugin, since they couldn’t access iPhone’s system directly for security reasons.
A year later, however, Steve Jobs made a complete U-turn according to Kawasaki. He decided to open up the system to the public. This came after the realization that Apple could very easily be missing out on great app concepts, which would potentially offer their customers so much more value than anything they were creating internally. As such, it didn’t matter who wrote the code.
“I learned the very valuable lesson that when you’re doing something wrong, when you’re doing something sub-optimally,” says Kawasaki, “it’s a sign of intelligence to change your mind.” This ability to change your mind and admit to a mistake is what leads to real sustainable growth.
The key takeaway is this. Listen a lot, change your mind a lot and if you simply do these two things, you’re way more likely to end up being a right a lot – and as a leader you want to be there.