I picked up Jack Stahl's "Lessons on Leadership" a while back, and was curious about whether it held anything for me. Why? In spite of the old axiom to "never judge a book by its cover," I got a little judgemental on this one. After all, Jack used to be CEO of Coca Cola and Revlon, so he must have big, bureaucratic ideas about how to be a leader, right? My procrastination genes kicked in for a while.
A few weeks later, I tossed this book into my bag, boarded a plane, and started reading it. I must admit - I misjudged this book, for sure. In fact, I think Stahl's experience in bigger, stodgier companies actually pushed him to go back to first principles, and figure out the basic skills and techniques required to lead in any size environment.
In this book, Stahl presents 7 "Frameworks" to provide perspective and guidance on dealing with 7 key aspects of a business. The Frameworks are:
- Leadership and Management
- Creating a High-Capability Organization
- Developing People
- Brand Positioning with Consumers
- Customer Relationship Management
- Financial Strategy Management
- Influencing People
Some of these, such as Branding, bring out areas that are often overlooked by people in smaller companies. After all, weaving key principles of branding into your plans when you're small can really pay off if your company grows.
In each and every one of these sections, I found nuggets of wisdom I could apply to my current company, and ideas that could have helped me in a number of past situations. Part of the power of the book is that Stahl illustrates many of his points with real world situations - both good and bad. A small example of leading from the front / walking the talk:
"At Coca-Cola, a critical part of growing the company's business was outstanding in-store execution -- getting product to the store in a timely fashion, getting retailer shelves stocked properly with Coca-Cola products, seeing that the products were "faced," or pointed, in the right direction so the consumer could easily identify our brands, and pulling bottles of Coca-Cola and other products forward on the shelves to be within easy reach of the consumer.
"A senior leader of a large Coca-Cola bottler was relentless in this task. He traveled constantly to retail stores, focusing on quality execution by observing attention to detail. His energy sent a clear message to his operating managers on both sides of the Atlantic that attention to execution of details was a critical driver of success. He sent that message out clearly every day by example, through his own constant attention to execution at the point of sale. This focus helped accelerate growth and increased market share. Focus your own energy on the details of your business to drive results."
The book is full of object lessons from Stahl's experiences, most of which apply to large and small businesses. For example, consider the story above - if you're a sole proprietor:
- What are the details that will make the most difference in your accessibility to your customers?
- What details will set you apart from the competition?
- What consistent, persistent things do you want to be "known for?"
- And, what can you do - day in and day out - to create that bond with your customers?
Likewise, if you're an employer of others, what messages do your day-to-day actions send to your staff?
I enjoyed this book, and I think you will too. Scan the 7 Frameworks above and see if any of them need brushing up in your work. [And don't judge a book by its cover!]