Executive Leadership

J.K. Rowling’s boyfriend was moving to Manchester and wanted her to
move, too. During her train trip back to London after a weekend spent
looking for an apartment, the character of Harry Potter simply popped
into her head. There was a glitch, however. Rowling didn’t have a writing utensil.

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It’s so easy to lose sight of customers that even good organizations do
it all the time. But a technique called LEO might help you stay a
little closer to them. LEO stands for:

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Jimmy Doolittle, one of the great aviation pioneers and a wildly
successful air racer himself, saw the need— and the market—for bigger,
safer planes in the 1930s. So, he tried to convince Shell Oil Co. to produce a standard,
higher-octane fuel for larger planes, which were still in the design
phase. “But Jimmy, this country is in a deep depression,” said Alex Fraser,
vice president of Shell. “You want to spend millions of dollars on a
product with no guarantee of a market.” Doolittle stuck by his guns.

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Robert Hopkins, a pilot and photographer during World War II, could
have settled for being one of many photographers assigned in 1945 to
the Yalta conference in the Crimea, where the three main Allied leaders
would shape the postwar world. Instead, being crowded out of prime shots by some 30 Russian
photographers led the young Hopkins to assert his leadership skills.

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In 1820, about 70 percent of the U.S. population lived and worked on
farms. Then came Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the mechanical reaper and
modern agriculture. So, how did McCormick change the face of agriculture in America?

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Studying the great things that other organizations are doing is good. But identifying and spreading internal best practices is an even better way to achieve great results in your organization.

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Ever so slowly, brothers Michael and Brian McMenamin have built up
their pub chain, McMenamins, to 50 locations across Oregon and
Washington. But profit isn’t the point: it’s having fun. Starting with Oregon’s
first brewpub in 1985, the brothers created the McMenamins chain to
indulge their passions for art, history, food, drink and conversation.

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Close the gap between the leader you are and the leader you want to be, with this four-step exercise:

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Two researchers have studied some of the “largest, messiest and most
intractable change problems on the planet,” and their “positive
deviance” approach has penetrated business. Here are the basic steps:

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Close relationships between your organization and its vendors or
partners probably are thought of as a good thing. But here are a couple
of pitfalls you should know about:

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