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Roger Martin

Roger Martin

Roger Martin is Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and author, most recently, of The Design of Business. His website is www.rogerlmartin.com

Raise Revenues First

One particular kind of fear is useful for leaders to instill, but only that particular kind. It is the fear of not being part of the leader's campaign - whatever that campaign happens to be. A leader will get all sorts of help and cooperation to the extent that followers at all levels fear being left off the team. This is why it is essential for a leader to generate an initial success, often without a whole lot of help.

The minute a leader generates a success, followers begin to fear not being part of a successful team and will do whatever they can to avoid that fearful outcome. However, if it is unclear whether a leader is succeeding, many followers will wait on the sidelines to see a positive sign before committing and won't feel the fear of not being part of the leader's team.

It is a classic virtuous- or vicious-circle situation. The initial success creates a fear that motivates supportive behavior, which in turn produces more success while the initial ambiguity generates waiting on the sidelines, which makes it hard to get anything done.

This is why I tell every CEO who asks me for advice on how to succeed to focus early on raising revenues. Think about it: How many successful CEOs can you name off the top of your head who weren't associated with massively increased revenues? Increasing revenues are the clearest sign for followers that you are succeeding as a leader because independent third parties - i.e. customers - are giving you more resources with which the company - led by you the leader - can do more great things. And followers will fear not being a part of those great things.

Obama will have officials throughout the administration waiting on the sidelines until he gets the U.S. economy growing. As soon as Reagan and Clinton got their economies growing out of problematic economic situations, everyone and their cousin wanted to help out. Until then, it was touch and go. So it will be with Obama.

By Roger Martin

 |  August 24, 2009; 8:34 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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