CEOs need to be a blend of an entreprenuer in a garage and a steward of their existing businessI was struck by the importance of the genius of the “and” when preparing to do a speech on leadership in Seoul this November at a big conference sponsored by the Korea Economic Daily. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates were to be speakers at the conference too. As my friend Gary Peck CEO of LOOPTWORKS said jokingly, “These guys are being sent to talk first to set the stage for you.”

Gary then went of a riff about how the CEO of today has to be the perfect blend of the entrepreneur in the garage with a $billion idea in the making, and the steward of a big-multi divisional corporation. Even Steve Jobs struggled with this, resulting in him being fired as Chairman of Apple. Later, however, he seemed to figure it out, maintaining his entrepreneurial fervor, while at the same time, running a mega-business on a global basis.

I think, however, the better example might be Jeff Immelt of GE who is a game changer in the sense that he is going all out to provide entrepreneurial opportunities for talent people with a passion in one of the world’s biggest companies.

Create a Parallel Universe

Today, every CEO is under pressure from Wall Street to grow their business and grow it faster. Most CEOs do a reasonably good job of trying to grow their business profitably by paying attention to their best customers, adding new bells and whistles to their products, and consistently improving margins. Yet the end result is growing their business slightly more than the GDP 3-4% a year.

Every CEO also knows that they need to create a game changer and do something for customers they currently think is impossible, as well as to grow their business at a double digit clip. Yet few are able to actually pull it off. As Clay Christianson of Harvard points out, the risks associated with creating a game changer from scratch always look much greater than just improving their existing business.

There is an idea I have been playing around with that I think will help. Why not control your costs and hedge your bets by creating a parallel universe where you continue to grow your current business organically, and at the same time, empower people with an entrepreneurial game changing idea to spread their wings and fly?

More to come on this subject.

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