A thought that crossed my mind recently, while on a run: two different runners beginning training from the same starting point, with similar means and fitness, end up achieving vastly different results. Similarly, entrepreneurs and leaders with similar intelligence, resources and advantages at their disposal don’t attain the same amount of success.
As a habitual interviewer, I often investigate what each leader does differently in order to stand apart from the crowd. While it’s tempting to attribute successes and failures to luck, there are some bold differences in the path followed by those who find favourable results. One can say that these set of distinguishing factors, are almost a black-box like algorithm. For instance, the very process of making recreational running a more meaningful activity requires me to set specific goals, follow strict instructions, adhere to a routine and diet, and most importantly – push my limits with each successive race. This same cycle applies to making progress as a leader, where the frequency of success depends on how many times one upgrades to a new normal.
Below I’ve listed out five entities that attained over a hundred times the success of their counterparts, despite offering the same value proposition to the world. Each of them is characterised by one trademark element that forms a part of the Algorithm for Success:
Anand Mahindra: Vision
While a lot of organisations strive for it, Mahindra & Mahindra has constantly exhibited an innate ability to build itself steadily and expand exponentially. This is primarily due to the fact that their leader has a clear vision for the company and always keeps raising the bar for the next target. To execute his ideas effectively, he successfully steers his team in the same direction as a whole This helps build a positive environment conducive to creativity and fulfilment for all – ultimately driving the entire organisation towards a common goal.
Phil Knight: Endurance
The grit and passion of the Nike founder is no different from the ‘Just Do It’ philosophy embodied by his brand. Having started out in 1962 with just an investment of $50, selling Japanese-made shoes from the boot of his car to building a $22 billion dollar company – Phil Knight has come a long way. His memoir, Shoe Dog (on my reading list for this year) details the highs and lows of his journey. Every new business goes through cycles of struggles and victories – the key is to remain stable through all those phases. Nike’s success is a testament to the fruits of persistence.
Rafael Nadal: Audacity
Current World No. 2 Tennis Champion, Rafael Nadal is perhaps no different from his contemporaries when it comes to training and prepping for the game. But what I really enjoy about watching him on the court is the sheer audacity with which he strikes his racket. This is a man willing to take risks for the win. It’s a quality that helps him improve on his skill progressively – not just during practice but during the course of the match itself. This confidence in his ability to prove himself on the court is what keeps him grounded during his interviews as well. It might seem like a contradiction but it’s his boldness in the sport that keeps him humble too.
H.M. Singh: Humility
Karamtara Engineering started off as a modest manufacturing facility for transmission towers in Tarapur, Maharashtra. Today, it is a Rs 3000 crore-company commanding a global presence across India and Italy. Its rise can be attributed to the chairman, HM Singh’s quest to consolidate all aspects of the transmission tower business under his banner. But despite the grand strides made by the company, humility continues to be its guiding principle. It’s an organisation that operates outside of the limelight, without much fanfare and ceremony. In fact, the grounded, self-effacing nature of the company is best exemplified by the fact that its chairman doesn’t even have any pictures online, save for the one on the website.
The Beatles: Synergy
True success doesn’t just emerge from the hard work we put into our own field of specialisation. Great works are often born of the collaboration between different individuals commanding their own unique abilities. I can’t think of a better example of this than the Beatles. While other British Invasion bands of the era struggled to make a mark of their own, the Beatles quickly established themselves as a group with a distinct voice. This sound was a combination of the diverse talents of its members. To replicate this success, it’s not just important to seek synergy with other individuals but also open up to them for assistance. As the Beatles very neatly advocate in their iconic song, ‘Help’ – “Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.”
These are just some of the elements of the ‘Algorithm’ that I’ve tried to crack over the course of my journey as an architect, a workspace designer and a recreational runner. We can achieve the results we desire from tuning these elements until we find the right balance. Finally, what we manifest in our lives and where we arrive are just a function of our different algorithms – not luck. In the words of entrepreneur and Paypal co-founder, Peter Thiel, “If success was mostly a matter of luck, these kinds of serial entrepreneurs (Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jack Dorsey and the ones I’ve listed above) probably wouldn’t exist.”