You: mold maker, breaker or taker?

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

A new database on business leadership is starting to yield insights into the nature of leaders within the context of their times. Tony Mayo, who directs the Harvard Business School Leadership Initiative, described three leadership patterns, or archetypes:

1. Mold Makers create or build businesses that take advantage of the coalescing context of their era (inventing ingenious machines in the manufacturing age, for example, advanced synthetics in the chemical age or vibrant information portals in the Internet age).

Example: Frank Phillips founded Phillips Petroleum in the early 1900s, taking advantage of the burgeoning car industry and the need for natural gas and oil during World War I. After the war, he helped meet the fuel demands of a new consumer nation.

2. Mold Breakers succeed in busting through the context of their own times to foreshadow the demands of the future.

Example: Clarence Saunders, who founded Piggly Wiggly in the early 20th century, revolutionized grocery shopping by changing the pokey general store into a chain of self-service markets that used checkout counters and offered a choice of national brands.

3. Mold Takers see the value in industries or businesses that others are ready to cast off. They make the most of industry consolidation and breathe new life into old companies, extending their value well beyond their “time.”

Example: William Fairburn reinvented the century-old match industry when he took over Diamond Match Co. in 1914. Fairburn designed a manufacturing process using sesquisulphate to make matches instead of white phosphorus, shunned for causing poisoning and fires. Although he could have monopolizedt he market, Fairburn made the patented process public and set the match industry on fire.

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