A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about a better-than-anticipated company strategic meeting.
One of the main accomplishments emanating from said meeting was the forming of a mission statement that didn’t suck.
This is a monumental achievement, as most company mission statements are about as relevant as an Organ Grinder or a telegram (ask your great-grandparents), and usually because of the one simple word that has become the scourge of the corporate lexicon:
Used as an adjective to describe a company’s stature, the word “Leader” has degenerated into an ineffective cliché, one that is not only a weak, second-rate aspiration, but a hard-to-measure milestone that shines as bright as a plastic neon glowstick…and lasts about as long as one, too.
When I was in the tech business, every company—EVERY one!—had the word “leader” (or a derivative of) in its mission statement.
- “We want to be a leader in the field of branded mobile content.”
- “We want to be the leading provider of enterprise solutions.”
- “We are a leader in systematic symbioses…”
- “We are a leader at using the word ‘leader’ in our descriptions…”
I could go on for hours. The image I used to conjure up, with so, so, so many leaders, was one of a race where 10,000 people cross the finish line at the same time, followed by the one poor sap whose second-place finish made leaders out of everybody else.
Now there’s nothing wrong with being a “leader,” particularly in the worlds of politics or social good. But what exactly is one, in the context of a company? Are you a leader because you sell more stuff than anyone else? Because your stock price is higher? Because you’re most profitable? Or are you a leader because you’re better know than anyone else? Because you have more “likes” on Facebook? Because you’ve won more industry awards? Because you’ve been around longest?
The evaluating factors are many and close together (note: the opposite of “few and far between”), so as long as you choose the proper—and most likely narrowing—niche, you too can be a leader within it. And live up to your mission statement. Hooray! Let the bonuses flow!
While we are still finalizing our mission statement at Just For Laughs, I’m at least peacock-proud that we’ve chosen to do away with the fossilized term of “leader” and have focused on something that can be equally as ephemeral, but is universally understood, and more importantly, emotionally internalized.
For at the root of our mission, we want to be recognized as a:
Hokey? Trite? I think not. Everyone knows what a “star” is. We aspire to be one. We make special previsions for them. We bask in their glow. A star’s power is often disproportionate to its reality. A star can get away with things leaders can’t even dream of. And a star can dream of things leaders can’t even fathom.
Nothing against “leaders.” People indeed respect them. But the feeling is rational. In the head. In contrast, people are drawn to stars like iron filings to electro-magnets. People bow to stars. They open doors, and roll out red carpets for them. The relationship overflows with emotion.
Is Google a leader? Is Apple? Is Virgin? How about Tesla, Amazon or Netflix? I’m sure there are categories where they blow the competition out of the water…but other metrics/analytics where they may be miles behind the category “leader.” But in the end, they “own” their spaces…and not only because of the bottom line. Granted, stardom can be fleeting; nobody stays hot forever. But being a leader is equally as transitory, no matter how you choose to ultimately measure it.
So in business, if you ask me which one I’d truly desire to be, well…uh, look up.
One anecdote to drive this home. Last Thursday, I performed at the C2-MTL creative/commerce conference. The three-day lineup was jammed with luminaries the likes of business legends Sir Richard Branson and Barry Diller, designers Philippe Starck and Diane Von Furstenberg, and entrepreneurs Bobbi Brown and Blake (Toms Shoes) Mycoskie…amongst so many others. If this were a boxing or UFC match, I’d be on the undercard, scheduled when people are still getting beers. If this were a music festival, I’d be on the poster’s bottom line of type, along with other bands whose names can only be read with the aid of a nuclear microscope.
Given that positioning, if you asked me my mission prior to appearing on stage, I could’ve said:
“Well, I hope, once the audience evaluations comes out, to be a leader in the categories of spectator satisfaction and appreciation.”
But I didn’t. Because that would’ve been lame. And selling my aspirations short.
What I did say—and did so like a cocky little bastard on Vine to ensure that the challenge was recorded—was:
“I wanna make sure
that people never forget me.”
People may revere and admire their leaders.
But they remember, and talk about, their stars.