Paranoia may have helped Lisa Murkowski
It was former Intel CEO Andy Grove who famously said "only the paranoid survive." But Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski would have done well to remember that wisdom in her Alaska primary race.
The dominant storyline today on the news that Murkowski is trailing her opponent Joe Miller in a race too close to call will surely be that Miller won because of Sarah Palin. Miller, who had the support of Tea Party activists and an endorsement from Palin, was seen as a long shot as recently as yesterday.
But that's only part of the story.
As the Post's Chris Cillizza writes, Murkowski blew it because she seemed "largely unconcerned" about Miller's challenge. Though she was encouraged by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to produce attack ads against Miller, she rejected the advice, Cillizza writes. By not defining Miller early in the race, she "gave away her biggest advantage: money." The difference in campaign war chests was staggering: As of Aug. 4, Murkowski reported $1.86 million; Miller had just $84,000.
Overconfidence is a natural affliction of existing leaders. Those already in power believe they can win on their records, and that voters have better memories than they really do. They are fooled by their own success, overly assured about their position, and fall victim to that unfortunate byproduct of power: hubris.
When Andy Grove uttered these words, which are also the title of a management guide he penned, he was talking about corporate strategy, competitive product positioning, and disruptive innovation. Although he does not remember when he first said it, this motto, now a favorite in corporate boardrooms, is often attributed to Intel's move into microprocessors after the Japanese got into building memory chips in the mid-1980s, an "inflection point so overwhelming," he says, that it forced them to change their business in a direction that has helped it remain successful to this day. "When it comes to business," Grove writes, "I believe in the value of paranoia. Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business."
(More from PostLeadership, Reining in CEO pay, finally)
The same could be said of political leaders. Those who've had success sew the seeds of their own destruction, and those who aren't concerned enough about the security of their position are ripe for a stumble.
There is a great deal of speculation that rising dissatisfaction with our current leaders, a foreboding sense that the country is going in the wrong direction, and growing power among splinter groups such as the Tea Party spell trouble for incumbents during this election season. While all those factors may play a role, so does the overconfident leadership mindset. As many incumbents are sure to learn in November, only the paranoid survive.
Watch Charlene Li discuss Open Leadership in the 21st Century, and how companies from BP to Apple are changing the way corporations talk to their customers.
Read On Leadership's panel reactions to the NYC mosque controversy here
August 25, 2010; 10:43 AM ET |
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