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Leadership as extreme sport

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

In leadership, as in surfing, every wipeout represents a victory. You put yourself out there, crash and learn.

“Surfing is an extreme sport because the wipeout is part of  it,” explains a fictional surfer dude and corporate man of mystery in Steve Farber’s new book, The Radical Leap. “All extreme sports have that in common.”

So, business leaders take risks. Very easy to say; very hard to do.

“A lot of businesspeople who call themselves leaders want things to be easy and painless,” says the dude.

Real-life example of extreme leadership: Crispin Porter and Bogusky (CPB), the surfer dudes (make that windsurfer dudes) of the advertising world.

Before their groundbreaking “Truth” antismoking campaign of 1997, CPB’s edgy, risky advertising stunts took their share of wipeouts, but the agency kept going all-out. Its creative people—read “everybody on staff”—make up for risk through volume. For example, they pitched Virgin Atlantic Airways ads that looked like flight safety cards, a comic strip called “The Jet Set,” a magazine mockup called Jetrosexual, a bedtime story for passengers, celebrities as guest flight attendants … and more than 160 other ideas.

For retailer Ikea, CPB decorated holiday posters with sheets of gift wrap that passersby could tear off. And the original “Truth” campaign included pranks such as phone calls to tobacco executives and videotaped student demonstrations.

Maybe the biggest risk of all: little to no TV advertising.

CPB’s sudden success has brought on new risks, including its latest challenge: Burger King, which has fired five agencies in four years. Stay tuned.

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