Leadership Ideals From Father to Son

Mark and Scott Anderson-2015in CopenhagenMy son is graduating from college this month, and I am happy to say he is coming back east for a job in New York City. For a while there, my wife and I thought we were going to lose him to the west coast. even though we’ve been through it before with our older son, it really is a bit startling to consider your child settling down across the country. For college is one thing, for a grown-up job is altogether different.

While talking with my son about the end of college – though graduate school is a real possibility in the future – I found myself loosely quoting Rita McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School and a globally recognized expert on strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. I heard Rita speak at the World Business Forum in New York City last fall, where she had clear views on the need for companies to have portfolios of multiple transient advantages – advantages that can be built quickly and abandoned just as rapidly. The same is true for people and their careers today. The world, the market place, technology… they are all so transmutative that you want to be continually making small proactive changes that adjust your talent and operations so you are never forced into uncomfortable change.

In a world of sustainable competitive advantage, the assumption is that stability is the normal thing and change is the oddity. The opposite is true today. As Rita said: “The better companies in this turbulent environment are really going to be focused on what’s happening outside their boundaries, in places we don’t normally look.” The key is forging a new path to winning based on capturing opportunities fast, exploiting them decisively, and moving on even before they are exhausted.

I told my son that the learning really never ends. We learn, we grow, we explore, we adapt… it continues as we pass through different phases of our life.

As Linda Rottenberg, co-founder and CEO of Endeavor, the world’s leading organization dedicated to supporting fast-growing entrepreneurs, said at the same event: “Crazy is a compliment.” I shared with my son Linda’s ideas on giving oneself permission to side-step convention and explore ideas – the best ones always seemed crazy at first.

He responded particularly well to my suggestion that he figure out what he is trying to achieve and the values he represents. I shared the stories of Simon Sinek and Blake Mycoskie, two men who hold such ideals close to their hearts. Sinek, a popular speaker on leadership, says that, “The leader who, when times are tough, steps aside and allows his employees to get sacrificed violates the human definition of what it means to be a leader. Great leaders would never sacrifice people for the numbers. They sacrifice the numbers to save the people.”

Mycoskie, innovative founder of Toms and its One for One concept, said it best: “When you incorporate giving or a higher purpose beyond profit, your customers become your greatest marketers.”

These are the mindsets I want for my son as he moves on into the “real world” – to know his value, to be innovative, and to have a higher purpose behind his business decisions.

The last several months we’ve been posting articles about the speakers’ presentations, and we wrote the World Business Forum executive summary for WOBI, the event’s host and one of our partners. Download it here for a more in-depth look at what the assembled brilliant business minds had to say.



Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson is ExecuNet's president and chief economist. An Arjay Miller Scholar, Mark received his MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Yale University. He joined ExecuNet in 1993, with extensive marketing and new product and business development experience, having served as president and founder of A&M Associates, an investment management firm. Mark's corporate leadership experience includes several senior marketing and financial positions with RCA Global Communications (a GE subsidiary) and American Can Company.

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