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Leadership: Facebook, Apple, Costco - Three Mini Case Studies

Opportunistic - Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Visionary - Steve Jobs, Apple
Heartfelt - Jim Sinegal, Costco


Mark Zuckerberg - Opportunistic Leadership – Seeing and Seizing an Opportunity

Being seen as a visionary is intoxicating.  And when the market stamps you as one it is very difficult to admit to them and to yourself that you are more of a first and quickest mover on an underexploited asset (yes, the Winklevoss twins got there first) than a true visionary. 

Also when the world is expecting you to have the vision to transform it, but when at your core you are more transactional the result is what we have seen with Facebook and possibly its stock price being so sluggish.  

Smart and quick does not a visionary make. When I think of Zuckerberg, I can’t help but think of Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and… Lew Wasserman.  Why Wasserman? Because one of his lesser known quotes which applied to him as well as Gates was: “First you get on, then you get honest, then you get honors.” 

Wasserman was more of a consummate deal maker than visionary and it may be that Gates is the same, but Gates “got out of Dodge” just in the nick of time and into the philanthropy “business” (which is led more by his wife’s vision) before he was exposed as more of a businessman than a visionary.

Seeing and seizing an opportunity does not a visionary make.


Steve Jobs - Visionary Leadership – Seeing Into the Future and Defining Reality

Like Zuckerberg, Jobs started out as a thief by lifting from Xerox and better exploiting the mouse. So just like Wassserman (and Zuckerberg with "The Facebook"), he discovered a way “to get on.” 

But then three things happened that transformed him into a visionary.  First, he looked into the future and realized computers were not going to go away; second, he realized that the state of the art computers were complicated, unreliable and ugly; third, he defined reality by realizing that whoever built computers that were simple, reliable and beautiful would delight and own the minds of the world, especially the younger minds.

Jobs didn’t know how to build these special computers, but he had the ability to recognize them when they met his criteria of being simple, reliable and beautiful.  It was that ability that often caused him to stop various Apple products after millions of dollars had been spent on developing them.

Sadly, it may have also been his “visionary” capacity that caused him to think he was above the need for conventional medical treatment for his pancreatic cancer. 

If Jobs had had more humility than hubris, he might still be alive.


Jim Sinegal - Heartfelt Leadership – Seeing Into the Hearts of Your Customers and People

Jim Sinegal will tell you that he was heading towards being a juvenile delinquent when warehouse retail pioneer Sol Price, saw a future for Jim that he couldn’t see for himself. 

Sinegal then proceeded to take the belief, trust, confidence and caring he received from Price and not take it for granted.  Instead, Sinegal proceeded to “pay it forward” by seeing into the hearts of his customers and his people and “to never hurt or exploit them.” 

That contrast between Sinegal and Zuckerberg/Gates/Wasserman is clearly demonstrated when years ago Sinegal met with Costco stockholders.  Apparently some stockholders voiced something to the effect of: “We love Costco, we shop at Costco, but we are your investors and you are a public company.  Can you do something about increasing the margins of your products and not giving so many benefits to your employees so that we can get a better ROI?”

Sinegal responded with the following: “I have three words for you.  Sell your stock.”

What the world needs now is a combination of visionary and heartfelt leadership.  Those are the people who can see into a future, define a reality that will lift all boats and because of their being heartfelt, will also lift all hopes.

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