5 Leadership insights from Silicon Valley




5 Leadership insights from Silicon Valley

Often there are great truths and facts of life that transcend the years. There are times, when a poet or a philosopher says volumes in a single phrase. 1 such instance is when Bob Dylan said, “The Times, they’re a-changing”. That is especially true, in today’s context. As a species, Humankind has never objected to change – we have always managed to adopt, adapt and survive. Till Now.

Today the foundations of our personal and professional lives are shaken to the very foundations, as humankind is struggling to cope with an invisible micro-organism – a Virus – that has managed to render all the collective might & intellects of the world helpless. The Covid 19 pandemic has not only swept away our illusions of being the most evolved species, but also those of our invincibility. Not only has it rendered us helpless, it has stripped away all & any illusions of superiority we have. None of our military might, IT expertise, vast knowledge or information – has yet been able to find a way out of this crisis. How leaders think, engage, analyze, respond – this will shape our collective futures. Further down the ladder, as we scramble to cope in the best way we know how, business leaders face increasingly novel and complex business challenges.

Somewhere, deep inside, there is a gnawing realization that our past experiences may not suffice: they may not always equip leaders properly and make them fully experienced enough to navigate and lead through previously unencountered scenarios such as the global coronavirus pandemic.  Hence, keeping this in view, there has been increased interest in identifying and developing the leadership fundamentals which can enable resilience, adaptation and agility to face and overcome changing realities. The core focus has been how do we prepare our leaders to lead organizations in an increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. This will call for a blended style of leadership with elements of toughness, empathy, team-drive and inclusiveness.

To explore newer approaches to leadership, there is no better place to refer than Silicon Valley – home to some of the most innovative, agile, resilient and profitable companies in the world. What is it in the Valley’s DNA that has been fostered such a culture of dynamism, creativity and enterprise? There may be much to learn and apply from the many diverse models of leadership in the Silicon Valley.

The best Inspiration is Perspiration: There have been volumes written about the innovation, bright ideas, the amazing technologies and the sheer genius of the people at most companies in the valley. What has not been focused about, is how these happened: multi-billion war-chests, patents, global empires – were not built over a weekend. It has taken sheer old-fashioned hard work, and the people concerned have given new meaning to the phrase “built it with my sweat”. The founders, entrepreneurs, businessmen – their teams – have ceaselessly worked, sweated, strived and made their work speak for them. These examples of incessant hard work, perseverance and unceasing toil have helped create global brands, world class companies and become the stuff of legends. This is definitely one tenet that leaders can emulate.

Walk the Talk: There’s much, much more than appears obvious – it isn’t only the billionaire casually relaxing on his yacht, or glittering product launches with reams of coverage across the world, or talk-shows with Oprah. Those simple, trite-sounding “Leadership 101” statements & bytes the self-made moguls give are not that simple. They have been earned – but putting their money where their mouth is. These Titans have staked more than just their money – they have invested valuable years, resources, made personal sacrifices and built up world-class companies. Leaders need to dig beneath the surface – and learn, that these icons actually walked the talk. They seized their dream by the throat and just did not let it go – they worked hard and led by example. If entrepreneurs can take time to examine these traits, they will definitely come up with some ways they can move forward.

The definition of Ownership: The typical stories of “founded in a garage” we hear are the stuff of legend. There are more than 1 of these brands around – and they are the source of inspiration to many. What can be learnt from digging deeper here, is how the founders of each of these companies defined “Ownership” for their companies. Were they authoritarians? Or goal-oriented workaholics? Were they team-players or loners who delegated outcomes & empowered their employees? What was their management style? How did they communicate? What approaches to team-management did they take? Analyzing & learning from these, will help aspiring entrepreneurs & those already in business, to form a playbook to refer and help shape their own personal style of ownership.

Overnight is a long Night: As the old cliché goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. Well, neither are businesses or brands – far from it. It takes toil, grits, gumption, and a lot of errors. No one finds success at the 1st attempt and builds an empire “Overnight”. It takes perseverance, unceasing dedication, team-work, and recalibration – and even then, chances are that there’s still a long way to go. So, let’s not get swayed by all the “overnight” success stories – Overnight is indeed a long night. The sheer toil and hard work are never visible, because they are in the past – what we see and perceive is only what is showcased – the successful brand, the lifestyle, the nuggets of wisdom the founders dole out. Founders should dig for the untold stories, the real gems lie there: who knows? Perhaps they may just unearth some ideas and approaches that can stand them in good stead for the long run ahead.

Collaborate, rather than just Compete: The ecosystem in the Valley is incredible – the sharing, the references, networks, supporting frameworks, the sheer energy is incredible. This could well be a factor in it being the seeding ground for global giants to have being spawned here. Sure, there is healthy competition – has to be. But what hugely successful entrepreneurs have learned is that wherever they can, they collaborate and leverage opportunities where there is mutual benefit. Keeping an eye open and seeking out such synergistic ties can often lead to hitherto untapped market segments – and this is an insight that relatively smaller businesses can benefit enormously from. Hence, entrepreneurs should seek out collaborations and synergies wherever possible and leverage them for mutual benefit.

There are innumerable insights and learnings to be had from Silicon Valley. It is for the person concerned to dig it out, analyze and apply to personal circumstances.



Author Biography.

Swapan Dholakia
Swapan Dholakia

Content Writer

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